Such were his feats with the willow that ages ago someone coined a new word: Bradmanesque. Even after so much water has flowed down the Torrens since young Don scorched the turfs of Australia and England, none has been able to commit the sacrilege of emulating Bradmanesque deeds. Herculean tasks might be achieved, but a Bradmanesque average remains well nigh unattainable.
Don was precociously talented and completely focused. Though he never received any formal coaching, it is well chronicled how he would practise all by himself, endlessly hitting a golf ball against a circular brick tank stand with a stump, a kerosene can serving as the wicket. Such a single-minded endeavour helped develop strong powers of concentration and a keen sense of timing. He learnt how to hit the ball coming at him at various angles, different speeds and varying degrees of bounce. The exercise also helped build up physical strength and footwork. Anyone who has tried out this routine would know how difficult it is. But Don with his perseverance, keen ball sense and hand-eye co-ordination - much touted today - mastered it.
Such exertion made it so much easier for him to strike the much larger and considerably less volatile cricket ball with a significantly broader blade of the much-simpler-to-handle cricket bat. The sheer diligence and dedication, and the resolve to excel and to achieve perfection were apparent from a tender age, and impelled Don Bradman to take one giant stride after another in his cricketing journey.
Years later, A.G. Moyes, well-known cricket writer and New South Wales selector when Bradman made his way into the team, wrote in his book Bradman: “He was richly endowed in skill by nature, but he did not rest on that, for he wanted earnestly always to build on the foundation. His batting rested on the sound basis of common sense, and there were few riddles he did not know the answer. He practised consistently and methodically, as does the professional pianist who knows that his success depends on the suppleness of his fingers and certainty of his touch. No man can reach the dizzy heights without this painstaking devotion to his art, and in cricket’s long pilgrimage no one has striven harder to reach perfection.”
Don’s carpenter father George was a keen cricketer, an allrounder who played regularly in local matches around Bowral. He spurred Bradman junior’s interest in the game, and it is reckoned that the youngster played a proper match in 1919, showing his prowess by scoring 55. He hit his first hundred the next season, when he was a little over 12 years, for his Bowral Public School against Mittagong School. It was, in fact, a brilliant allround performance, an unbeaten 115 out of a total of 150, and eight wickets to his name.
A two-day trip in February 1921 to Sydney with his father to watch his first Test match was in every respect a cricketing pilgrimage. It must have been enthralling for the impressionable mind to see Australia’s awesome side led by the imposing Warwick ‘Big Ship’ Armstrong hand out a drubbing (the series ended 5-0) to Johnny Douglas’ touring English team. That Test witnessed hundreds by home heroes Charlie ‘Governor General’ Macartney, Herbie Collins and skipper Armstrong, whose power-packed knock was reckoned to be his best. Also in action was the greatest batsman of the time Jack Hobbs. Don must have come away satiated. He vowed that he would never be satisfied until he played on this magnificent ground. Armstrong next led his team on a triumphant tour of England the same year. Little was Bradman to know then that this champion Australian side would be compared to his own ‘Invincibles’ 27 summers later.
(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email@example.com).
Published by Sporting Links
ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0, Fully Illustrated
French Fold 21.5 cm x 28 cm, 188 Pages
Price Rupees 995
Indra Vikram Singh’s latest books published by Sporting Links:
A Maharaja’s Turf ISBN 978-81-901668-3-6
The Big Book of World Cup Cricket ISBN 978-81-901668-4-3
Don’s Century ISBN 978-81-901668-5-0
Crowning Glory ISBN 978-81-901668-6-7
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