Posted by: nestaquin | August 27, 2008

Sir Donald Bradman Reaches Another Century

Exactly 100 years ago in the tiny New South Wales hamlet of Cootamundra, the cricketer who stands above every other, not only for his incredible batting feats but also for his impeccable character on and off the field was born quite fittingly in very humble circumstances.

It is a day worth celebrating and many a glass will be raised and no doubt, the odd tear shed, in remembrance of Australia’s greatest sporting hero and the nation’s most loved and respected man.

There will be acres of space dedicated to Sir Don today so rather than write of his exploits and how he shaped a young struggling nation’s character I’ve purged the web and the National Archive to bring each and every reader of 99.94 a unique view of the man that everyone in the wide brown land affectionately calls Our Don.

Every party needs music. So to kick things off Australia’s best known bard, slashing lower-order bat and crafty finger-spinner, Paul Kelly, performs his well known tribute to Bradman. For reasons unknown this song always makes my heart swell. There is a reference within the song to a famous Maurice Tate sledge about Don being his rabbit. Sir Don never forgot it and Tate was made to pay many times over for that verbal indiscretion.

Next up I’d like to share rare footage of a remarkably cool, always humble and impressively mature Bradman at the tender age of 21 on his first tour of England in 1930.

Next in our tributes to Sir Don is a wonderful grainy career highlights reel narrated by the incomparable, John Arlott.

A great clip of the first Test of the famous 1948 Ashes played at Trent Bridge.

And finally, for the time being anyway, a fabulous pictorial history of his life set to Supertramp’s Dreadlock Holiday.

Before I depart I’d like to share one of my favourite Bradman anecdotes.

In 1971, Bradman’s final year as Chairman of the Australian Cricket Board, he travelled to South Africa to meet prime minister, John Vorster, a known Nazi admirer, to try to understand South African politics in light of political protests back home in Australia against the Apartheid regime.

South Africa were due to tour in only a matter of months and Bradman was concerned that the protests may get out of hand and a cricketer could be attacked.

Vorster expected Bradman to support the tour, but the meeting quickly became tense, then ugly. Sir Don enquired in his direct rural style about why the indigenous population were denied the chance to represent their country. Vorster suggested they were intellectually inferior and could not cope with cricket’s intricacies. Bradman angrily retorted: “Have you ever heard of Garry Sobers?”

Naturally Don was appalled and described Vorster on his return home as repugnant and ignorant and consequently cancelled the tour.  In his statement to the press he said, “We will not play them until they choose a team on a non-racist basis.”

Bradman’s decision put the Australian Cricket Board in deep financial trouble, so Don invited an eclectic and talented multi-racial combination, led by Sobers and including the Pollock brothers, to play against Ian Chappell’s young Australian team. The tour was a rousing financial success and gave Chappell and his team invaluable experience against some of the world’s best.

On the prickly issue of race, Bradman succeeded where politicians and protesters failed.  He went beyond old ragged arguments to uncover the integrity of the matter. Bradman’s unexpected move combined with his peerless reputation and considerable influence shone the bright light of justice on Apartheid and many leaders within the Commonwealth were forced to act against the poisonous regime.

In 1986, a Commonwealth delegation visited the imprisoned Nelson Mandela at Robben Island, and former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser reported on his return to Canberra that Mandela’s first question to the delegation was, “Is Don Bradman still alive?”

Apparently, Bradman had been Mandela’s sporting hero, and his decision to ban the Springboks from touring Australia only deepened the affection.

He was more than just a batsman, he was something like a tide, he was longer than a memory and he could take on any side. Happy Birthday Don. You are sorely missed and forever fondly remembered.

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Responses

  1. Perhaps the greatest ever Australian, bar none.

  2. Has he really reached this century?

    I thought he was dismissed a few year ago.

  3. the greatest cricketer of all time, but if he would have been in this era, life would have been very difficult for him.

  4. super stuff, Nesta.. thankyou for all of it…

    I went up to Bowral last summer for the womens Test cricket match.. ( the English ladies did very well, except the wicketkeeper absconded with the coach midway through the tour) , surrounded by and propped in the Bradman Stand in one of the prettiest grounds imaginable..

    Softy, Paul Kelly’s Bradman song was wafted over the morning tea time interval.. wonderful..

  5. Thanks Nesta.

    Bradman, like Warne (though about as different in character as can be) is held in the highest regard in England. Gilchrist is too and, I have no doubt about this, McGrath will be.

  6. Tell me more about the keeper and the coach…

  7. To no-one better than Sir Donald Bradman, does the cliche, “we’ll never see his like again”, most appositely apply.

  8. Stumbled across this blog today and I’m mighty impressed. Fantastic writing but the archives are hard to navigate. Could you rearrange them so it is easier to access all your past writing?

    Just like Arnie, I’ll be back!

  9. oy, leg break….

    England rocked by departures
    Jessica Halloran, Sydney
    February 13, 2008

    MYSTERY surrounds the sudden departure of England cricket coach Mark Dobson and long-time wicketkeeper Jane Smit on the eve of its Ashes defence and in the middle of its Australian tour.

    Dobson suddenly resigned as coach of the English women’s team last Friday and the visiting team was thrown into further disarray on Monday when long-standing keeper Smit quit, after representing her country for 16 years.

    England team manager Clare Connors, who flew in late last week from London and left last night, strongly denied that Dobson and Smit’s departures were related. “They are not connected,” Connors said. “Mark Dobson had to return for personal reasons and that won’t be discussed. With Jane Smit, she has 16 years of cricket behind her, and retired from yesterday … They have no connection. To my knowledge, they are not romantically involved.”

    http://www.theage.com.au/news/cricket/england-rocked-by-departures/2008/02/12/1202760301016.html

  10. Hi Nesta – long time no ‘see’.

    Once again, you’ve delivered up an excellent slice of cricket knowledge and history for us.

    Sir Donald Bradman – even in these changing times for the sport – remains the exemplar of a true cricketer.

  11. Very nice videos. This past summer, while visiting Australia with my wife, I played Paul Kelly’s song in the car for her (she knows nothing about cricket). I tried to explain why this song (and Bradman) has a hold on me, but I choked up. I don’t know what strange magic the Don has wrought.

  12. Always admired the DON and this anecdote about the decision to cancel the series with SA only deepens the admiration.
    No way we can mention Adam Gilchrist in the same sentence. Adam Gilchrist didnt walk in his first test when the whole stadium except the umpire heard his nick, but when it wasnt really making a difference, he chose a WC to make a point about walking and is basically selling himself as a product – a saintly, honest cricketer is how he is packaging himself. Unlike people like the DON, he is just trying to create a image and benefit out of it.


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