Sir Donald George Bradman (1908 – 2001) is widely acknowledged as the greatest Test batsman of all time. During this highly successful cricket career, “The Don” achieved a Test batting average of 99.94.
At the tender age of 22, Bradman had already set several records for top scoring after rising from obscure bush cricket player to a celebrated member of the Australian Test team in just two years. Bradman’s cricket career lasted for roughly 20 years and some of his records still stand today. His astonishing cricket proficiency even forced the English cricket team to develop a particular set of tactics – known as Bodyline – specifically to combat Bradman.
Bradman’s portrait hangs in the Long Room at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, an honour bestowed on no more than four Australian cricket players. In his native land Australia, there is a museum dedicated to his life and accomplishments, and the cricket ground in his native Bowral bears his name. On the centenary of his birth, the Royal Australian Mint issued a $5 commemorative gold coin depicting Bradman.
Bradman has even become a part of the English language. The term bradmanesque is used to describe someone or something of outstanding excellence.
In the early days, Bradman’s style was heavily influenced by the high bounce of the ball seen at cricket fields with matting-over-concrete pitches. He favoured horizontal-bat shots, such as cut, pull and hook since they made it easier to handle the high bounce. Bradman even developed his own special bat grip in order to handle high bouncing balls without compromising his defence.
At the wicker, Bradman would typically sport a side-on stance and remain perfectly still as the bowler ran in. Before he had made a name for himself in the cricket world, he was criticised for his crooked backswing but refused to change it since his way of keeping his hand really close to his body kept him balanced and made it possible to change stroke mid-swing to accommodate for unforeseen events.
When it came to footwork, Bradman would use the crease by either coming metres down the wicket to drive or playing so far back that his feet were positioned level with the stumps when playing the cut, hook or pull. One of Bradman’s few weak sides was his incomplete mastery of sticky wickets.
While Bradman was disinclined to adjust his playing style to suit the critics, he had no problem learning from experience and try out different playing styles as he saw fit. He did for instance adapt his technique during the Bodyline series, by moving around the crease in an effort to score from the short-pitched deliveries, and by the mid-1930s, Bradman knew how to seemingly without effort switch between a defensive approach and an attacking one in a split second when circumstances so required.
As Bradman grew older, he recognised the limitations set by his ageing body and adjusted his batting techniques accordingly. After World War II he became a steady accumulator of runs.
Donald Bradman was born in Cootamundra in New South Wales, Australia on August 27, 1908. He was the youngest son of George and Emily (née Whatman) Bradman and had one brother and three sisters. When he was born, the family lived in the hamlet of Yeo Yeo near Stockingbingal.
When Bradman was two-and-a-half years old the family moved to Bowral in the Souther Highlands of New South Wales, close to where his mother had grown up and where she still had a lot of family and friends.
In his youth, Bradman invented his own cricket game – one that he could play on his own without any other children. He used a cricket stump for a bat and a golf ball instead of a proper cricket ball. He would then hit the ball into a curved brick stand (the foundation of a water tank located behind his home), and when the ball rebounded he would attempt to hit it again. A golf ball hit forcefully into the brick stand would rebound at high speed and at varying angles, forcing the young Bradman to develop both speed, timing and the ability to predict the path of aleatory balls.
Bradman’s unorthodox training paied off, and he hit his first century at the age of 12, with an undefeated 115 in a match between Bowral Public School and Mittagong High School.
Life after cricket
After retiring from cricket, Donald Bradman was appointed Knight Bachelor by the British monarch. (Knight Bachelor is a part of the British honours system. A Knight Bachelor is knighted, but is not a member of the organised Orders of Chivalry.) Bradman is the only knighted Australian cricketer.
Bradman was a committee member of The South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) from 1935 to 1986. From 1945 to 1980, he also served at one of South Australia’s delegates to the Australian Board of Control for International Cricket.
In the 1950s, Bradman worked as a sports commentator for the Daily Mail. He travelled with and wrote about Australian teams in England. He also published two books; his memoir Farewell to Cricket and the instruction manual The Art of Cricket. He also ran a successful stockbroking business.
In 1954, Bradman retired from his stockbroking business but continued to serve as board members of 16 publicly listed companies, including the Argo Investments Limited where he was the chairman.
In, 1976 Bradman and his wife Jessie moved back to Bowral and a few years later he was appointed Companion of the Order of Australia by the Australian government. At the time, this was Australia’s second-highest honour available for civilians.
In 1997, Bradman lost his wife Jessie after 65 years of marriage. In December 2000, he developed pneumonia and required hospital care. He left the hospital in early 2001 and died at home on February 25, at an age of 92 years.