If anyone is synonymous with the sport of cricket, it’s Sir Donald Bradman. Over the course of two decades, ‘The Don’ (as he was reverentially known) changed the face of the game with his truly awesome performances at international and domestic levels for Australia.
A beacon of hope for many during the desperate years of the Great Depression, a captain of arguably the greatest side sport has ever known, and a perennial thorn in the side of literally every bowler he faced, The Don’s significance transcended mere sport and continues to penetrate the mentalities of Australians today. Immortalised in songs like ‘Sir Don’, associated with no fewer than five landmarks in Australia (including the central thoroughfare in Adelaide, now known as Sir Donald Bradman Drive), even the face of the Australian 20c coin, his status is near mythical.
It is easy to see why. No fewer than 29 centuries and 13 half-centuries in 52 Test matches, amounting to 6996 runs, gave Bradman the staggering batting average of 99.94. What makes this even more awesome is Bradman’s consistency at domestic level, with a batting average of 95.14 across 234 matches for New South Wales and then South Australia, including 117 centuries. His top score of 334 was a then-world record and, to this day, Australians are loath to surpass The Don, most notably Mark Taylor, who declared on 334 not out rather than top Bradman. For all this and more, Bradman’s status is simply incomparable and, as long as cricket is played, Bradman will be at the forefront.
Born on August 27th 1908 in Cootamundra in New South Wales, Bradman’s early development was a testament to the virtues of practice, practice, and more practice. During his youth, he would spend hours each day with a stump and a golf ball, hitting the latter against a water tank on a rounded stand, which would provide variation in pace and trajectory. Needless to say, his efforts singled him out as the school’s cricket star and he had made his first century by the age of 12.
Showing his precocity, Bradman was playing bush cricket at the age of just 13, stepping in for his local Bowral team while acting as scorer and making 37 not out. After a brief flirtation with tennis, Bradman resumed his cricket career and made immense strides, consistently dominating opposition bowling attacks on cricket pitches, even to the point of notching up triple centuries.
It was little surprise, therefore, that his exploits attracted attention and Bradman soon moved up to grade cricket in Sydney for St. George, again excelling. By the 1927/1928 season, the young Don had been selected for the New South Wales side at just 19 years old, and all while juggling a real estate job too! His first-class debut was naturally brilliant, scoring a century, and he continued to impress for the side throughout the season, although missed out on selection for the Australian squad.
However, after moving to Sydney the following season, Bradman took advantage of the opportunity to face the touring England side and launched his first assault on their bowlers. After pulverising his way to 87 and 132 not out, he moved up to Test level with Australia.
The rise of The Don
Unlike his first class debut, Bradman’s first Test outing was surprising insofar as it bucked the trend of his career. Caught on a sticky wicked, the Australians were devastated by the English in Brisbane and Bradman immediately found himself out of the side.
The following match, Bradman returned and service was resumed, as he became the youngest player to make a Test century, smashing 112 in the second innings. Although Australia lost the series to England, Bradman continued to impress both at Test and domestic level and was duly selected for the return tour to England in 1930. Up against the Ashes holders, Bradman opened his account on English pitches with a blistering 236 in Worcester. This set the trend for the entire tour, with his performances galvanising the Australians to a famous victory