> What's the point of being so doleful? Let's celebrate instead the
> popularity of cricket today, in which he played such a great part, and the
> skill of players such as Tendulkar, the Waughs and others, who will forever
> be compared to him. So instead of mourning his death, we should be
> celebrating his ascension to immortality.
I suspect Yuk is being tongue-in-cheek as usual, but there is a grain of
truth in what he says. Azzie on irc mentioned to me last night that Bradman was
the principal romantic figure in the cricket of the 20th century. Which, I
think, is true.
Bradman was to that century what Grace was to the 19th. Grace
popularized the game in England, and Bradman popularized it (with his
achievements) all over the globe. Two anecdotes in particular, from his book
"Farewell to Cricket", stick out in my mind. The first relates to a letter he
received from the Netherlands during the 1948 tour of England. The envelope had
a photograph of his face, with the words "Somewhere Playing in England" below
that. And that was enough of an address for the British postal service to find
him and deliver it. The other relates to a letter he received from a boy in
Assam, soon after he retired. Assam, back then, was a remote corner of India; it
would be some 30 years or so before an international match would be played
there. And yet, in an age with no television or internet, a little boy in Assam
had already adopted Bradman as his hero.
It is fitting, then, that Bradman outlived the 20th century, though he
did not reach his own. Despite the many individual records he set during his
lifetime, many of which will never be erased, I think he'd be quite pleased: his
team won the match, though he failed to reach his own hundred. Cricket today is
stronger because of him.
Alas, Bradman had retired well before I was born, so I have no
first-hand memories of him. Though it's been over 50 years since he retired,
cricket fans the world over know him as a player who elevated his art well
beyond what is reasonable for a mere mortal. His batting feats will adorn the
record books for ever, so need not be repeated here.
Instead, I'd like to mention one anecdote that reveals his uncanny
shrewdness as a captain. In 1936-37, England had taken a 2-0 lead in the Ashes
series, with the help of some wet wickets. In the 3rd Test, Australia began
their 2nd innings late in the day, again on a wet pitch. Bradman told nos. 10
and 11, O' Reilly and Fleetwood-Smith, to pad up. When Fleetwood-Smith looked
stunned at this, Bradman told him, "The only way you can be out on this pitch is
if you hit the ball. You can't hit it on a good pitch, so you have no chance on
this one". Indeed, not only did Fleetwood-Smith survive until close of play, but
he was out to the first ball he touched the next morning. By then, the wicket
began drying out, Bradman himself scored 270, and Australia went on to win the
match and the series.