Sir Donald George Bradman (born 1908) was an Australian cricketer—the greatest batsman, if not cricketer, of all time.
Donald Bradman was born in Cootamundra, New South Wales, on August 27, 1908, the youngest child of a farmer/carpenter. The family lived in Yeo Yeo and moved to Bowral in 1911 because of his mother's health. He learned his cricket from his maternal uncles George and Richard Whatman. His mother used to bowl left-armers to him in the backyard. Bradman developed his batting by throwing a golf ball against a tank stand and playing it with a stump and his fielding by throwing a golf ball at the bottom rail of a fence.
As a teenager Bradman played Saturday afternoon cricket in the country and quickly proceeded to amass huge scores. In 1926 the New South Wales Cricket Association, which was incidentally looking for bowlers, asked Bradman to play in trial games. While making modest scores, he nonetheless attracted the eye of the selectors as a player of the future. He played grade cricket with the St. George club in Sydney (he later played with North Sydney and, after moving to Adelaide, South Australia in 1935, with the Kensington club). After some impressive scores he played in his initial first class game for New South Wales against South Australia in 1927 and scored a century. After a series of big scores at the beginning of the 1928-1929 season, he was chosen to play for Australia against Perry Chapman's English side. While performing poorly in the first test and being dropped to 12th man for the second, he scored two centuries in the remaining rubbers to establish his place in the Australian team.
Being a self-taught batsman, much criticism was directed at Bradman's lack of style, his tendency to play cross bat shots, and the problems he would encounter on softer English wickets. Bradman answered his critics by consistently amassing huge scores. Throughout his career he was a fast and high scoring batsman who could reduce even the best bowling attacks to seeming mediocrity. His initial tour of England in 1930 can only be described as a triumphal procession in which he established himself as a figure of international stature. He scored 2, 960 runs on tour at an average of 98.66. In test matches he scored 974 runs at an average of 139.14, including scores of 131, 254, 334, and 452. On both the 1930 and 1938 tours of England he scored 1, 000 runs before the end of May. He became the only player to achieve such a distinction. In the 1938-1939 season he scored six centuries in a row, equaling C. B. Fry's record. Only the bodyline bowling, where the ball is pitched short and aimed in the general direction of the head, employed by Douglas Jardine's 1932-1933 English side curbed Bradman. His average fell to 56.57, which would still be the envy of most batsmen. Such was the hostility generated by bodyline bowling (which was eventually outlawed) that diplomatic exchanges occurred between Australia and England.
Bradman's average in first class cricket was 95.14, and in test cricket it was 99.94, being only four runs short of a 100 average. He scored 117 centuries in first class cricket (29 in tests), a century every third time he batted. His centuries included 31 double (ten in tests), five triple (two in tests), and one quadruple century—his famous 452 got out against Queensland in 1930.
In 1936 Bradman was appointed captain of Australia to oppose Gubby Allen's touring English side. He continued captaining Australia until 1948, notwithstanding a five year absence from cricket caused by World War II. Bradman was a most successful captain. In the 24 tests while he was captain Australia won 15, lost three, and drew six. The team which toured England in 1948 had the distinction of never losing a game.
After retiring, Bradman was knighted in January 1949. He maintained contact with the game as a selector and administrator, having two stints as chairman of the Australian Cricket Board, 1960 to 1963 and 1969 to 1972. His most important decision as chairman was to cancel the visit of a South African team in 1971-1972 because of the expected bitterness and violence associated with opposition to South Africa's apartheid politics. From 1965 to 1973, Bradman served as President of the South Australian Cricket Association. After leaving cricket, he had a successful career in the finance industry, working for H.W. Hodgetts and Company on the Adelaide Exchange.
The late 1980s and 1990s saw a spate of biographical material on Bradman. In 1988 he released his book, The Bradman Albums, and two biographies of him, Charles Williams' Bradman: An Australian Hero, and Roland Perry's book, The Don, were published in 1996. Clearly time does not diminish Bradman's status as a hero in his native Australia, or anywhere else that appreciates cricket.
Bradman has been a continuing source of fascination for cricket writers. The most thorough biography is Irving Rosenwater's Sir Donald Bradman (1978). Michael Page's Bradman: The Illustrated Biography (1983) draws on information and memorabilia provided by Bradman. J. Wakley's Bradman the Great (1959) provides an extensive statistical account of Bradman's career. An additional biography is A. G. Moyes' Bradman (1948). Bradman also provided accounts of his career in Don Bradman's Book (1930), My Cricketing Life (1938), and Farewell to Cricket (1950). He also published two books about the sport, The Art of Cricket (1958) and How to Play Cricket (1935). For an English account of the bodyline tour see Harold Larwood and Kevin Perkins' The Larwood Story (1982). Bradman's impact on cricket is also assessed in Jack Pollard's Australian Cricket: The Game and the Players (1982). □