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Monday, August 27, 2018

the man who necessitated Bodyline ~ Google doodle on Sir Bradman

Today’s Google doodle is on a man – after whom an adjective was coined in English language.  :  Bradmanesque  is an adjective that attributes the class, consistency and high scores made by Sir Donald Bradman.  Comparisons never end, though there cannot be comparisons between players of different era.  I feel Virat Kohli cannot be compared with the feats of Sunil Manohar Gavaskar – thus Bradman’s days were even older and far different when he enslaved bowlers, scoring a century   every other innings or two -or three. Bradman elevated - or reduced, according to your point of view - batsmanship to an exact science.  People who had watched him appreciated his punitive and swift killing strokes acclaiming them to be  perpetually thrilling, and the cause of wonder.

Yet, this English Cricketer who ended with only 44 wickets in his entire career could remain talked about for that single wicket of Don Bradman for a duck ! – that was William Eric Hollies, a fastish leg-break bowler who rarely had much use for the googly”.

Bradman was indeed a legend, to many   simply the greatest cricketer to ever grace the gentleman's game. No other cricketer has transcended the sporting climate quite like Bradman, from his incredible batting record to his status off the pitch; no one has come close to the respect awarded to him. The Australian hero scored 6,996 runs for his country and still holds 20 Test records, including the highest batting average and most runs against one opponent - despite retiring 70 years ago.  Today (27.8.2018)  on what would have been his 110th birthday, Google Doodle is honouring him with a Doodle, imagining him drive a shot through the Google logo.

Born on August 27 in Cootamundra, New South Wales in 1908, to George and Emily Bradman, he lived alongside his older brother Victor and sisters Islet, Lilian and Elizabeth May. Bradman is said to have told his father, having been taken to watch an Ashes Test match at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1921, that "I shall never be satisfied until I play on this ground." Bradman developed his skills by hitting a golf ball off the curved base of a water tank, using a cricket.

One of the darkest episodes in cricket history, that caused a diplomatic furore in both England and Australia and forced the rules of cricket to be changed, the bodyline, was charted out by England as a way of getting Bradman out, and captain Douglas Jardine came up with the perfect plan for the 1932-33 trip Down Under, however unsporting to do so - use "leg theory". The basic premise was get fast bowlers Harold Larwood and Bill Voce to bowl very quickly at Bradman's body and pack the legside with fielders, forcing him to hit straight to them while avoiding getting hit. It was hostile, dangerous and left the Australian press, players and fans up in arms.  Bodyline forced the authorities to allow a maximum number of fielders on the legside and the number of bouncers in an over. Nevertheless, Bradman still managed to average 56.57 during the series!

Even among cricketing legends, Don Bradman's stature is one that no other player has come close to. His stats are so much better than anyone before, during or after his time, that it truly boggles the mind. Various arguments are offered about the changes in the game today to try and explain 99.94: fielding standards have improved, making it tougher for batsmen to score; captains are more agreeable to posting defensive fields and restricting the runs; the game is played across several countries as opposed to just a few during Bradman's time, making it more difficult to adjust to different conditions. While these statements may be true as independent facts, they do nothing to diminish the sheer genius of the Don, and the staggering magnitude of his achievements.

The most famous number, of course, is his Test average, which is 64%; highest ratio of centuries per innings played: 36.25% (29 centuries from 80 innings); most runs against one opponent: 5,028 (v England); Most times of scoring a century in a single session of play: 6 (1 pre lunch, 2 lunch-tea, 3 tea-stumps); most runs in one day's play: 309 (1930); most double centuries: 12 and more !

There were controversies during his period too.  In 1935, when Australia was to tour South Africa,   Board of Control wanted Bradman to lead the team, yet, later it  Bradman's withdrawal was announced from the team due to a lack of fitness.  The captaincy was given to Vic Richardson, Bradman's predecessor as South Australian captain.  Australia defeated South Africa 4–0 and senior players such as Bill O'Reilly were pointed in their comments about the enjoyment of playing under Richardson's captaincy. A group of players who were openly hostile toward Bradman formed during the tour.

In the final Test at The Oval, Bradman walked out to bat in Australia's first innings. He received a standing ovation from the crowd ; his average at that time was 101.39.  Playing a spinner,  Bradman pushed forward to the second ball that he faced, was deceived by a googly, and bowled between bat and pad for a duck.  An England batting collapse resulted in an innings defeat, denying Bradman the opportunity to bat again and so his career average finished at 99.94; if only he had scored just four runs in his last innings, it would have been 100. A story developed over the years that claimed Bradman missed the ball because of tears in his eyes,  a claim Bradman denied for the rest of his life.

The bowler was William Eric Hollies who is remembered more for that all important  wicket of Donald Bradman for a duck.  Of his 6996 runs in 52 tests, 715 came against India in 5 tests.   At Sydney, in Dec 1947, was a match with difference. India made 188 & 61/7 drew with Australia, who were bowled out for 107.  Bradman was bowled by Hazare for 13.  Amir Elahi & Dattu Padhkar made their debuts.

Don Bradman is the only Australian cricketer to ever be knighted for his services to the game. He was appointed Knight Bachelor in 1949.  He was recognised by the Australian Government when they minted a series of 20c coins in his honour. He was the first ever Australian to be featured on the Australian postage stamp while still alive. The ABC’s GPO box number is 9994, chosen because it was The Don’s batting average.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
27th Aug 2018.

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