Don Bradman, as caricatured by Arthur Mailey
Don Bradman, as caricatured by Arthur Mailey

It was not every day that Don Bradman made a goof-up, but he did precisely that on once while trying to defend umpire Melville McInnes. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at a famous comment from Arthur Wood.

Mitchell McInnes was a renowned figure. He stood in 16 Tests. The last of these — the Adelaide Test of the 1958-59 Ashes — was the most eventful.

The decision that ended his career deserves a mention. Australian openers Colin McDonald and Jim Burke were doing a decent job. Then Burke ran down the pitch (for some reason, on the off-side, the side of the bowler). And McInnes gave him run out despite the fact that he could neither see the ball nor the batsman.

Note: Wisden made one of their rare bloopers here. “He [McInnes] reversed his decision, but McDonald (170) threw his wicket away shortly afterwards,” wrote the almanack.  In real, Burke fell for 66 and McDonald was ninth out, four hours after Burke.

It was not his only poor decision, and the English media were constantly critical of him throughout the tour. There were also severe criticisms of McInnes because he never reprimanded bowlers who ‘dragged’ (there were several of them). He was removed (for good) after the fourth Test of the series. In fact, he never umpired in First-Class cricket again.

Tom Crawford was no great cricketer. He played 13 unproductive matches for Kent — though he led them once. His knowledge of the sport was much-respect, as was his approach towards cricket: he insisted his bowlers sent down 20 overs an hour.

At that point Don Bradman was then national selector. The legend was having a conversation with Crawford, and the subject of McInnes came up. Crawford made a valid point: “The trouble with umpires, Don, is that they’ve actually never played Test cricket or even Shield cricket. They’re not First-Class cricketers. They’ve learned all the laws and passed exams, but they don’t know what goes on in the middle. At home, all our umpires are either Test players or county players.”

That made sense, but there was a problem: McInnes was a close friend of Bradman’s. He decided to defend McInnes. That was understandable, but for some reason Bradman claimed that McInnes played for South Australia. It was unexpected of a man so meticulous; perhaps Bradman referred to some festival match or a level of cricket lower than First-Class.

Whatever it was, Bradman’s response went down as a classic blooper: “What about McInnes? He played for South Australia until his eyesight went!”

An awkward silence followed.