Don Bradman: 10 jaw-dropping anecdotes about cricket’s greatest-ever batsman

Donald George Bradman, born August 27, 1908, is considered to be the greatest batsman who has played the sport. The Australian batsman is the most impactful batsman the game has seen and one of the finest sportsmen of all-times. Apart from on-field heroics, the Aussie legend was also an interesting character.

On his 109th birth anniversary, Suvajit Mustafi lists 10 interesting anecdotes about the man who ended his Test career with an unthinkable batting average of 99.94.

1.  A fine 46 with civilian shoes

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On December 16, 1927, Bradman made his First-Class debut for New South Wales (NSW) at Adelaide and scored 118 in his maiden innings. However, two days prior to that, Bradman got an opportunity to play in the NSW Sheffield Shield side in a one-day match against a local team, Broken Hill.

He was slated to be the 12th man but made it to the XI due to an injury to Archie Jackson. It was a concrete pitch. Arunabha Sengupta wrote in Cricket Country: “Bradman tested the concrete pitch. The sprigs on his cricket boots made him slip. He tried to adjust but could not quite manage to maintain his balance. Hence, when the second wicket fell, he walked in wearing his civilian shoes.”

Yes, the 19-year-old walked in wearing civilian shoes to play a serious game of cricket and stroked a 46.

2.  A hundred in 18 minutes, thanks to the wicketkeeper!

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Many of the contemporary cricket analysts wonder how Bradman would have fared in modern cricket where it’s all majorly about power hitting. Well, he would have still remained on top. In November 1931, Bradman, who was already a big name, played for Blackheath (120 km from Sydney), in a game against Lithgow. Bill Black, a Lithgow off-spinner, had bowled Bradman earlier that year. The ball was mounted and given to him. However, Bradman had little memory of that and he asked the wicketkeeper, “What sort of bowler is this fellow?”

The wicketkeeper replied, “Don’t you remember this bloke? He bowled you out a few weeks ago and has been boasting about it ever since.”

Bradman’s said, “Is that so?” and the rest of the reply came from his willow. Those days they bowled eight balls in an over and all it took Bradman was three overs to get his hundred. The sequence went — 6, 6, 4, 2, 4, 4, 6, 1, 6, 4, 4, 6, 6, 4, 6, 4, 6, 6, 1, 4, 4 and 6. He brought up his 100 in 18 minutes and from 22 balls!

Black pleaded to his captain to be taken off, why not, he had been smacked for 62 from his two overs. Out of Blackheath’s score of 357, Bradman got 256, an innings that included 29 fours and 14 sixes.

3.  Tired opponents, even spectators

Bradman got three double tons against Worcestershire and in 1934, when he scored his second double century against that county — an innings of 206, a frustrated spectator is reported to have screamed, “Give him 300 and ask him to go out!”

Four years back, during a match between NSW and Queensland, the Aussie great had smacked the then highest First-Class score of 452 not out. A lady, who was a Queensland supporter, is believed to have said, “Why don’t they let someone else have a turn? I am sick of looking at him.”

Once Arthur Mailey had famously said, “Breaking through his defence is even more difficult than getting clearance from the Taxation Department. I’ve tried both.”

4.  Stumping baseball legend Babe Ruth!

Don Bradman meets Babe Ruth.  Image courtesy: Ric Sissons
Don Bradman meets Babe Ruth.
Image courtesy: Ric Sissons

The year 1932 was a special one for Bradman. He got married to his beloved Jessie and set-off for a long tour of the West. He went to United States to save the fading popularity of cricket. In US, he was billed as ‘Babe Ruth of cricket’.

In New York City, the Aussie superstar was greeted by the legendary Ruth at the latter’s private box in the iconic Yankee Stadium. He explained Bradman about the game assuming that the Australian had no clue of what’s going on.

However, was that the case? Bradman said at one point, “Jove! A double-play!” Ruth was taken aback and said, “I was told to point out the tricks of the game and you holler ‘double-play’? You don’t need any teaching!”

Cricket isn’t very different from baseball and Bradman knew it all about the latter and followed it keenly in Sydney. Here’s one legend stunning another. (link to our story)

5.  “You score goals like runs in cricket”

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Hockey legend Dhyan Chand had made plays stopped for more than once, with officials checking for either glue or magnet in his hockey stick. That’s bizarre but such was his wizardry that even Bradman couldn’t resist himself from coming and watching him play live when he had an opportunity.

Ahead of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, India had toured Australia and New Zealand. Bradman watched Dhyan Chand play and later the greatest cricketer ever complimented the greatest field hockey player of all time, “You score goals like runs in cricket!”

It’s reported that Dhyan Chand considered his meeting with Bradman as one of the most exciting moments of his life.

6.  When Mahatma Gandhi’s son went to jail to watch Bradman bat!

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There’s a saying that an enemy’s enemy is your friend. For decades Mohandas Gandhi fought against the British rule for India’s independence while Bradman tormented the Englishmen on cricket field. So Indians had more reasons to admire Bradman.

Apart from that, Gandhi’s youngest son, Devdas was a cricket fan. In 1948, as a Managing Editor of Hindustan Times, he was in England for a meeting and Bradman was playing his last series. He knew that it was his last chance to watch Bradman bat. He somehow managed to lay his hand on a complimentary pass and reached Nottingham, only to find all hotels and lodges booked.

He convinced the city’s jail warden and acquired a bed in Nottingham County Jail! Like father, like son, Devdas spent time in a British jail and had his meals with convicts before heading for the Test. He wasn’t disappointed, Bradman scored 138 and Australia won the Test.

7.  Wonderful gesture as an administrator

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Bradman wasn’t just a great player. Even as an administrator, later in his career, he won the admiration of all. He was at helm of Australian cricket for many years and during the 1965-66 Ashes series, he wrote a letter to Brian Booth, captain of the Australia team in the first two Tests, after he was dropped for the third Test. [Also Read: Indian cricket could learn a lot from this touching letter written by Sir Don Bradman to the Australian captain]

Dear Brian,

Never before have I written to a player to express my regret at his omission from the Australian XI. In your case I’m making an exception because I want you to know how much my colleagues and I disliked having to make this move.

Captain one match and out of the side the next looks like ingratitude, but you understand the circumstances and will be the first to admit that your form has not been good.

I sincerely hope that your form will return quickly and in any event assure you of the highest personal regard in which you are held by us all and our appreciation of the way you have always tried to do everything in your power to uphold the good name and prestige of Australia.

Your sincerely

Don Bradman

8.  “Why isn’t this bastard playing with us tomorrow?”

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Jeff Thomson’s menacing pace instilled fear in the minds of the best batters in the world. There were many who even didn’t want to face him. But that wasn’t the case with a 68-year-old Bradman, who had retired from the game almost 30 years ago.

On a rest day during the India tour of Australia in 1977-78, Bradman at Adelaide decided to face Thomson. The then Indian captain Bishan Singh Bedi, who witnessed it, recalls, “What we saw was sheer magic. The grand old man’s positioning was impeccable. And he was without any pads or gloves or the damned box. Thommo let one go on the leg and middle and was promptly on-driven effortlessly.” He then said the bowler, “This will teach you to have a mid-on for me, son!”

Here’s Thomson recalling the incident in an interview with Espncricinfo.com. “I was bowling only leg-spin to him, but he had a couple of young blokes trying to get him out. With no pads, no nothing … for a 68-year-old, he belted the hell out of them on a turf wicket. And he hadn’t batted for 20 years. I went back in and said, ‘Why isn’t this bastard playing with us tomorrow?’ That’s how good I thought he was.”

9.  “You have no chance against me, mate!

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In February 1989, at Adelaide, Australia were 383 for eight against West Indies when Merv Hughes came and added 114 with Dean Jones for the ninth wicket. Hughes, who wasn’t known for his batting skills, went on to score 72.

Later, Australian players went in the West Indies dressing room with cartons of beer and even an 80-year-old Bradman came there. All the West Indian players greeted him but pacer Patrick Patterson showed very little respect for the great man. With his towering stature, he looked down at Bradman and said, “You Don Bradman? You Don Bradman? I kill you, maan! I bowl at you, I kill you! I split you in two!” [Also Read: How the great Don Bradman responded to Patrick Patterson’s sledging!]

Bradman broke the awkward silence in the room when he looked in his eye and said, “You couldn’t even get Merv Hughes out. You’d have no chance against me, mate!”

10.  When Tendulkar asked Bradman on how much he would average in modern times!

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Bradman saw a bit of him in Sachin Tendulkar and on his 90th birthday in 1998, he invited two of his favourite modern cricketers — Tendulkar and Shane Warne.

Tendulkar discussed batting average with the great man. Revealing the conversation to The Guardian, the Indian batting maestro said, “We [Tendulkar and Warne] went to see him on his 90th birthday. It was very special. We were talking about averages and I said, ‘Sir Don, if you were playing today, what would you have averaged?’ And he said, 70 probably.’ I asked, ‘Why 70 and not your actual average of 99?’ Bradman said, ‘Come on, an average of 70 is not bad for a 90-year-old man.”

(Suvajit Mustafi consumes cricket for lunch, fiction for dinner and munches numerous other snacks throughout the day. Yes, a jack of several trades, all Suvajit dreamt of was being India’s World Cup winning skipper but ended up being a sports writer, author, screenwriter, director, copywriter, graphic designer, sportsmarketer , strategist, entrepreneur,  philosopher and traveller. Donning so many hats, it’s cricket which gives him the ultimate high and where he finds solace. He can be followed at @RibsGully and rivu7)