Copyright AFP 2000Extras:
Bradman: End of a legendary era
Sydney: Australian cricketer Sir Donald Bradman, who died Sunday at the age of 92, was one of the sporting world's true immortals. The most efficient run-gatherer the game has ever seen, Bradman was the country boy made good. Born at Cootamundra, New South Wales, on August 27, 1908, he spent most of his formative years close to Sydney in the rural town of Bowral, where a museum of cricket memorabilia now stands in his honour. As a boy he spent hours single-mindedly hitting a golf ball against a brick wall with a single stump for a bat. They were hours well spent, honing his reflexes for the years ahead when a willow bat would become a magic wand in his hands. Bradman burst onto the first-class cricket scene in Sydney in 1927 as a promising boy from the bush. Over the next 21 years he completely rewrote the record books, scoring a century on average every third time he went to the crease. He retired from test cricket in 1948 with a record that is never likely to be challenged. In 52 tests for Australia, Sir Donald amassed 6,996 runs at an average of 99.94 from 80 vists to the crease, with 10 double centuries and two triple centuries among his test knocks. Only a handful of modern cricketers have made more runs -- at about half Bradman's average and from twice as many tests. Had World War II not deprived him of his best years, he would doubtless have set yet more records. In all first-class cricket, Bradman scored 28,067 runs at 95.14, including a staggering 117 centuries, 31 double centuries, five triple centuries and one innings of 400-plus. Knighted after finally hanging up his bat in 1949, Sir Donald retained close contact with cricket for nearly four decades as an administrator, selector and trustee. Throughout this time, The Don'' as he was almost universally known, remained an intensely private man. He rarely gave interviews, burying himself instead in his various business interests and his other passion, golf. Bradman was like a breath of fresh air to Australians during the Depression years of the 1930s. The words he's in'' were enough to prompt a rash of absenteeism as cricket-lovers downed tools to go and watch him bat. He rarely let them down, failing to score only 16 times in 338 first class innings, including his celebrated last test duck in England when he needed only four runs for a lifetime test average of 100. Of course it was an emotional occasion,'' Sir Donald recalled in a series of tapes he made to mark Australia's bicentennial in 1988. But to suggest I got out, as some people said, with tears in my eyes is to belittle the bowler (Eric Hollies) and it is quite untrue.'' For all his batting prowess and popularity with the sporting public, Sir Donald was not always popular with his team-mates. He never dallied in the dressing room after play to have a sing-song or a glass of beer with us,'' recalled one of his contemporaries Jack Fingleton in his book Batting from Memory.'' After play he would be dressed and away, the first out of the room to meet, as we thought, some business acquaintances.'' Sir Donald did have a shrewd eye for finances, and at the end of his playing days stepped straight into a successful business career on the stock exchange and as a company director. Fingleton had no qualifications, however, about Bradman's ability with the bat, describing him as undisputably the greatest batsman in the history of cricket.'' Australian former Prime Minister Bob Hawke described Sir Donald as undoubtedly the greatest sporting figure to have emerged in this nation of great sportsmen and great sportswomen.'' Sir Donald's old adversaries, like England fast bowler Harold Larwood, were equally lavish with their praise. They said I was a killer with the ball,'' said Larwood, England's main strike weapon during the controversial bodyline series in which his captain Douglas Jardine adopted dangerous bowling tactics aimed specifically at neutralising Bradman. But Bradman with the bat was the greatest killer of all,'' Larwood said. Everywhere Bradman went hordes followed him. People waited for hours at outback train stations just to catch a glimpse of him hurtling past. Even when he retired the adulation and the aura remained, so much so that it proved too much for his barrister son, who changed his name by deed poll. More than forty years after his retirement, Bradman would still receive up to a couple of dozen letters a day from his faithful fans, many from India where he never even played. Modest to a fault, he was once asked to comment on his cricketing career. I suppose I have done a couple of respectable things in my life,'' he said.