Thatscricket - News - ~~Don~~s batting was cruel in its excessive mastery~~

Published: Tuesday, February 27, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
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London: More than the delicate balance between bat and ball was jeopardised by Sir Donald Bradman over the course of two decades.A brutal, albeit successful, strategy to curb his prodigious scoring during the infamous England bodyline tour of 1932-33 briefly threatened diplomatic relations between Australia and their imperial masters.Bradman, who died in Adelaide on Sunday aged 92, averaged 99.94 in Test cricket, nearly 40 more than his nearest rival. During the English summer of 1930 he scored 974 Test runs at an average of 139.14, including 254 in his first innings at Lord's.It was, wrote Neville Cardus, "Precise and shattering, an innings which was beautiful and yet somehow cruel in its excessive mastery." Yet as the English bowlers despaired against his relentless excellence one man thought he detected a weakness.Douglas Jardine, educated at Winchester and Oxford and captain of the 1932-33 side, suspected Bradman was uneasy against the short-pitched ball.During a highly-charged series he ordered his professional fast bowlers Harold Larwood and Bill Voce to hurl a succession of short-pitched deliveries at the batsmen's bodies, supported by a semi-circle of predatory fielders.The effects were dramatic. England regained the Ashes. Bradman was reduced temporarily to the ranks of the mortals with an average of 56.57. And Australian crowds came close to rioting after several batsmen were hit by the frighteningly swift Larwood.An intemperate telegram from the Australia Cricket Board to London led to hasty negotiations between Whitehall and Canberra to avert a possible diplomatic crisis.The bodyline tour began as the great depression worsened in the uneasy years after the 1929 Wall Street crash with relations between Australia and England increasingly strained. The London bankers were reluctant to extend credit to the dominion as the terms of trade worsened and unemployment eventually affected one in three Australian families.To Australians in the bush and in the cities, Bradman represented the hopes and dreams of a young nation. Jardine, who openly despised Australia and Australians, represented for them the hard, unfeeling face of the British establishment and the London bankers.Bradman, whose health suffered under the strain, was keenly aware of how much he meant to the Australian nation and he was determined to take revenge.He recovered from the trauma and went on to record further unparalleled scoring feats. But he did not forgive or forget. In 1948, his final series, he let Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller loose on the England batsmen and watched impassively as they took evasive action.Although bodyline was relegated to the history books its influence still lingers.Sport was already an integral part of Australian nationalism but the determination to win, especially against England, became an obsession.The result has been decades of sporting excellence, culminating in the triumphal 2000 Sydney Olympics while the current Australia side is the most successful in cricket history.Bradman was elevated to the ranks of folk hero, the boy who emerged from the Australian bush to conquer the world. He became a successful selector, an enlightened administrator and by the time of his death was revered as the epitome of the archetypal Australian, tough, laconic and a master in his chosen field. (c) Reuters Limited. Click here for RestrictionsExtras:
Bradman: End of a legendary era

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