Thatscricket - News - Modest Don to have a private funeral

Published: Wednesday, February 28, 2001, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney: Sir Donald Bradman, the world's greatest cricketer, was a reluctant legend.His son John, speaking publicly for the first time since his father's death, on Wednesday said that the national outpouring of grief had overwhelmed him.But he said his father, a notoriously private person who died aged 92 on Sunday, would not have wanted people to go overboard. "I really hope that people won't enshrine my dad too much. This iconic stuff is a little bit troubling," he reporters.Bradman's family, keen to respect his desire for privacy, even in death, declined a state funeral. It will bid a simple, family farewell to ''The Don'' in Adelaide on Thursday instead.But a public memorial service will be held on Sunday March 25 at St Peter's Cathedral and broadcast live across Australia. The Adelaide Oval, scene of some of Bradman's exploits with the bat, will be opened to the public with a giant screen installed for mourners expected to flock to the ground.A hero in an age predating the cult of personality, Bradman became the darling of the cricket world and a nation. But deep down, he felt uncomfortable in the limelight, and died a virtual recluse, a prisoner of his own fame."I've spoken to a lot of people, but not publicly," he said in his last interview in 1996. "I don't like publicity of any kind, never have done. And I like it less as I get older."Bradman retired to the seclusion of his non-descript brick cottage in Adelaide, a sleepy Australian state capital nicknamed "The City of Churches", in his final years."I think the constant public pressure and the death of his beloved wife Jessie was what made him a recluse in recent years," said friend Richard Mulvaney, director of the Bradman Foundation.During his playing years through the dark days of the Depression, Bradman attracted tens of thousands to cricket stadiums around Australia to watch his magic on the crease.For stars like Bradman, it was an age without personal bodyguards, press officers and or minders. Bradman's arrival and departure from the field was always through a sea of well wishers slapping him on the back, ordinary people trying to touch an immortal.As the cricketing records fell and stories of Bradman's feats with the willow spread around the world, the public demands grew, something, which sat uncomfortably with Bradman.Bradman was a humble man from rural roots with a strong work ethic. Asked what he would like to be remembered for, he once said, "If I had to put it into one word, integrity.''Bradman believed his deeds on the crease spoke for him and could not understand the fascination with the man. He played 52 Tests for Australia between 1928-1948, scoring 6,996 runs at an average of 99.94, and scoring 29 centuries.His batting average has never been beaten. Bradman was clearly not at ease when called on to make after dinner speeches during tours, but knew he was honour-bound to represent his country both on and off the field.If he thought his retirement from cricket in 1949 would spell the end of the public pressure he was wrong. The more he tried to retreat from the public, the more it wanted a piece of him.His retreat fuelled the growing mythology that became "The Don", the iconic sportsman and archetypal Australian."The Don" was a man of the people, answering an estimated 4,000 letters a week before his health failed him, but hero status meant that whenever he ventured outside his home he was under an intense media and public spotlight.Bradman chose to pull down the shutters, refusing requests for interviews and public engagements. He even failed to show at the 50th reunion dinner of the Invincibles, the team he captained in England in 1948, though the function was held in Adelaide."No other man in Australian history has known and lived with such massive, relentless and undying fame," The Australian newspaper wrote this week in a tribute to Bradman.So great was the public pressure that Bradman's son John took refuge by changing his name to Bradsen in 1972. He only changed it back last January.Mulvaney said Bradman fully understood why his son changed his name and rejected media speculation of a rift. "Sir Don knew and understood the pressures of being a public figure and they have always been close," he said."One of the reasons why he wished to be a recluse was to protect his family from further intrusions," he said. While Bradman's public life revolved around cricket, his private life was dedicated to his family, his childhood sweetheart and wife Jessie and his children. His family life was often filled with considerable sadness. His first child, a son, died shortly after birth in 1936. John, born 1939, was struck down with poliomyelitis as a teenager and daughter Shirley, born 1941, suffered cerebral palsy.Jessie died of cancer, aged 88, in 1997 after 65 years of marriage. Until the day he died, Bradman mourned the end of his greatest partnership. He himself died in his sleep in his home in Holden Street, Kensington Park, Adelaide, surrounded by his family. (c) Reuters Limited. Click here for RestrictionsExtras:
Bradman: End of a legendary era

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