There are good cricketers. There are great cricketers. And then there is Sir Donald George Bradman! The legendary Australian batsman’s records continue to mesmerize fans old & new. Without a doubt, he carved a name for himself not only as the best cricket batsman, but also one of the greatest sportsmen to grace the earth. Today we look back at his interesting career that is an inspiration to many.
During a 20-year playing career, Bradman consistently scored at a level that made him, in the words of former Australia captain Bill Woodfull, “worth three batsmen to Australia”. He represented Australia for 20 years, playing 52 Tests from 1928/29-1948. In a mesmerizing career that spanned 20 years, Bradman tallied 5,028 runs at 89.78 in 37 matches against England. This record would have been even higher had he not been plagued by ongoing health issues, the War and the ill-fated Bodyline series. It was clear from the outset that Bradman was going to be something special. His first tour of England profited scores of 131, 254, 334, and 232. His 974 runs at nearly 140 remains a record. Knighted for his services to cricket in 1949, he remains the only Australian cricketer to receive a knighthood for services to the game.
Bradman’s legacy is one of the most highly debated of all time. Undoubtedly his form on the field can never be questioned. A quick look at some of his records highlights his unprecedented ability. Bradman has the most Test match double centuries with 12. He has the highest batting average of all time, the highest ratio of centuries and double-centuries to matches played. The list goes on. Bradman’s astronomical batting average is now considered as the unofficial benchmark while separating the best batsmen from their not-so-great colleagues. Bradman’s average of 99.94 effectively means he was scoring a 100 almost in every innings which is a mind-boggling fact on its own. Bradman’s batting average ballooned to 101.51 while leading Australia, which is another record that’s set to stand the test of time. While holding the record for the most runs against a single opposition, it follows that Bradman’s 19 hundred vs. England should also be a record and it is! India’s former opener Sunil Gavaskar comes 2nd with 13 hundred against West Indies while Steve Smith is the leader among current players with 11 hundred against England. Smith still needs 9 more Ashes hundreds if he is to overtake Bradman which might prove to be too much even for the run-machine Australian ex-captain.
Bradman’s introduction to captaincy was fierce. Australia lost the first two Tests in 1936/37, and the pressure was already mounting on the man who many thought shouldn’t have been a captain in the first place. The third Test in Melbourne would define Bradman’s legacy. After winning the toss, Australia limped to 9/200 on a wet wicket. With an eye on the conditions, Bradman declared in a bid to expose England to the demonic pitch. Morrie Sievers took five wickets as England slumped to 9/76. Sensing a trap, Gubby Allen declared. In a Joe Darling inspired move, Bradman reversed the batting order. The skipper eventually came in at 5/97. The rest is history. He and Fingleton added 346 for the sixth wicket in gloomy conditions. Bradman’s 270 was one of his greatest performances and set up the series turning win. Suffice to say he made 212 and 169 in the ensuing matches. Bradman’s humongous run-tally against England in just 37 Tests, till date remains the most runs scored by batsman vs. a single opposition. Overall, England’s Jack Hobbs (3636 runs vs. Australia) and India’s Sachin Tendulkar (3630 vs. Australia) lie 2nd and 3rd respectively on this list even after playing more matches than Bradman. Among current players, Steve Smith with 2800 runs in Ashes contests is the frontrunner in the race but he doesn’t stand a chance of equaling Bradman’s tally even if he scores about 700 runs in each of the next 3 Ashes series.
Given his sky-high batting average, you’d think that Bradman must have been one of the fastest in completing multiples of 1000 Test runs. But just like most other players, Bradman kept on getting better after his debut and though he was the 3rd fastest (13 innings) to 1000 Test runs, since then he has managed to complete the next 5 1000 runs milestones faster than any other player in the history of the game. It was only after he retired with 6996 runs to his name that other players could lay claim to the fastest to 7000 or more Test runs. While this is only a glimpse of what Bradman actually achieved in his Test career, it goes without saying that he has left an indelible mark on cricket with his superhuman batting. As Bradman rests in his grave, young cricketers everywhere in the world dream of emulating his on-field numbers while debating which of their favorite current cricketers is most likely to break these records. That, in essence, is Bradman’s true cricketing legacy.