Stephen Gelb September 2, 2008

Why Gelb doesn't worship the Don

I may be a cricket-obsessive and I may be helping in a very marginal way to produce the ‘cricket world.’ But I am not a cricket fanatic or fundamentalist, it is not a religion for me
23

On Wednesday last week, August 27th, our Cricinfo ‘handler’ Avi sent us four ‘Different Strokers’ a message asking “No Bradman tributes?”, and reading in full “I must say I’m a little surprised.” Fox has now admirably filled the gap, but my first reaction to Avi was surprise of my own, as it had never occurred to me to write something about Bradman, that day or any other. Avi’s message made me wonder why I had not thought of it – as a cricket-obsessive with a cricket blog, should I have written a tribute, or at least thought of it? The result of my self-reflection is my own small and indirect tribute to the Don.

Bradman has been a legend to me for over 40 years, since I started reading Wisden at age 10 or 11. Of course I’ve only ever seen him bat in some film footage, but I own several auto- and biographies and have read dozens of articles. I can reel off a list of his achievements, and just recently was amazed to learn from "The List that he was top run-getter in only 6 of his 11 Test series. He was outscored five times? By whom? But until last week I would not have been sure of his birth-year, let alone his birth-date.

In fact, the only cricketers whose birthdays I do know are Wasim Akram – because he shares mine – and the Waugh twins, because they’re the day before. I admired all three in different ways, so I enjoy this coincidence. But in general cricketers’ birthdays seem irrelevant, even if their age is not.

On the other hand, I do remember the birthdays of my two lodestars as an economist – Marx and Keynes – and also the years of their birth and death. Every year on May 5 and June 5 respectively, I figuratively tip my hat. And earlier this year, the celebration of Mandela’s 90th birthday, outside South Africa as well as within, felt entirely appropriate.

So why no Bradman tribute? I think it has to do with ‘identity’, about how I see myself, and particularly about the ways in which icons shape identity and vice versa. There is a difference between heroes and icons. Heroes – like Steve Waugh – are people whom one can aspire to emulate, because for all their qualities and achievements, they are flesh and blood, with human imperfections and limits. (And in the TV age are not limited to one’s own nation, as Fox correctly pointed out.) Icons have transcended all that, and moved into the realm of mythology and faith, as the repositories of our hopes and fears, and via their reflected glory, of how we want to be seen by ourselves and especially others.

The iconic realm is where we find Mandela of course, whose iconic status is a core part not only of our South African national founding myth, but also of the global myth of harmony between races. For me as fundamentally a left-leaning political economist, it is also the realm of Marx and Keynes, but this is far from a universal view, to put it mildly.

The iconic is also the realm of Bradman. But not for me. Bradman seems to be iconic for Australians in the way Mandela is for South Africans, a central player in the national founding myth. (The Charles Williams biography is a brilliant discussion of that point.) And as the greatest player who ever lived, he is iconic for the ‘cricket world’, in the way that Mandela is for the human race, or at least for humanists and non-racists.

After the Mandela moment last July, I did not feel that Australia went over the top about Bradman last week. But since I’m not Australian, any piece I might have written would have been because cricket is a core part of my identity. So I conclude that not autonomously writing a Bradman tribute means that I do not see myself as entirely within the cricket world. I may be a cricket-obsessive and I may be helping in a very marginal way to produce the ‘cricket world.’ But I am not a cricket fanatic or fundamentalist, it is not a religion for me. This little self-discovery, about something I think about every day, is rather comforting.

So, Avi, I hope that explains it. It’s not about the Don, he’s right up there in the pantheon.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • robert on March 6, 2009, 23:53 GMT

    Sure, I guess helmets are safer. But what I miss is the spectacle of one man against another - I miss the old unhelmeted photos of batsman like Keith Miller, Clyde Walcott, Denis Compton, Garfield Sobers and the like, and the nostalgia of actually SEEING the faces of these great players - in real life, as real characters that you can actually see = check out the old photos, - not just as anonymous people behind iron or plastic masks. Masks i.e. helmets have taken the nobility and humanity out of the game, and the artistry and individuality of characters. Now you can't see them until they walk back into the pavilion, and often even then, they leave their unbloodied helmets on. Like robots.

  • mike of cnbra on September 11, 2008, 23:00 GMT

    Marcus. Another thing. The best bowlers of recent times are considered to be Murali and Warne. Look at their records against the best batting sides of their time, India and Australia. Murali averages 30 v India (mainly boosted by a recent home series against a declining side) and 36 v Australia. Warne averaged 47 v India! Yet these 2 are the best bowlers of recent times. Yet neither had to face a Bradman. Now if you look at the list of bowlers I gave and took out runs conceded to Bradman their averages against Australia fall by another 3 or 4 runs a wkt. Actually in Allen's case it falls by abt 7! Verity, for eg, goes from 28 to a 24 average. Interesting isn't it? So when you compare the bowlers he faced they are on every statistic more than comparable with the challenges batsmen face today.

  • Marcus on September 11, 2008, 8:39 GMT

    Mike's given a list of impressive bowlers that Bradman faced, and I just want to add something to put them into context. The English bowlers he faced had averages ranging from 22 to 29. Of the most prolific English bowlers of the last five years, Hoggard has the lowest average of 30.5. And I doubt that Edwards, Taylor and Powell are as good as Constantine, Francis and Griffith were.

    As an indication of Bradman's ability against spin- check out his performances against South African Cyril Vincent. I don't think anyone would see Vincent's record and doubt that he was an extremely competent spin bowler, but Bradman averaged 200 against South Africa in the only series they played, and Vincent took his wickets at 54- double what he averaged against England. So the criticism that he didn't do well against quality spin doesn't hold water either.

  • mike of cnbra on September 10, 2008, 23:25 GMT

    Nandun Senanayake. Which of these bowlers do you consider poor? Larwood, Tate, Voce, Allen, Farnes, Bowes, Geary, Verity, White, Bedser, Laker, Constantine, Francis, Griffith? These are the men Bradman faced. All of them exceptional performers. These are the men he averaged close to 100 against. While all others struggled in a range of 20 to 50. Its the modern players who have feasted on poor bowling. Zim and BD for a start. SL is only Murali. India stuffed themselves on Aussie bowling that was weakened over 2 series. Another thought for you Bradman bashers. Imagine if today's players were born to play in Bradman's time. Do you think they'd be as good as they are now? If SRT was born in 1910 he'd only been as good as the standards were then. He couldn't have brought all his modern training and knowledge into play. Yet give him those advantages we see that he is a batter player than he ever could've been if born in 1910. Why wouldn't the same apply to Bradman?

  • Geoff Plumridge on September 7, 2008, 13:56 GMT

    Leartiste2001 by your reckoning people like Hutton, Hammond & Compton would be averaging 25 with the bat? Don't believe it.

    I remember hearing a story about David Steele a regular County player in the days when England County Championship still had uncovered wickets. He came out to bat against Lillee & Thompson and although he had a County average of 32.47 he averaged over 50 that series against the best fat bowling attack we've ever had.

    Asked what the secret of his success was he just said "well the wickets are so good"..

    Someone like Barrington or Dexter would monster a modern attack on the flat dead tracks they call test wickets these days. And with the railway sleepers they use for bats and the boundaries yards further in than they were years ago, I'd say the Don would average over 100 with the pitches so good.

  • hylian lynk on September 6, 2008, 12:06 GMT

    leartiste2001 you are making the same mistake again. Why are you putting Tendulkar and Lara with their current modern training in the 1930 - 1940 timeframe. If you did this they could never average 99, they would never have batted on uncovered wickets. Given their records on the modern Brisbane track I would bet they don't average 30.

  • Noelene on September 5, 2008, 19:20 GMT

    I looked at howstat.com.au to see Bradman's stats after you said he was outscored because I was curious myself. I had to do it all again to answer your question,but I din't mind.Looking at the stats reinforced how good he was. Here is the list 1928-1929 v Eng-Hammond 905(Bradman 468) 1930-v Eng Bradman 974 1930-1931 v West Indies Ponsford 467(Bradman 447) 1931-1932 Aus v South Africa Bradman 806 1932-1933 Hammond-Sutcliffe 440 each (Bradman 396) 1934 Eng v Aus Bradman 758 1936-1937 Aus v England Bradman 810 1938 Eng v Australia Brown-512 (Bradman 434) 1946-1947 Australia v England Bradman- 680 1947-1948 v India Bradman-715 1948 v England Morris-696(Bradman 508)

    When he top scored for the series,he sure top scored.Today we talk about batsmen who score a 1,000 runs a year.

  • Michael Jeh on September 3, 2008, 22:58 GMT

    Nice piece Stephen. I think Geoff Plumridge puts into nice perspective. The appreciation of Bradman is a very Australian thing and it's almost heresy to not love his legacy. What Geoff also manages to convey is a dignified Aust viewpoint which doesn't seek to necessarily bag anyone that doesn't share his opinion. I always enjoy reading comments from people who don't shy away from their preferences but equally, don't feel that everybody else is obliged to agree with them. Much of what we discuss in this blog is a matter of opinion, not irrefutable fact so it's great to read a wide variety of views without the nasty put-downs or angry ant syndrome. After all, we all seem to share a love of cricket in common, even if Philistines like you don't remember Bradman's birthday (only joking mate!).

  • leartiste2001 on September 3, 2008, 22:52 GMT

    So hylian thinks I am downplaying Bradman's achievements. Not at all! I coach cricket. The footage of Bradman's technique, timing, and placement are still the best I have ever seen in any era. I think that players like Tendulkar and Lara would have had similar averages to Bradman if they were playing in his time as well. I emphasised that the game was different then. I contrasted the athleticism, fitness, and fielding of today's test cricketers with those of Bradman's era. The overall standard is much higher today. I would expect that as the game evolves further, tomorrow's champions and cricket lovers will be debating about whether Ponting, Warne, or McGrath would have been selected to play for Australia in their time as well. I think that based on his technique alone Bradman would certainly average 50+ in today's game, but not 99.94. Why do Bradmanites insist on making him sound immortal as though he transcends time? For mine, Bradman is the best batsman Australia has ever produced.

  • Geoff Plumridge on September 3, 2008, 13:11 GMT

    OK.. to understand Don Bradman you have to understand Australia & Australians and I suppose as a South African you are already at a disadvantage.

    Here was an uncoached and agricultural cricketer because of his up-bringing and his freakish self taught (golf-ball against a round brick water tank) hand eye co-ordination went on into the cricket stratosphere.

    His story IS the story of our country. Someone from a town no-one outside Australia would have ever heard of playing in a peculiarly Australian style that was scoffed at by the English showing everyone the full nature of great batting.

    We judge ourselves internationally on the quality of our sportsman. They earn more than our scientists & politicians. Bradman gave Australia during the depression a reason to be proud internationally. And he still does. We know that we as a nation have spawned the greatest batsman ever and Bradman has given every young Australian a very high yardstick. If you aren't Aussie, you won't get it.

  • robert on March 6, 2009, 23:53 GMT

    Sure, I guess helmets are safer. But what I miss is the spectacle of one man against another - I miss the old unhelmeted photos of batsman like Keith Miller, Clyde Walcott, Denis Compton, Garfield Sobers and the like, and the nostalgia of actually SEEING the faces of these great players - in real life, as real characters that you can actually see = check out the old photos, - not just as anonymous people behind iron or plastic masks. Masks i.e. helmets have taken the nobility and humanity out of the game, and the artistry and individuality of characters. Now you can't see them until they walk back into the pavilion, and often even then, they leave their unbloodied helmets on. Like robots.

  • mike of cnbra on September 11, 2008, 23:00 GMT

    Marcus. Another thing. The best bowlers of recent times are considered to be Murali and Warne. Look at their records against the best batting sides of their time, India and Australia. Murali averages 30 v India (mainly boosted by a recent home series against a declining side) and 36 v Australia. Warne averaged 47 v India! Yet these 2 are the best bowlers of recent times. Yet neither had to face a Bradman. Now if you look at the list of bowlers I gave and took out runs conceded to Bradman their averages against Australia fall by another 3 or 4 runs a wkt. Actually in Allen's case it falls by abt 7! Verity, for eg, goes from 28 to a 24 average. Interesting isn't it? So when you compare the bowlers he faced they are on every statistic more than comparable with the challenges batsmen face today.

  • Marcus on September 11, 2008, 8:39 GMT

    Mike's given a list of impressive bowlers that Bradman faced, and I just want to add something to put them into context. The English bowlers he faced had averages ranging from 22 to 29. Of the most prolific English bowlers of the last five years, Hoggard has the lowest average of 30.5. And I doubt that Edwards, Taylor and Powell are as good as Constantine, Francis and Griffith were.

    As an indication of Bradman's ability against spin- check out his performances against South African Cyril Vincent. I don't think anyone would see Vincent's record and doubt that he was an extremely competent spin bowler, but Bradman averaged 200 against South Africa in the only series they played, and Vincent took his wickets at 54- double what he averaged against England. So the criticism that he didn't do well against quality spin doesn't hold water either.

  • mike of cnbra on September 10, 2008, 23:25 GMT

    Nandun Senanayake. Which of these bowlers do you consider poor? Larwood, Tate, Voce, Allen, Farnes, Bowes, Geary, Verity, White, Bedser, Laker, Constantine, Francis, Griffith? These are the men Bradman faced. All of them exceptional performers. These are the men he averaged close to 100 against. While all others struggled in a range of 20 to 50. Its the modern players who have feasted on poor bowling. Zim and BD for a start. SL is only Murali. India stuffed themselves on Aussie bowling that was weakened over 2 series. Another thought for you Bradman bashers. Imagine if today's players were born to play in Bradman's time. Do you think they'd be as good as they are now? If SRT was born in 1910 he'd only been as good as the standards were then. He couldn't have brought all his modern training and knowledge into play. Yet give him those advantages we see that he is a batter player than he ever could've been if born in 1910. Why wouldn't the same apply to Bradman?

  • Geoff Plumridge on September 7, 2008, 13:56 GMT

    Leartiste2001 by your reckoning people like Hutton, Hammond & Compton would be averaging 25 with the bat? Don't believe it.

    I remember hearing a story about David Steele a regular County player in the days when England County Championship still had uncovered wickets. He came out to bat against Lillee & Thompson and although he had a County average of 32.47 he averaged over 50 that series against the best fat bowling attack we've ever had.

    Asked what the secret of his success was he just said "well the wickets are so good"..

    Someone like Barrington or Dexter would monster a modern attack on the flat dead tracks they call test wickets these days. And with the railway sleepers they use for bats and the boundaries yards further in than they were years ago, I'd say the Don would average over 100 with the pitches so good.

  • hylian lynk on September 6, 2008, 12:06 GMT

    leartiste2001 you are making the same mistake again. Why are you putting Tendulkar and Lara with their current modern training in the 1930 - 1940 timeframe. If you did this they could never average 99, they would never have batted on uncovered wickets. Given their records on the modern Brisbane track I would bet they don't average 30.

  • Noelene on September 5, 2008, 19:20 GMT

    I looked at howstat.com.au to see Bradman's stats after you said he was outscored because I was curious myself. I had to do it all again to answer your question,but I din't mind.Looking at the stats reinforced how good he was. Here is the list 1928-1929 v Eng-Hammond 905(Bradman 468) 1930-v Eng Bradman 974 1930-1931 v West Indies Ponsford 467(Bradman 447) 1931-1932 Aus v South Africa Bradman 806 1932-1933 Hammond-Sutcliffe 440 each (Bradman 396) 1934 Eng v Aus Bradman 758 1936-1937 Aus v England Bradman 810 1938 Eng v Australia Brown-512 (Bradman 434) 1946-1947 Australia v England Bradman- 680 1947-1948 v India Bradman-715 1948 v England Morris-696(Bradman 508)

    When he top scored for the series,he sure top scored.Today we talk about batsmen who score a 1,000 runs a year.

  • Michael Jeh on September 3, 2008, 22:58 GMT

    Nice piece Stephen. I think Geoff Plumridge puts into nice perspective. The appreciation of Bradman is a very Australian thing and it's almost heresy to not love his legacy. What Geoff also manages to convey is a dignified Aust viewpoint which doesn't seek to necessarily bag anyone that doesn't share his opinion. I always enjoy reading comments from people who don't shy away from their preferences but equally, don't feel that everybody else is obliged to agree with them. Much of what we discuss in this blog is a matter of opinion, not irrefutable fact so it's great to read a wide variety of views without the nasty put-downs or angry ant syndrome. After all, we all seem to share a love of cricket in common, even if Philistines like you don't remember Bradman's birthday (only joking mate!).

  • leartiste2001 on September 3, 2008, 22:52 GMT

    So hylian thinks I am downplaying Bradman's achievements. Not at all! I coach cricket. The footage of Bradman's technique, timing, and placement are still the best I have ever seen in any era. I think that players like Tendulkar and Lara would have had similar averages to Bradman if they were playing in his time as well. I emphasised that the game was different then. I contrasted the athleticism, fitness, and fielding of today's test cricketers with those of Bradman's era. The overall standard is much higher today. I would expect that as the game evolves further, tomorrow's champions and cricket lovers will be debating about whether Ponting, Warne, or McGrath would have been selected to play for Australia in their time as well. I think that based on his technique alone Bradman would certainly average 50+ in today's game, but not 99.94. Why do Bradmanites insist on making him sound immortal as though he transcends time? For mine, Bradman is the best batsman Australia has ever produced.

  • Geoff Plumridge on September 3, 2008, 13:11 GMT

    OK.. to understand Don Bradman you have to understand Australia & Australians and I suppose as a South African you are already at a disadvantage.

    Here was an uncoached and agricultural cricketer because of his up-bringing and his freakish self taught (golf-ball against a round brick water tank) hand eye co-ordination went on into the cricket stratosphere.

    His story IS the story of our country. Someone from a town no-one outside Australia would have ever heard of playing in a peculiarly Australian style that was scoffed at by the English showing everyone the full nature of great batting.

    We judge ourselves internationally on the quality of our sportsman. They earn more than our scientists & politicians. Bradman gave Australia during the depression a reason to be proud internationally. And he still does. We know that we as a nation have spawned the greatest batsman ever and Bradman has given every young Australian a very high yardstick. If you aren't Aussie, you won't get it.

  • R.Narayan on September 3, 2008, 9:55 GMT

    I don't think Bradman is overrated, except when he is called the Greatest Cricketer of All Time (to me, it's a toss up with Sobers). As for Mandela, well we are talking different things here, and the comparison is not valid. His greatness does not make Bradman less in his Sphere. Bradman never had to free his countrymen from inhumanity, but Mandela couldn't bat like Bradman, nor box like Ali, nor create music like the Beatles, who all contributed greatly to our lives.

  • AJAX on September 3, 2008, 9:09 GMT

    "And as the greatest player ... ‘cricket world’, way that Mandela ... humanists and non-racists." I'm very confused by this sentence. First I don't consider myself to be a racist. Next I will define an icon as a representation (from the old religious oil paintings in churches). In this sense I don't mind Mandela as an icon, a representative of the human race or any other person whether it is you, me or Chairman Mao. You see it seems to me as if you infer that Bradman is iconic as the greatest cricketer, and Mandela is iconic as the greatest human who ever lived, and if you disagree with that you are not a humanist or you are racist. So I commend you for using this comparison to stress the point (I think), to each his own idolized hero/icon and don't impose on others to worship yours, but I disagree with being branded as a racist for thinking otherwise. But then I guess the real purpose can be seen from the URL having changed from "this_ones_for_avi" to "why_gelb_doesnt_worship_the_don"

  • Nandun Senanayake on September 3, 2008, 7:24 GMT

    Is Bradman really that great? I totally agree from his time he was possibly the best batsman (I wouldn't know for sure because no one I know has ever seen him play, but stats dont lie...ussually). But you should consider these things, 10 teams play cricket now, atleast 6 of them always better than execellent, while Australia mainly versed England back then. The game has also developed in so many ways you cannot imagine of. Reverse swing, Third umpire refferals, and the team meetings, planning, and quality of proffesionalism in playing cricket these days are totaly different to what they were 50 years ago. Also these days cricketers have to keep their physical condition perfect to take on Tests, ODI's, recently 20/20s and even the domestic comps. People call him the greatest batsmen ever and never takes these things into consideration. Also the quality of bowlers were poor. I believe Ponting, Tendulkar and Steve Waugh are probably better players than him.

  • Stephen Gelb on September 3, 2008, 6:45 GMT

    Thanks to all for comments. Noelene: the piece originally read "...'only' 6 of 11.." but the inverted commas don't come through the blog software. Had I been asked to guess, I would have said 9 or 10! So who were the 5 (6?) who outscored the Don? I really would like to know. I could look it up but do tell. Rahul: if you don't want to listen, switch off the radio or change stations! Mustafa: I think you have it exactly right - he was so far ahead of his contemporaries that you have to believe he would be way out in front in other eras. Roger & Sharat: thanks for the positive comments. I'm not apologetic about not writing a piece, just curious to understand the gap between Avi's assumption that it was a natural thing to do, and my own failure to even perceive any necessity. I must say I have been struck in reading general coverage of the centenary & also the responses to Fox on our blog, by the reverence with which the Don is held in India. I was not aware of that before.

  • Mustafa Pasha on September 3, 2008, 5:54 GMT

    To Leartiste and all other Bradman doubters; It is irrelevant whether he played on scuffed and wet pitches, didnt wear a helmet or faced bowling and fielding of a lower quality. To understand his iconic status all you have to do is look at his average. The best players in the Don's era averaged around 55-60 just as they do today and just as they have done in every era. For him to average almost 40 runs more than the next guy is testament to a phenomenal talent. Maybe he wouldnt have averaged 99.94 in todays game but i would be willing to bet that he would probably still have a very strong claim to the best batsmen around.

  • hylian lynk on September 3, 2008, 2:44 GMT

    This is very similar to when I read articles on this site written by some gushing English author on the greatness of some 19th century cricketer. The closest these authors have come to even remotely knowing that player is by standing next to his grave or urn of ashes or reading 3rd party reports. Yet they will attempt to adamantly profess his greatness not only as a cricketer but as a human being. I also don't think anyone has the right to downplay the achievements of anyone in history as leartiste is trying to do with his stupid comments. Achievements are bound to their time frame, limitations and all thats why those achievements are great. Now think about this,how good would Bradman be if he had modern equipment including the modern oversized bat and loads of video footage to study opposition?

  • leartiste on September 2, 2008, 22:59 GMT

    I often feel embarrassed when people speak of Bradman as though they knew him personally and speak of his achievements as though they witnessed him batting. I think he was very good, but cricket was a much different game when he played. For me, the big difference is in the athleticism and fitness. In the footage I have seen, once the ball got past the fielder, he would simply let it go to the boundary, rarely chasing it down. Contrast this with today where the fielders are more athletic and fitter, and will chase the ball - often getting it well before it hits the boundary and cutting fours to threes or even twos. Another thing I noticed is that today's bowlers seem to be a lot more accurate and more of them sustain high pace for longer periods - probably due to the fitness thing. Finally, today's fielders are expected to take sharp catches as a matter of routine. I have not seen a lot of footage of these types of catches in Bradman's era. As good as he was, he would not dominate now.

  • Sharath on September 2, 2008, 22:58 GMT

    Joey and Noelene,

    I think what Stephen is trying to say is at the end of the day, it's just a game, and Bradman, however untouchable, is "just" a sporting hero, after all. Unlike Marx and Mandela, who were, if you will, "real-life" heroes.

    He's not saying Bradman is overrated, or that he was not worth writing a tribute to. All he's saying is, celebrating a birthday of a SPORTING hero and writing paean after paean for him is a bit myopic, at least from the perspective of non-Australians.

    And I agree with him. In India, Tendulkar is as big as big gets, but even his birthday is not celebrated as Bradman's was (Note I am not comparing Bradman with Tendulkar here, just comparing the adulation they both received from their respective countrymen).

    Why? Because I think all Indians know that at the end of the day, he (like Bradman was) is just a very good sportsman, not a hero. He's surely not MY hero.

    A bit of perspective never hurts. Nice piece, Stephen.

  • Rahul Oak on September 2, 2008, 21:40 GMT

    So why waste your time explaining why you hadn't wasted time on something before? I really could'nt care less.

  • Roger@1stSlip on September 2, 2008, 21:16 GMT

    Interesting reflections Stephen.

    Mandela has fully transcended national boundaries to become a truly 'world' icon has he not ? Given his significant and large following in eg India & UK, Bradman has also achieved special status beyond national boundaries as an icon in the 'cricketing world' at large. With today's ubiquitous media coverage - as you say - most of us spend more time following our present day heroes on the TV rather than reflecting on cricketing legends past. For this reason, you need not be apologetic or need to explain about not initially writing a tribute on the Don's 100th birthday. Many didn't. Those who did provided plenty of good coverage and material on the event. I receieved an email from my Aunt (now 80 years) who remembered making a pilgrimage with her sister to watch the Don's last innings on English soil at Scarborough in September 1948... the 60th anniversary of which is next week on Sept 9th. Bradman made 153 !

  • dassar on September 2, 2008, 16:50 GMT

    bradman was greater than his peers... would have been great to see him on the go against west indies in the 80's. comparing eras is inpossible. people says that he had to bat on wet pitches and scuffed wickets. in my view u had more time to play the ball when in those conditions. bradman is a hoax made by people to suit the aussie dominance.

  • Noelene on September 2, 2008, 16:25 GMT

    You ask who out-scored him in 5 of his test series. It wasn't any one person, it was 5 different players(actually 6,2 players same score Eng vs Aust 32-33). I can't understand why you would say he was ONLY the top scorer in 6 out of 11 series,how many players could boast those stats, obviously nobody who played against or with Bradman. While cricket exists, Bradman will live on in the memory of every cricket player. I predict players will be reading about him in a 100 years, I wonder if any other sports person will have that sort of eternity. I can't see any reason why you would have to write a tribute to Bradman, he was ours,and we honour him enough.

  • JoeyMcJoeJoe on September 2, 2008, 16:04 GMT

    Yeah I suppose he is a bit overrated. But then the Aussies need a few cultural legends of their own.

    "And in the 68th year of our founding Saint Bradman slew the mighty empire with his wooden sword and Australia was set free from its shackles and torments to prosper henceforth".

    Whatever.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • JoeyMcJoeJoe on September 2, 2008, 16:04 GMT

    Yeah I suppose he is a bit overrated. But then the Aussies need a few cultural legends of their own.

    "And in the 68th year of our founding Saint Bradman slew the mighty empire with his wooden sword and Australia was set free from its shackles and torments to prosper henceforth".

    Whatever.

  • Noelene on September 2, 2008, 16:25 GMT

    You ask who out-scored him in 5 of his test series. It wasn't any one person, it was 5 different players(actually 6,2 players same score Eng vs Aust 32-33). I can't understand why you would say he was ONLY the top scorer in 6 out of 11 series,how many players could boast those stats, obviously nobody who played against or with Bradman. While cricket exists, Bradman will live on in the memory of every cricket player. I predict players will be reading about him in a 100 years, I wonder if any other sports person will have that sort of eternity. I can't see any reason why you would have to write a tribute to Bradman, he was ours,and we honour him enough.

  • dassar on September 2, 2008, 16:50 GMT

    bradman was greater than his peers... would have been great to see him on the go against west indies in the 80's. comparing eras is inpossible. people says that he had to bat on wet pitches and scuffed wickets. in my view u had more time to play the ball when in those conditions. bradman is a hoax made by people to suit the aussie dominance.

  • Roger@1stSlip on September 2, 2008, 21:16 GMT

    Interesting reflections Stephen.

    Mandela has fully transcended national boundaries to become a truly 'world' icon has he not ? Given his significant and large following in eg India & UK, Bradman has also achieved special status beyond national boundaries as an icon in the 'cricketing world' at large. With today's ubiquitous media coverage - as you say - most of us spend more time following our present day heroes on the TV rather than reflecting on cricketing legends past. For this reason, you need not be apologetic or need to explain about not initially writing a tribute on the Don's 100th birthday. Many didn't. Those who did provided plenty of good coverage and material on the event. I receieved an email from my Aunt (now 80 years) who remembered making a pilgrimage with her sister to watch the Don's last innings on English soil at Scarborough in September 1948... the 60th anniversary of which is next week on Sept 9th. Bradman made 153 !

  • Rahul Oak on September 2, 2008, 21:40 GMT

    So why waste your time explaining why you hadn't wasted time on something before? I really could'nt care less.

  • Sharath on September 2, 2008, 22:58 GMT

    Joey and Noelene,

    I think what Stephen is trying to say is at the end of the day, it's just a game, and Bradman, however untouchable, is "just" a sporting hero, after all. Unlike Marx and Mandela, who were, if you will, "real-life" heroes.

    He's not saying Bradman is overrated, or that he was not worth writing a tribute to. All he's saying is, celebrating a birthday of a SPORTING hero and writing paean after paean for him is a bit myopic, at least from the perspective of non-Australians.

    And I agree with him. In India, Tendulkar is as big as big gets, but even his birthday is not celebrated as Bradman's was (Note I am not comparing Bradman with Tendulkar here, just comparing the adulation they both received from their respective countrymen).

    Why? Because I think all Indians know that at the end of the day, he (like Bradman was) is just a very good sportsman, not a hero. He's surely not MY hero.

    A bit of perspective never hurts. Nice piece, Stephen.

  • leartiste on September 2, 2008, 22:59 GMT

    I often feel embarrassed when people speak of Bradman as though they knew him personally and speak of his achievements as though they witnessed him batting. I think he was very good, but cricket was a much different game when he played. For me, the big difference is in the athleticism and fitness. In the footage I have seen, once the ball got past the fielder, he would simply let it go to the boundary, rarely chasing it down. Contrast this with today where the fielders are more athletic and fitter, and will chase the ball - often getting it well before it hits the boundary and cutting fours to threes or even twos. Another thing I noticed is that today's bowlers seem to be a lot more accurate and more of them sustain high pace for longer periods - probably due to the fitness thing. Finally, today's fielders are expected to take sharp catches as a matter of routine. I have not seen a lot of footage of these types of catches in Bradman's era. As good as he was, he would not dominate now.

  • hylian lynk on September 3, 2008, 2:44 GMT

    This is very similar to when I read articles on this site written by some gushing English author on the greatness of some 19th century cricketer. The closest these authors have come to even remotely knowing that player is by standing next to his grave or urn of ashes or reading 3rd party reports. Yet they will attempt to adamantly profess his greatness not only as a cricketer but as a human being. I also don't think anyone has the right to downplay the achievements of anyone in history as leartiste is trying to do with his stupid comments. Achievements are bound to their time frame, limitations and all thats why those achievements are great. Now think about this,how good would Bradman be if he had modern equipment including the modern oversized bat and loads of video footage to study opposition?

  • Mustafa Pasha on September 3, 2008, 5:54 GMT

    To Leartiste and all other Bradman doubters; It is irrelevant whether he played on scuffed and wet pitches, didnt wear a helmet or faced bowling and fielding of a lower quality. To understand his iconic status all you have to do is look at his average. The best players in the Don's era averaged around 55-60 just as they do today and just as they have done in every era. For him to average almost 40 runs more than the next guy is testament to a phenomenal talent. Maybe he wouldnt have averaged 99.94 in todays game but i would be willing to bet that he would probably still have a very strong claim to the best batsmen around.

  • Stephen Gelb on September 3, 2008, 6:45 GMT

    Thanks to all for comments. Noelene: the piece originally read "...'only' 6 of 11.." but the inverted commas don't come through the blog software. Had I been asked to guess, I would have said 9 or 10! So who were the 5 (6?) who outscored the Don? I really would like to know. I could look it up but do tell. Rahul: if you don't want to listen, switch off the radio or change stations! Mustafa: I think you have it exactly right - he was so far ahead of his contemporaries that you have to believe he would be way out in front in other eras. Roger & Sharat: thanks for the positive comments. I'm not apologetic about not writing a piece, just curious to understand the gap between Avi's assumption that it was a natural thing to do, and my own failure to even perceive any necessity. I must say I have been struck in reading general coverage of the centenary & also the responses to Fox on our blog, by the reverence with which the Don is held in India. I was not aware of that before.