CRICKETER OF THE YEAR 1931

Don Bradman

DONALD GEORGE BRADMAN, who, coming to England for the first time met with greater success as a batsman than any other Australian cricketer who has visited this country, was born at Cootamundra, a small up-country township in New South Wales on August 27, 1908.

While still a child he accompanied his parents when they moved to Bowral, some fifty miles from Sydney. Although not his birth-place, therefore, Bowral enjoys the distinction of giving the first insight into the game to a young man who, at the present moment is one of the most remarkable personalities in cricket.

When it is considered that Bradman made his first appearance in a big match only just over three years ago -- to be exact it was at Adelaide in December, 1927 -- his rise to the very top of the tree has been phenomenal. Yet in that particular encounter, his first for New South Wales in the Sheffield Shield series of engagements, he showed clearly he was someone out of the common by scoring 118 and 33.

Later on in that season in Australia he put together 73 against South Australia and not out 134 against Victoria and those performances stamped him as a future representative batsman. Sure enough, he got his place in the Australian team a year afterwards when the M.C.C. side, under A.P.F. Chapman, were in that country.

He did not justify expectations in a Trial match in October but in the same month he scored 131 and not out 133 against Queensland. Subsequent scores for his State included 71 not out against Victoria, 340 not out in the return with Victoria and 175 against South Australia. Meanwhile, he had secured a place in the Australia Eleven at Brisbane but, dismissed for scores of 18 and 1, was passed over for the next Test.

It was obvious a bad mistake had been made in leaving him out and, chosen for the third match at Melbourne, he put together 79 and 112. At Adelaide in the fourth Test in which England were successful by 12 runs he scored 40 and 58, being run out in the second innings when he and Oldfield looked like winning the match for Australia, while in the concluding Test match -- the only one in which Australia were successful during that tour -- he obtained 123 and not out 37, being in with Ryder at the finish.

By this time he had, of course, firmly established himself, and it did not need another even more successful season in 1929-30 to make his inclusion in the team for England a certainty. He put together many fine scores in Sheffield Shield matches and at Sydney in the first week in January eclipsed everything else by an astonishing innings of 452 not out for New South Wales against Queensland. This score -- the highest individual ever hit in first-class cricket -- occupied him only 415 minutes and included forty-nine 4's.

A month before this, playing in the trial match prior to the team for England being selected, he put together for Woodfull's Eleven against Ryder's Eleven 124 and 225, while on the journey to England he hit up 139 against Tasmania. In Sheffield Shield matches that season he averaged over 111, or more than twice as many as any other cricketer in the tournament, with an aggregate of 894 runs.

Already, therefore, he had in a very short space of time accomplished wonders but his triumphs were far from being at an end, for in England he left further records behind. In the second innings of his first Test match in this country at Trent Bridge he made 131, following that with 254 at Lord's, 334 at Leeds and, after failing at Manchester, putting together 232 at the Oval.

With his big innings at Leeds he beat the record individual score in Test matches between England and Australia which had stood since 1903-04 to the credit of R.E. Foster, with 287 at Sydney. Without a not out to help him, an aggregate of 974 runs in seven innings gave him an average of over 139 for the five Test matches and in the course of the summer he altogether played 11 three-figure innings for his side, six of these being over 200.

Just as they did during the last tour of the Englishmen in Australia, so, at the present time, opinions differ as to the merit of Bradman's abilities, judged purely from the standpoint of the highest batsmanship. Certain good judges aver that his footwork is correct; others contend the reverse is the case. Both are right.

For a fast, true wicket his footwork, if not on quite such a high plane as that of Charles Macartney, is wonderfully good. When the ball is turning, however, there are limitations to Bradman's skill. As was observed by those who saw him on a turning wicket at Brisbane and on one nothing like so vicious at Old Trafford last summer, this young batsman still has something to learn in the matter of playing a correct offensive or defensive stroke with the conditions in favour of the bowler.

Still, as a run-getter, he stands alone. He does not favour the forward method of defence, much preferring to go half-way or entirely back. His scoring strokes are many and varied. He can turn to leg and cut with delightful accuracy but above all he is a superb driver. One very pronounced feature of his batting is that he rarely lifts the ball and as he showed English spectators so frequently last season, and particularly against England at Lord's, he will send two consecutive and similar deliveries in different directions.

In grace of style he may not be a Trumper or a Macartney but his performances speak for themselves. Over and above his batting he is a magnificent field and, like all Australians, a beautiful thrower. Occasionally he has met with success as a bowler but while his powers as a run-getter remain with him there is no need for him to cultivate the other side of the game.

Bradman first learned his cricket in pick-up matches at the Bowral Intermediate High School, and when he went to Sydney in 1926 at the invitation of the State Selectors for practice at the nets he was a somewhat uncouth, uncultured batsman. Still, he made 37 in a Trial match and then played in the Southern Districts country team.

He reached first grade cricket in Sydney for the St. George Club in 1926 and, as has already been told, proceeded thence into the New South Wales eleven. After he left School, where he was entirely self-taught in batting, he played for the Bowral club and, with scores of 234 and 300, had an aggregate of 1,318 and an average of 109. In the one match he played for them in 1926-27 he scored 320 not out.

Not yet 23, Bradman should have years of cricket in front of him and, judging by what he has already accomplished, there would seem to be no limit to his possibilities.

© John Wisden & Co