With the sad demise of Sir Don Bradman, the cricket world has lost a legend. With so many world records that he added to the annals of history, he was a moving spirit behind the game despite his retirement from cricket half a century ago. Though rightly declared as the `Greatest cricketer of the century', it would have been more appropriate to declare him, as the greatest cricketer of all times, that is what he was.
Though a host of distinguished players took the field after him, but they were neither as accomplished nor had the masterly command over the game as the Don had. The greatest batsman who ever lived, Don amassed 6996 runs at an average of 99.94 in 52 tests that he played for Australia. His innings included 10 double tons and 2 triple centuries. He remained on the international cricket scene for two decades (1928-48). Had he not missed the game for nearly five years during World War II, his achievements would have been far greater.
August 16, 1948 was the fateful day and London's famous Oval as the venue of Don Bradman's last test, where he became the victim of England's leg spinner Eric Hollies, who bowled him on the second ball for cricket's most famous duck. Had the Don scored only 4 runs in the match, he would have ended his career with a sparkling test average of 100.
This was Bradman's final tour as a player as well as captain during which, he scored 136 in the Nottingham test and 173 not out at Leeds, the innings that he singled out as the greatest of his career. Nearing the age of 40, there was no stopping the great man. He continued to delight the crowd with his flawless cover-drives, cuts and pulls till the last day. Except for the anti-climatic end in the 5th Test at the Oval, the tour was highly successful with Australia beating England 4-0.
Apart from being a great player, Bradman was an outstanding skipper too. He captained Australia in 24 tests out of which he won 15 and lost only 3. The sphere of cricket was not as wide as it is today, nor the tours so frequent. Had the game been so elaborate, his figures would have been unconquerable. His figures may continue to be surpassed with the passage of time, most of his records and the manner in which they were created will, however, remain intact.
Though cricket is said to have developed on more scientific lines and become more modern since the Don's golden era, many experts feel that his wonderful skills, approach to batting and other principles of the game are applicable even today.
Ever since my association with cricket as a player and later as an official of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), I had a burning desire to meet the legendary Don Bradman. Unfortunately he never came to Pakistan. I got a chance to visit Australia in 1985 to attend the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the Victoria Cricket Association. The functions held on the historical occasion glittered with super stars and the top brass of cricket from all over the world but the great Don was not there.
It was in 1997 that on the tragic death of Don Bradman's wife, I sent a message of condolence to him and received a prompt reply which read,"Don, John, Shirley, Greta and Tom wish to thank you most sincerely, for your very kind thoughts and expressions of sympathy following the death of Jessie, our dearly loved wife, mother and grandmother. We do appreciate your tributes, for we know how much Jessie enjoyed life through her involvement with and respect for people from diverse areas of the community. Her care and compassion were immeasurable". The letter remains as one of my highly prized possessions.
It was perhaps during the same year that late Lala Amarnath who captained the Indian team to Australia in 1947, was on a visit of Pakistan. Incidentally, he and late Gul Mohammad, also a member of the same Indian squad assembled in my office at the Gaddafi stadium, Lahore. Since both of them had played against Don Bradman, there was no better subject than to discuss the wonderful feats of the great man.
There was no end to their praise of the great Don's technical knowledge of the game, the precision with which he executed his shots, his courage to face and punish any type of a bowler, his prowess and total command on the game and other attributes. According to the two stalwarts, the most exciting was the manner and speed with which he kept the score board moving. To keep pace with his flashy strokes, the figures jumped with leaps and bounds at the speed of a jet.
The death of the great Don, who was an ideal of cricket lovers in Pakistan, is mourned by our people and as much as in other countries of the world. The players and those closely associated with the game have in fact been shocked. The newspapers are full of obituaries in which the people have expressed their deep feelings of sorrow and grief.
Lt Gen. Tauqir Zia, Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), expressed his sentiments by saying that ` the irreparable loss of the sad demise of cricket's legend Sir Don Bradman, will be felt by the entire cricket world. Not only that he was a great Australian but that also his achievements were revered throughout and beyond the cricketing world'.
`Little Master' Hanif Mohammad, a former Pakistan captain said, `Bradman's name and deeds will remain etched in memories for ever and the cricket world would never forget him'. He further suggested that the cricket world must remember him by holding a `Bradman day'.
Zaheer Abbas, another former captain called the `Asian Bradman' remembers meeting the Don at Adelaide in 1972. He said, "Sir Don knew I had scored 274 against England, and he praised my batting skills saying that you possess the rare quality of hooking on the front foot". `Great people never die and Bradman is the greatest batsman that the cricket world has seen until now and his records will be hard to beat in the years to come', Zaheer added.
Another former Pakistan captain Fazal Mahmood known as the `Oval hero', acknowledged Bradman's services as hard to match. He, however, regrets the opportunity of bowling against him, when he declined to accompany the Indian team to Australia in 1947 on account of partition. Imtiaz Ahmed, Intikhab Alam and many other former and present cricketers also expressed similar sentiments for the great man.
The common man may forget him with the passage of time but the cricket fraternity will never. His accomplishments will act as a beacon of light for the young cricketers for all times to come. May his noble soul rest in eternal peace.