As Australia’s cricketers started their colossal – and ultimately futile –chase of 546 runs for an Ashes victory at The Oval, it was accepted that the team’s only hope was for someone to play a ‘Bradmanesque’ innings.

We still haven't come close to replicating Don Bradman

Given that it’s more than 60 years since Sir Donald Bradman played his final Test on that same strip of dirt in south London, why is it that his name remains the benchmark against which all cricketers are still measured?

It’s because for more than a century, Test match cricket has seen Don Bradman – born 101 years ago today – separated by a colossal gap from everyone else in the game.

That’s despite the advances in player fitness and psychology, and allowing for the game’s shift to professionalism.

And notwithstanding the improvement in equipment, amenities and technology, no batsman has come even close to equaling his Test average of 99.94.

Indeed, the next-best record of any regular Test batsmen reveals a career average of just above 60 - still brilliant, but virtually 40 runs per innings less than Sir Donald’s.

Experts around the world were incredulous this month when Jamaica’s Usain Bolt took 0.11 seconds off his 100 metres world record.

That was unthinkable. He ran more than one per cent quicker than anyone had managed before.

But Bradman remains almost 40 per cent better than the next-best batsman cricket has so far produced.

Transpose that superiority to the 100 metres, and it means a margin of nearly four seconds between first and second.

That level of disparity between numbers one and two in other sports equates to a difference of almost 50 minutes over the course of a marathon, or staggeringly almost two and half metres in height over the pole vault bar.

But Don Bradman’s enduring legacy is not just about statistics, or the memory of a greatness in sport that will not be surpassed.

There was something ordinary as well as extraordinary about Don Bradman, which was part of his appeal to all Australians regardless of circumstance or background.

He was there to remind us of the greatness that might just gleam in every Aussie kid if they tried hard enough, however humble their family home, however obscure their path to the batting crease.

Bradman was Australian radio’s first hero, and a shining light in the Depression years for those whose destinies were dimming.

He was proof that an attitude of dogged valour, stoic tenacity, of playing every ball on its merits, would see them through to better times.

His errors were so few that a simple headline “HE’S OUT!” would tell an anguished England their torment had been temporarily relieved. 

His achievements also showed a young nation, whose spirit had been so recently tested on the battlefield at ANZAC Cove and at Flanders Field, that it could stand on its feet in any arena.

Another World War took from us those eight years of Bradman’s peak that might have seen an even greater mastery.

But despite the toll of illness and age, he returned as an “Invincible”. 

It is part of his legend that The Don’s final match, at The Oval, took from him the Test batting average of 100 that seemed his birthright.

Don Bradman’s life bore family setbacks, and he was doggedly inaccessible to those who would probe or try to exploit him. 

He turned his back on easy millions and lived simply, playing golf with friends, enjoying Chopin, steeping the pain of his life in a privacy many resented, keeping his counsel.

He was the most famous Australian ever, a national talisman, the taciturn symbol of an unpretentious country that is also sometimes lucky and good at games.

In essence, the story of Don Bradman reflects the power of simplicity. 

It’s about the strength of will to keep going against all the odds, to stay true to your word and to your calling.

It is about grace and resilience under pressure. 

Most of all, it is about shared values.

No one dared ask him to throw a match.

No-one ever doubted Don Bradman’s patriotism, or that he was there to win for his team, his country, his sport, and not for profit.

So, on his 101st birthday, and in a week of mourning and recrimination for Australian cricket, let’s toast the memory of one hero the Poms can never beat or diminish – our Don Bradman.

Most commented

17 comments

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    • Chas says:

      09:02am | 27/08/09

      Mike;  thanks for your poignant commentary on the Don’s life and legacy.  As you state, ‘it’s about the strength….not for profit’.

      Perhaps as Simon Crean tries to find a catchy tag line to market Australia, he might reflect that these fundamental characteristics & traits are what make Australia & Australian’s rise above the rest on the world stage and not some throw away slogan.

    • Shane says:

      09:41am | 27/08/09

      Hi Mike
      Perhaps you can sort out SA’s water crisis, the Murray, Workcover funding etc when you have some time off from thinking about the cricket.  And are you still wearing Crows and Power scarfes to the footy?

    • pete brooks says:

      10:06am | 27/08/09

      It concerns me that you keep taking your eye off the ball. When you make the grade as Premier, then you can have the luxury of musing about Aussie sports, history and civil rights. You were happily taken in by our nation to make a life here - try respecting Australia mate. Work before play Mike.

    • Jack says:

      11:17am | 27/08/09

      I think it is small-minded and petty to think because Rann is musing about cricket he’s just dropped everything else. It’s refreshing to read something other than politics coming from the self-proclaimed “professional politician”‘s pen. The criticism of it is what is yawningly predictable.

    • BBB or Melbourne says:

      11:56am | 27/08/09

      Not for profit - well, excluding that stockbroking firm stunt.

      Rann, please stick to running South Australia and stay off this website.  You have much better things to be doing with your time.

    • stephen says:

      01:06pm | 27/08/09

      When I think of ‘The Don’, I think of laconic.
      (The Americans called it ‘cool’, with james dean, the English, ‘disinterested’, with the Romantic Poets, and the Ancient Greeks invented it.)
      I was only a twinkle in me’ dad’s eye when Don was on, but I know all the stories, -well, everybody knows he was the greatest sportsman ever - and there was great intelligence behind his talent. Sportsmen who are merely nervous and self-interested rattle our bones, but with the Don, you knew that if it wasn’t cricket, then it would be something - anything - else. Don knew it too, and didn’t tell us -ever-.

    • pete brooks says:

      01:22pm | 27/08/09

      @jack -  you are a whining yawn of a Rann cheerleader. If I wanted info on Bradman I would google it. I have a right to expect that Mike is accountable, concentrating, and on the game. (And listening NOT talking for a change.) Because his performance suggests otherwise - doesn’t it? Open your eyes.

    • Peter Warrington says:

      01:28pm | 27/08/09

      well all of this is well and good but when is someone ANYONE going to write about all of the great players and games that happened in the 52 years that tests were played pre-Bradman? (that’s one year for every test he played.)

      the Bradman industry and cult obscures some of the folkloric gold of Australian cricket. Cotter. Trumper. Bannerman. Clem Hill. the Demon. Ponsford hisself. Noble. the Gregorian movement. George Giffen. McCartney. Bardsley. Armstrong

      for god’s sake, give it a break. it’s as if you only read the Lord of the Rings but passed on the Silmarillion.

      and please re-read Gideon Haigh’s piece in the Monthly a while back. a nice balancing act to this hagiography.

    • Joy Brown says:

      08:09pm | 27/08/09

      Hey Mike, from the sounds of most of the other comments here, not too many people are interested in what an ex-New Zealander/Pom has to say about “our” Don Bradman.
      How bout you worry about the problems back home, before pretending that you know anything about cricket (or Don Bradman for that matter). I am sick and tired of seeing your infuriating ads on TV, trying to convince us that you are doing something about recycling water. It is an absolute disgrace that this is where my taxes (and River Murray Levy) are being spent…on your own self-promotion (and that of your party). And please dont think that just because you are not in the ads, that it makes it ok. You ought to be held to account for the senseles waste of our dollars on these ads, which everyone knows are designed for nothing more than to get you re-elected. No wonder you dont want an ICAC in SA! You have to much to lose, dont you?
      And another thing, when are you going to stop blocking everyone on Twitter who criticises you or disagrees with your policies? As far as I’m concerned, March 2010 cant come quick enough. I just hope that the SA Public wakes up and realises that you are a fraud and do not deserve another 4 years to waste more of our millions of $$ on your advertisements, and to continue to just allow the River Murray to die without any real action (other than some lame TV ads).

    • Bob Hoskin says:

      11:11pm | 27/08/09

      When did Mike Rann suddenly become an expert on the life and times of Sir Donald Bradman? Given Rann is currently jettsetting around the UK, could he have copied this story from a UK newspaper or an encyclopedia? Perhaps a Bradman biography? It’s just that Rann is not a renown cricket fan and I find it hard to swallow that he knows so much about the great man Bradman. Knowing Media Mike, he is doing what he does best, which is jumping on a bandwagon which he thinks will win him some votes. Lets just hope he hasnt plagiarised this article from some other source, or he will lose even more credibility with the SA public, than he has already!

    • John T says:

      12:11am | 28/08/09

      Some hyperbole about matters other than cricket and, according to today’s Crikey, some recycling of what you’ve previously written (see http://tinyurl.com/nksfto) but you’ve said nothing about Don Bradman’s contribution to Australian cricket which isn’t, at least to cricket followers, self-evident.

      But if Australian cricket is to rise again should we be devoting our energies for the (probably futile) quest for another Bradman or moving forward on the basis of the old adage that a champion team will always beat a team of champions?  Might this also apply to politics?

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      09:52am | 03/02/11

      I like watching <a >football</a> on <a >bbc football</a> chanel. How about you people?

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      09:03pm | 08/02/11

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      I have noticed that online diploma is getting preferred because accomplishing your college degree online has become a popular choice for many people. A lot of people have not really had a possible opportunity to attend a normal college or university nonetheless seek the elevated earning potential and career advancement that a Bachelor Degree affords. Still some others might have a qualification in one discipline but would like to pursue some thing they already have an interest in.

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    • Shirley says:

      03:51pm | 25/04/11

      That’s so good topic. You didn’t forget about interesting ideas smile

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