Skip to main content
Select Source:

Bradman, Don

Don Bradman

1908-2001

Australian cricket player

Sir Donald Bradman was widely regarded as the greatest batsman ever to play the game of cricket. Scoring an average of 99.94 runs in Test matches over the course of his 20-year career from 1928 to 1948,

Bradman far outshone players who were considered great if they averaged fifty runs. He scored more triple centuries (6) and more double centuries (37) than any other batsman in the history of the game. On average, he scored a century in every three innings he played.

"I Was Just Enjoying Myself"

Born in the small Australian town of Cootamundra in New South Wales in 1908, Bradman grew up in an agricultural family. When he was two years old his parents, tired of attempting to scratch out a living on difficult land, moved Bradman, his brother, and his three sisters to Bowral, a small town in the southern highlands of New South Wales, where the climate and soil were more hospitable. Bradman was a quiet child, with few friends, and often entertained himself by tossing a golf ball against a brick water tank near his house, rebounding it and hitting it again, hour after hour.

A cricket stump is used much like a bat is used in baseball, but is much narrower than a batonly an inch in diameter, so this was a difficult feat. As Dave Kindred noted in Sporting News, Bradman said many years later, "I was just enjoying myself. It never entered my head that I was training my eyesight and movements."

Later, Bradman received a cricket stump from his father, a battered and repaired hand-me-down. He was delighted with it. His mother told him that if he played well in an important game and scored more than 100, he could have a brand-new bat. Instead of 100, he scored 300, so he got three bats.

Bradman left intermediate high school when he was fourteen, but he played on local cricket teams, and was soon noticed by scouts for the New South Wales team. In 1927, when he was nineteen, he was invited to play for New South Wales. In his first match with the team, he scored 118, the first of his 117 first-class centuries.

Five-feet-seven and lightly built, Bradman made up for his lack of brute strength with speed, footwork, timing, and strong wrists, as well as stamina and a determination to keep scoring runs. Other batters might be content to score one century; Bradman kept batting, aiming for two, or even three.

In 1928, Bradman moved to Sydney and was chosen to play for Australia against England in a Test match at Brisbane. Although he failed and was dropped, he returned to play in the third Test at Melbourne. He made 79 and 112, and finished that Test series with an average of 66.85.

"A Beacon of Hope"

In the following year, Bradman scored an average of 139.14, and was widely praised as a hero of the sport. According to Kindred, sportswriter E.W. Swanton wrote of Bradman in 1930, "The stranger seeing him for the first time must have noticed the exceptional quickness of his reactions, his speed between the wickets and the lithe fitness that enabled him to take the longest innings in stride. If perfect balance, coordination and certainty of execution be accepted as the principal ingredients of batsmanship, we who watched Don in his early manhood will not hope or expect ever to see its art displayed in a higher form."

In those days of the Great Depression, Bradman was such a hero in his native Australia that when he was batting, avid fans following the game on the radio would stop driving in order to hear the plays; people would not catch a train or a tram home from work or to do errands until he had finished batting. Outside the offices of newspapers in Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Brisbane, crowds gathered to watch the scoreboards that the papers sponsored and cheer for every run Bradman scored. As a reporter for the London Times wrote in Bradman's obituary, "He was, for the army of the unemployed, their beacon of hope."

All this praise led some other players to be jealous of him, and some criticized his self-assured manner. Others, playing on the English team against Australia, developed a strategy of "bodyline" bowling, which involved deliberately throwing the cricket ball at the batsman's unprotected body and head. The tactic, which was legal at the time, was successful in intimidating many players and securing wins for England, but ultimately led to injuries, bad feeling between the two nations, and even threats of canceling the competition. Bradman disliked being the target of bodyline bowling as much as any player, but when asked about it, only said coolly, "It was not, you might say, in the spirit of the game," according to Kindred. The practice of body-line bowling was soon made illegal.

In April of 1932, Bradman married Jessie Menzies, whom he had known since childhood. They would eventually have one daughter and one son. In the ensuing years, he suffered bouts of illness, culminating in appendicitis and peritonitis; his condition was so grave that the Australian press reported that he had died.

Chronology

1908 Born in Cootamundra, Australia
1927 Begins playing for New South Wales, completes the first of his 117 first-class centuries
1928 Begins playing for Australia
1930 Scores an average of 139.14 and becomes a hero to fans
1932 Marries Jessie Menzies
1935 Moves to Adelaide, works as a stockbroker
1935 Chosen as captain of South Australia team
1938 Breaks ankle, spends much of the season out of play
1939 Volunteers for Royal Australian Air Force at outbreak of WWII
1941 Discharged from service
1945 Founds his own brokerage company
1946 Returns to cricket and leads Australia to victory
1948 Retires from play after a whole season without a loss
1949 Becomes first cricketer to be knighted before retirement
1960-63, 1969-72 Chair of Board of Control
1970 Is made a Companion of the Order of Australia
2001 Dies at his home in Adelaide, Australia.

Awards and Accomplishments

1928-1948 Scores average of 99.94 runs in Test matches
1928-1948 Scores more triple centuries (6) and more double centuries (37) than any other batsman in cricket history
1949 Becomes first Australian cricketer to be knighted
1979 Becomes a Companion of the Order of Australia

While recovering, Bradman did not play. He and Jessie moved to Adelaide in 1935, where he had been offered a job as a stockbroker; he accepted it, believing that he should not rely on cricket alone to provide an income. However, as soon as he moved to Adelaide, he was chosen as captain of the South Australia team, and then as captain of the Australian team for the Test series against England in 1936-1937. Although Australia ultimately won the series, the competition was marred by various rifts between factions on the team, and by the fact that players' wives could not accompany them to competition. In the 1938 season, Bradman broke his ankle in the final test, which Australia lost to England, and spent the rest of the season out of play.

In 1939, when World War II broke out, Bradman volunteered for the Royal Australian Air Force, but was assigned to teach physical education in the Army. However, various injuries led the authorities to discharge him from service in 1941. He returned to the stockbroker's firm, but by 1945 it was bankrupt and his employer was arrested for fraud. Bradman founded his own company and did well.

He was back in play for the first postwar tour in 1946-1947, and led Australia to victory. His presence in the game became for many Australians a reminder of "normal," pre-war life, as well as a reminder of Australia's cultural and historic links to the British Empire.

"I Don't Laugh Much About It"

In 1948, his final year of play, he vowed that he would go the whole season without losing a match, and he did. His triumph was only marred by the events of his last game. As Kindred noted, Bradman needed only four runs in that game to reach a 100-run average for his entire 20-year career. Surprisingly, he did not score at all, an event known as a "duck." In an interview in 1996, a television reporter asked Bradman if he ever laughed to think his duck was the most famous one in the history of the game. Although forty-eight years had passed since that day, and although he had received a standing ovation from the English fans when he left the crease for the last time, Bradman said seriously, "No, I don't laugh much about it."

Bradman was knighted in 1949, the first Australian cricketer to receive this honor. He continued to work as a stockbroker until the mid-1950s, when poor health forced him to sell the business. After this, he became involved in the administrative levels of Australian cricket, working as a Test selector. He was also chair of the Board of Control from 1960 to 1963 and from 1969 to 1972.

In 1979, Bradman was made a Companion of the Order of Australia.

Bradman's wife Jessie died in 1997, and grief struck him hard. He died at his home in Adelaide, Australia, in 2001, after suffering poor health for some time. He was ninety-two. In summing up Bradman's popularity, a reporter in the London Times wrote that Bradman was so admired by Australians that "for most of the second half of the [twentieth] century, he would have been the people's choice as President of Australia." And as former England captain Brian Close told a reporter in the Coventry Evening Telegraph, "He gave Australia a lot to live for and I doubt he will ever be surpassed."

FURTHER INFORMATION

Periodicals

"Don Bradman: Obituary." Times (London, England) (February 26, 2001): 21.

Kindred, Dave. "A Bat, a Ball and a Ruthian Legend." Sporting News (April 23, 2001): 70.

"Sport Mourns for Sir Don: Cricket." Coventry Evening Telegraph (Coventry, England) (February 26, 2001): 43.

Sketch by Kelly Winters

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bradman, Don." Notable Sports Figures. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bradman, Don." Notable Sports Figures. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/sports/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bradman-don

"Bradman, Don." Notable Sports Figures. . Retrieved July 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/sports/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bradman-don

Sir Donald George Bradman

Sir Donald George Bradman

Sir Donald George Bradman (born 1908) was an Australian cricketer—the greatest batsman, if not cricketer, of all time.

Donald Bradman was born in Cootamundra, New South Wales, on August 27, 1908, the youngest child of a farmer/carpenter. The family lived in Yeo Yeo and moved to Bowral in 1911 because of his mother's health. He learned his cricket from his maternal uncles George and Richard Whatman. His mother used to bowl left-armers to him in the backyard. Bradman developed his batting by throwing a golf ball against a tank stand and playing it with a stump and his fielding by throwing a golf ball at the bottom rail of a fence.

As a teenager Bradman played Saturday afternoon cricket in the country and quickly proceeded to amass huge scores. In 1926 the New South Wales Cricket Association, which was incidentally looking for bowlers, asked Bradman to play in trial games. While making modest scores, he nonetheless attracted the eye of the selectors as a player of the future. He played grade cricket with the St. George club in Sydney (he later played with North Sydney and, after moving to Adelaide, South Australia in 1935, with the Kensington club). After some impressive scores he played in his initial first class game for New South Wales against South Australia in 1927 and scored a century. After a series of big scores at the beginning of the 1928-1929 season, he was chosen to play for Australia against Perry Chapman's English side. While performing poorly in the first test and being dropped to 12th man for the second, he scored two centuries in the remaining rubbers to establish his place in the Australian team.

Being a self-taught batsman, much criticism was directed at Bradman's lack of style, his tendency to play cross bat shots, and the problems he would encounter on softer English wickets. Bradman answered his critics by consistently amassing huge scores. Throughout his career he was a fast and high scoring batsman who could reduce even the best bowling attacks to seeming mediocrity. His initial tour of England in 1930 can only be described as a triumphal procession in which he established himself as a figure of international stature. He scored 2, 960 runs on tour at an average of 98.66. In test matches he scored 974 runs at an average of 139.14, including scores of 131, 254, 334, and 452. On both the 1930 and 1938 tours of England he scored 1, 000 runs before the end of May. He became the only player to achieve such a distinction. In the 1938-1939 season he scored six centuries in a row, equaling C. B. Fry's record. Only the bodyline bowling, where the ball is pitched short and aimed in the general direction of the head, employed by Douglas Jardine's 1932-1933 English side curbed Bradman. His average fell to 56.57, which would still be the envy of most batsmen. Such was the hostility generated by bodyline bowling (which was eventually outlawed) that diplomatic exchanges occurred between Australia and England.

Bradman's average in first class cricket was 95.14, and in test cricket it was 99.94, being only four runs short of a 100 average. He scored 117 centuries in first class cricket (29 in tests), a century every third time he batted. His centuries included 31 double (ten in tests), five triple (two in tests), and one quadruple century—his famous 452 got out against Queensland in 1930.

In 1936 Bradman was appointed captain of Australia to oppose Gubby Allen's touring English side. He continued captaining Australia until 1948, notwithstanding a five year absence from cricket caused by World War II. Bradman was a most successful captain. In the 24 tests while he was captain Australia won 15, lost three, and drew six. The team which toured England in 1948 had the distinction of never losing a game.

After retiring, Bradman was knighted in January 1949. He maintained contact with the game as a selector and administrator, having two stints as chairman of the Australian Cricket Board, 1960 to 1963 and 1969 to 1972. His most important decision as chairman was to cancel the visit of a South African team in 1971-1972 because of the expected bitterness and violence associated with opposition to South Africa's apartheid politics. From 1965 to 1973, Bradman served as President of the South Australian Cricket Association. After leaving cricket, he had a successful career in the finance industry, working for H.W. Hodgetts and Company on the Adelaide Exchange.

The late 1980s and 1990s saw a spate of biographical material on Bradman. In 1988 he released his book, The Bradman Albums, and two biographies of him, Charles Williams' Bradman: An Australian Hero, and Roland Perry's book, The Don, were published in 1996. Clearly time does not diminish Bradman's status as a hero in his native Australia, or anywhere else that appreciates cricket.

Further Reading

Bradman has been a continuing source of fascination for cricket writers. The most thorough biography is Irving Rosenwater's Sir Donald Bradman (1978). Michael Page's Bradman: The Illustrated Biography (1983) draws on information and memorabilia provided by Bradman. J. Wakley's Bradman the Great (1959) provides an extensive statistical account of Bradman's career. An additional biography is A. G. Moyes' Bradman (1948). Bradman also provided accounts of his career in Don Bradman's Book (1930), My Cricketing Life (1938), and Farewell to Cricket (1950). He also published two books about the sport, The Art of Cricket (1958) and How to Play Cricket (1935). For an English account of the bodyline tour see Harold Larwood and Kevin Perkins' The Larwood Story (1982). Bradman's impact on cricket is also assessed in Jack Pollard's Australian Cricket: The Game and the Players (1982). □

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Sir Donald George Bradman." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 25 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Sir Donald George Bradman." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 25, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sir-donald-george-bradman

"Sir Donald George Bradman." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved July 25, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/sir-donald-george-bradman