Cricket: Impressions of Bradman

Stephen Fay is declined an audience but still feels the presence of greatness
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The Independent Online
IT IS easy to identify who is missing from this Adelaide Test. A stand is named after him and there is a severe bust of him in the foyer, but Sir Donald Bradman is staying at home.

He is not a recluse, exactly. Bradman talked to Mark Taylor earlier last week, thanking him for not going past his Australian Test record score of 334 in Pakistan recently. "That made it even more special," Taylor says. Bradman watches the Tests at home, and they discussed the opposition, though Taylor is not saying what Bradman makes of this England team. "That's between two Australian captains."

Bradman has time for Taylor, and for Alec and Eric Bedser when they arrive in town, but he told an intermediary who asked if he would grant me an audience: "Ninety isn't a good age." Bradman feels the death of his wife Jessie very keenly, and he has been mildly affected by a stroke, which followed a hard day's work for a television programme. After that, he decided enough was enough.

He declined to be interviewed for a well-received ABC television film, The Invincibles, about the legendary 1948 tour of England, shown earlier this month. Bradman's remarks had to be culled from an earlier film by Jack Egan but, wherever it comes from, what you see is the remarkable speed and daintiness of his footwork, and his technical fearlessness. Bradman was always willing to play across the line to drag a ball from the off into the empty spaces on the leg side.

Film cannot show the relentlessness with which he accumulated runs, but an indication of that is to be had in the place that now captures the spirit of the great man. The State Library of South Australia has mounted an exhibition in his honour, and the background sound is radio commentary of Bradman batting against England. By the time you've finished the room, the bugger's already got his 50.

The introduction to the exhibit defines the veneration in which Bradman is held here. "Australians have worshipped Bradman since he scored his first Test century in 1929. His astonishing scoring epitomises Australians' view of themselves - the little battler, independent and singular of mind, unafraid of reputations, and succeeding against all odds."

I did wonder how many Vietnamese and Chinese Australians, or even Aborigines, can spell his name, but they don't care much about England. For cricketers, what counts is that the man scored 19 centuries against England, and he still makes you think: God help the Poms.