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Monday, January 17, 2011

Legends Of An Era - 1: Don Bradman & Wally Hammond


I never realized creating a crossword could be so much fun – I just felt it was an essential ingredient of a tab called ‘Leisure’ on the RCB site. And when I did start it, I had the good fortune of getting into the awesome depths of cricket literature available on the net. On a relaxed Sunday afternoon, surfing, for once, seemed to be with a purpose.

As I started writing the clues, a train of thoughts came to my mind. How do I make the clue more interesting without making it difficult? How do I pick the right information about a player or a match or a dismissal? That set me digging for more information about the “word” I had in mind. So much has been written about cricket, I doubt if any other sport can claim such a vast number of records and amount of literature on the game.

I was particularly intrigued by the fact that Don Bradman does not figure in one of the most talked about and prestigious records in cricket – the aggregate runs record which our very own Gavaskar once held and our very own Sachin is the proud owner now. The Don did not figure in this record at any stage of his career.


I dug more and more and found that around The Don’s time, there was only one batsman who would perhaps have challenged Bradman’s claim to superstardom – Wally Hammond of England. And being contemporaries from fiercely rival nations (in cricket, no politics!) and having been part of the notorious Bodyline series in 1932/33, it is reasonable to assume that it would have been an intense rivalry.

Hammond’s debut was on 24th Dec 1927. Bradman made his debut on 30th Nov 1928, Hammond had collected 432 runs by then. There was yet another great player around that time – Sir Jack Hobbs – who had aggregated 4437 runs when Hammond arrived. When Hobbs retired on 22nd Aug 1930, he had aggregated 5410 runs – a record at that time, surpassing the previous best of 3,412 runs by Clement Hill of Australia.

The gap between Hammond and Bradman has all the ingredients of a roller coaster ride – see Graph 1 for their aggregate runs and Graph 2 for the gap.

Hammond, throughout his career, felt that the world was glorifying Bradman’s achievements while his own performance was no less significant – either in terms of runs scored or the manner in which they were scored. This added fuel to their rivalry – which was already intense because of the teams they belonged to.

Hammond played 140 innings in his career (13 of them before Bradman arrived on the stage) while Bradman played only 80 innings (including 15 innings after Hammond retired). In the period both were playing together, Bradman played 65 innings scoring 5773 runs, Hammond played 127 innings scoring 6817 runs. While none doubts Hammond’s class and competence, this simple statistic tells us how they were equals, yet miles apart.

Hammond retired on 25th March 1947 at the age of 44 while Bradman retired on 14th August 1948, aged 40.

A significant point to note is that during the Second World War, while Hammond played about a dozen tests (24 innings) and scored over 1000 runs, Bradman did not play a single test. This increased the gap – something Bradman did not appear to be bothered about! Had he played, these would perhaps have been the most glorious years of his cricket.

But why would he bother – for when he went out to bat for the 80th and last time in his career, his average stood at an astounding 101.39!

Bradman, at the time of retirement, was just 253 runs away from beating Hammond’s record. One more test, he could have surpassed Hammond’s aggregate if he wanted to!


Was it that The Don didn’t care for records? Was he oblivious of the fact that he was one big inning away from scaling the summit? Or was it simply that he had announced his retirement two series in advance and didn’t want to go back on his decision “merely for the record books”?

Many hours of Google-search finally led me to the answer:

On the website of Australian Broadcasting Corporation News Online, where Bradman is quoted as saying, (after he had scored 334 against England at Leeds in July 1930 - the highest individual score at that time)

“And I try and get as many runs as I possibly can. And if in getting those runs I break any records well naturally I'm pleased but I do not deliberately set out to try to break records,"

18 years later – in August 1948, on the threshold of surpassing Hammond, he walked back to the pavilion, one last time. His philosophy towards the game had not wavered.

Read the article of ABC News Online here


But why would the Australians not goad The Don to overtake Hammond’s aggregate?

I tried to find an answer but didn’t get any. My dad isn’t alive either to tell me why.

I imagine it was an era when gentlemen watched the game of cricket more to appreciate the beauty of the game than the beast of numbers.

To some, the thrill and the goal of a journey is in reaching the destination. To Sir Donald Bradman, the thrill was merely the journey itself!

Mount Everest must have felt like a dwarf and gazed in awe of the man.

MESSAGE FOR RCB PLAYERS IN IPL 2010: Just enjoy the game and the journey, you will reach the destination. There is a Bradman in each of you.


This post has been read, acknowledged and appreciated by Chris Naylor - @batlikebradman on Twitter - of the Bradman Museum, run by the Bradman Foundation. Here is the tweet from him:

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About The Author

Based in Bangalore, I am an IT Strategy, Business Process Management and ERP Implementation consultant in media research and healthcare domains. Writing on social media/technology and cricket is my hobby and special interest. My cricket blogs can be read at the Royal Challengers website.

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