Sir Donald Bradman

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Sir Donald George Bradman (b. August 27 1908, d. February 25 2001). Universally regarded as the greatest cricket player of all time, and one of Australia's greatest popular heroes.

Over an international career spanning nearly 20 years from 1930 to 1948, Bradman's statistical achievements were unparalleled. He broke scoring records for both first-class and international matches, his highest international score (334 not out) still standing as the highest ever test class score by an Australian (though recently equalled by Mark Taylor, who deliberately cut his score at that point in what many regard as a tribute to Bradman).

He so dominated the game that special bowling tactics, known as leg theory or Bodyline, regarded by many as unsporting and dangerous, were devised by England captain Douglas Jardine to reduce his dominance in a series of international matches against England in the Australian summer of 1932-33. The principal English exponent of bodyline was the Nottinghamshire pace bowler Harold Larwood, and the contest between Bradman and Larwood was to prove to be the focal point of the contest.

Some indication of his superlative skill was that his average for that series, 56.57, is above the career averages of all but a handful of international players in the 125-odd years of international cricket matches.

Despite occasional battles with illness, he continued to dominate world cricket throughout the 1930's and is credited with raising the spirit of a nation suffering under the vagaries of the economic depression, until war intervened.

Despite approaching forty, he returned to play cricket after World War II, leading one of the most talented teams in Australia's history. In his farewell 1948 tour of England, the team he led, dubbed "the Invincibles", went undefeated throughout the tour, a feat unmatched before or since.

On the occasion of his last international innings, Bradman needed four runs to be able to retire with a batting average of 100, but was dismissed for nought (in cricketing parlance, "a duck") by spin bowler Eric Hollies. Applauded onto the pitch by both teams, it was sometimes claimed that he was unable to see the ball due to the tears welling in his eyes, a claim Bradman always dismissed as sentimental nonsense. "I knew it would be my last test match after a career spanning 20-years", he said, "but to suggest I got out as some people did, because I had tears in my eyes is to belittle the bowler and is quite untrue." Regardless, he was given a guard of honor by players and spectators alike as he left the ground with a batting average of 99.94 from his 52 tests, nearly double the average of any other player before or since. He was awarded a knighthood in 1949, and a Companion of the Order of Australia (Australia's highest civil honor) in 1979.

After retiring from playing cricket, Bradman continued working as a stockbroker. Allegations that he had acted improperly during the collapse of his employer's firm and the subsequent establishment of his own, made behind closed doors until his death, were publicised in November 2001. He became heavily involved in cricket administration, serving as a selector for the national team for nearly 30 years (?). He was selector (and acknowledged as a force urging the players of both teams to play entertaining, attacking cricket) for the famous Australia - West Indies test series of 1960-61, and was also involved in negotiations with the World Series Cricket schism in the late 1970's. He was also famous for answering innumerable letters from cricket fans across the world, which he continued to do until well into his eighties.

Bradman married his childhood sweetheart, Jessie, and had one child. An intensely private person, probably because of the intense media scrutiny he suffered under, he was regarded as aloof even by teammates, particularly in later years. A strict Methodist (?), he has occasionally been accused of anti-Catholicism in his actions as captain and selector - however, it should be pointed out that at that time sectarian prejudice was very widespread in Australia.

Statistical analyses give some credence to the claim that Bradman dominated his sport more than Pele, Ty Cobb, Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan, amongst other champions of their disciplines. Regardless, his impact on a nation's psyche is arguably unmatched.