NEW DELHI: The only Don! That is how the cricket world remembers Sir Donald George Bradman on his birth centenary. “The real Don,” as Bishan Singh Bedi fondly remarks.
Bedi was among the millions of Bradman’s admirers and came close to him during his visits to Australia. “There will not be another Bradman. I used to communicate with him a lot. He would reply promptly and I have treasured those handwritten letters from the Don,” recalled Bedi.
Loyal to the game
Bradman was fiercely loyal to the game. When Bedi once asked him to write an article for his benefit souvenir, the Don wrote back, “I have heard that you are joining Kerry Packer. If it is true, then I have nothing to do with you.” Bedi informed Bradman that he had refused the offer thrice. The article came well in time for the souvenir!
Bedi says, “he wrote on me and made a study on the left-arm spinners for the past 100 years. How many people would have been so thorough?
Bedi also remembered, “when I rang him up on his 90th birthday, the Don picked the phone himself. He was amazing.
“The Australians brought out a video on him when he was 87. He could, at that age, recollect every little aspect his career. When asked how he would like to be rememberd as, the Don had said ‘for my integrity.’ I think that summed up the great man.”
Bradman was a purist’s delight. As G. R. Visvanath remembers: “the Don was a master. To me, cricket was Bradman and Bradman was cricket. Cricket began and ended with Bradman.
“He was the ultimate batsman. I am too small a person to talk about him and consider myself fortunate to have met him. I had read and heard about him, how he made so many quality runs without hitting over the top. He was simply phenomenal.
“During my meeting with him he only talked cricket and batting and never forgot to give compliments if he saw a good innings. He would have been a champion at any sport.”
“The real Don wants to meet you,” was how Sunil Gavaskar prodded Sandeep Patil at the Adelaide Oval in the 1981 Test.
“I was 150 batting and had not even taken my pads off. I forgot everything about my knock and just rushed to see the god of batting. There he was, a humble man, standing at the door of the dressing room. I was told that he had sought permission to enter the Indian dressing room. What humility! I remember he said something like ‘I enjoyed your knock’.
Held in high esteem
“Well, as far as I was concerned, I just held his hand and kept looking at him. Nothing else mattered. I had shaken hands with the greatest cricketer the world had ever seen.”
Kapil Dev recalled meeting Bradman on the 1981 tour. “It was a lifetime experience. To be invited to his house for dinner. Sunil (Gavaskar), two friends of Bradman and I had a great dinner with the Don and his lovely wife. It was an evening to cherish. I could see the determination in his eyes.
“When he spoke to you, the great Don only looked at you. That epitomised his character. I can never forget his comment that I batted like Keith Miller.”
The Don deceived
There was a moment when the Don was flabbergasted. Having failed to place the person sitting next to Bedi, Bradman whispered, “Who is the young man next to you?’ “He is your contemporary Don.” “My contemporary? Can’t be.” The Don had failed to recognise Lala Amarnath, who had dyed his hair. “The next half an hour the Don and Lala couldn’t be disturbed,”’ remembered Bedi.
Here’s anther gem from Bedi! “We were at a friend’s house. Don, Thommo (Jeff Thomson) and I. This guy had a pitch in his small backyard. We request the Don to pad up. He agreed reluctantly. Thommo being Thommo, he let one go by. But the Don being Don, met him regally. The back-foot and the back-lift was in place as the Don produced an impeccable on-drive and then made a parting shot. `That will teach you to keep a mid-on for me.’ Thommo was floored.”