The Don Bradman and Steve Smith debate
Tony Shillinglaw - Wednesday 7th August 2019


P 52, In 80, NO 10, Runs 6996, Avge 99.94
100s 29, 50s 13
P 65, In 119, NO 16, Runs 6485, Avge 62.96
100s 25, 50s 24

Visually and as batsmen at the crease, Don Bradman and Steve Smith appear to share very little in common. Bradman standing perfectly still with his bat closed face between the feet, while Smith tends to walk across his stumps with bat held high.

Nevertheless, they have both taken 'Test Match' scoring to a level beyond any other batsman in the history of the game. While, interestingly, each of them has initially been found wanting and criticised by 'Experts and Stylists'.

1. PGH Fender - Surrey and England

"Bradman was one of the most curious mixtures of good and bad batting that I have ever seen. He made shots of the truly magnificent type, but never being able to avoid the really bad ones. If practice, experience and hard work enable him to eradicate faults he may well become a very good player. He will always be in the category of the brilliant but unsound ones.

"He does not inspire one with any confidence that he desires to take the only course that will lead him to a fulfilment of that promise. He does not correct mistakes or look as if he were trying to do so."

2. EDH Sewell writing in "Cricket Up To Date" 1931

"I do not admire Bradman's back play. It is quite unworthy of such a player. I guess since I have no other way of getting at the truth, that, roughly speaking, Bradman never plays right back on Australian wickets. He is an expert, if ugly, half cock player."

"For some 90 years 'The Cricket World' has simply dismissed Don Bradman as being a one-off and a freak of nature, so not for consideration. However, Steve Smith's remarkable modern day 'Test Match' scoring has provided a fitting sequence to our study by showing Bradman not to be a one-off after all. Although, outwardly, the idiosyncratic Smith's batting shows little resemblance to that of Bradman, they both conform to the wisdom of Greg Chappell's following observation:- "Understanding and perfecting the core principles of motion as they apply to natural human movement, not technique, is what makes successful cricketers."

'Technique' can be considered as an 'Academic' exercise defined to be the 'Mechanical Part of an Art'. Study and practical experimentation suggests the bat induced 'Rotary Motion and Flow' of Don Bradman's and Steve Smith's contrasting methods of play has provided each of them with the complete 'Freedom of Mind, Bat and Body' which has proved  a necessity for advancing their run making into more of an 'Art Form'.

Through bat induced 'Rotation' it is suggested both Bradman and Smith have intuitively and naturally tapped into the principles, motions and rhythms of the 'Human Body’ as their means of out scoring all others. In simple terms, bat induced 'Rotation' and the enhanced freedom and co-ordination of mind, bat and body lies at the very heart of the Don Bradman and Steve Smith success story.

Such coordinated freedoms encourage quick and correct footwork, with the full flexibility of the wrists, knees and elbows providing an added versatility of stroke and all round the wicket scoring not readily available to the more restrictive teachings. These same freedoms also help to explain the ability and capacity of Bradman and Smith to play long high scoring innings while remaining relatively fresh from tiredness. 

99.94 - Don Bradman's 'Human' Batting Message

99.94 remains an iconic sporting achievement which stands along-side the likes of Roger Bannister's 4 minute mile. Given the early timing and motion of Bradman's "Continuous Rotary Batting Formula" here are some of the 'Human' elements by which these matchless 'Test' statistics were produced: -

Innings 80, Runs 6996, Average 99.94, Highest Score 334 and 29 Centuries.

1. My whole cricketing experience has been a practical one and I cannot emphasize too much my belief that 'Concentration' and 'Watching the Ball' are of greater importance than all the theories. They could be the last words before anyone goes into bat.

2. Golf Ball and Stump - This rather extraordinary and primitive idea was purely a matter of amusement but looking back over the years, I can understand how it developed the co-ordination of brain, eye and muscle which was to serve me so well in important matches later on.

3. I would counsel everyone who is interested in batting, to play with a ball at every opportunity. Whether it be a golf ball, baseball or any other kind it doesn't matter. It will help train the eye and co-ordinate the brain, eye and muscle. The early formative years of a person's career can have a tremendous bearing on their technique.

4. Concentration can and must be cultivated by anyone who wishes to rise to international standard. It is one of the essentials.

5. I allowed my bat to rest on the ground between my feet simply because it was a comfortable and natural position.

6. I was never conscious that either hand was playing any special part in the initial movement. It was just a natural process.

7. The sight of the ball seems to trigger off a corresponding reaction so that movement becomes almost a habit.

8. Eventually a batsman should reach the stage when his judgement at whether to play forward or back becomes instinctive rather than deliberate.

9. In theory one could make a case for standing still and not moving the bat until you see the ball in the air and know where it is pitching. In practice this doesn't happen, and I am all in favour of the batsman starting to lift his bat and make a preliminary movement with his feet before the ball is delivered.

10. I doubt if one could truthfully say there is a single key to batsmanship, but footwork is certainly one of the keys to unlock the innermost secrets. It is to batting what the foundation is to a house. Without it there can be no structure. Certainly, it should never be slow.

11. The basic technique of a straight bat is sound for defense. However, there should be all possible emphasis on attack, on the aggressive outlook, and if technique is going to prove the master of a player and not his servant, then it will not be doing its job.

12. It is a mistake to fog a player's mind with a multiplicity of complicated instructions which means they forget the much more important and simple basic principles. Too many players fail because their thoughts are concentrated on where their left elbow is or where something else is instead of hitting the ball.   Better to hit the ball with an apparently unorthodox style than to miss it with a 'Correct One'.

13. Coaching should deal with what to do with the ball not so much as how to do it. The coach should have sufficient intelligence not to be dogmatic but to discern what method is best for his pupil.

14. I am a great believer in back-play providing the player will look upon it as an offensive as well as a defensive medium. History shows that the outstanding batsmen were mostly strong off the back foot. They could drive, of course, but their initial protective movement was back rather than forward.

15. Watch others, note their methods and learn by observation and example. In the final analysis the best teacher is yourself. Analyze things sensibly. Work out what suits you personally, practice and observe. I don't care who the player is or how great his skill, there is no substitute for proper practice.

16. In general I think many coaches stifle the natural abilities of young players by insisting they do not move until the ball is delivered and that they adhere to a perpendicular bat with left hand control. Movie strips of me batting indicate that I started my back lift before the ball was delivered and that the bottom of my bat was approximately level with the tops of the stumps at the instant of delivery.

But let me hasten to say my back lift was rather towards 2nd slip - not point as some suggest. The perpendicular bat theory virtually eliminates pull shots (which can only be played with a cross bat) and square cuts (except by angling the blade which, in turn, is a recipe for giving catches in the slips).

17. I do hope the value of my experience will be within the reach of everybody.

WG Grace:- "In cricket as in all games style is ease and ease is strength."

Jack Hobbs:- Playing with a stump and tennis ball - "I learned to appreciate the grace, beauty, swing and rhythm of stroke-play and, above all, balance."

Ray Martin (Television Interviewer):- "Why don't others play like you?" Don Bradman tellingly replied:- "I think its because they are coached NOT to do it. It's a DIFFERENT technique."  

Despite possessing a batting record 'To Die For' Don Bradman has long remained alone in his unsuccessful efforts to gain 'Establishment Recognition' for the means by which his runs were scored. However, Bradman is alone no longer, for as has been suggested, Steve Smith's extraordinary success, like Bradman's, is founded upon 'Rotation' and the bat induced freedoms of mind, bat and body it liberates.

The Don Bradman and Steve Smith 'Secret':- "With the bowler in his delivery stride and at the moment of the ball's release. The bodies of both Bradman and Smith are completely ‘Free' and balanced, with their bats already moving in 'Neutral' ready to respond and react appropriately with a full range of scoring strokes all around the wicket."

Due consideration given to the Bradman - Smith 'Principles' which relate to 'Freedom of Movement' can only do good for ANY batsman!

In character, in manner, in style, in all these things the supreme excellence is 'Simplicity' and as a means of making runs, what could be more 'simple' than tapping into the natural motions, rhythms and flow of the 'Human Body' itself?

see also: The Bradman Phenomenon