The Bradman Phenomenon
by Tony Shillinglaw and Brian Hale

2 - Mind Game

When 11 years old, Bradman scored 55 not out in a first match which was played on a plain dirt football field wicket. His next game, aged 12, produced a first century in an innings of 115 not out from a total of 156, this time played on a concrete pitch covered with coir matting. By the time he commenced playing serious cricket for Bowral, aged 17, Bradman had only 8 innings behind him, just 8, yet a first season produced 1,318 runs at an average of 101.30, including a record district score of 300 and 234 against an emerging Bill O'Reilly. These facts tell us, to all intents, his batting style had already been fashioned by the age of 11.

The statement:- "My entire cricketing experience has been a practical one." therefore lies at the very heart to any understanding of Bradman's play. Batting in any accepted form plays little part in either his early development or evolved 'Rotary' style, which suggests anybody wishing to adopt his methods

must take on board the non too easy task of dismissing all thoughts of conventional batting while doing so. Not only does his technique and mindset differ from that which is taught, but from the beginning they were fused to function in unison 'As One' as a direct result of the golf ball and stump grounding he experienced as a boy.

Cricketing-Lore accepts the notion of 'Golf ball and stump', which is encouraged by old film of a mature Bradman demonstrating his ability to hit a golf ball continuously against the water tank stand. While even today, Australian batsman Michael Clarke has recently been using the feature of golf ball and stump as a television advertising medium. Brian and I, look upon this single image of Bradman's development as only a start towards an understanding of his wide ranging skills. Particularly during the early years of his career, Bradman's dynamic style was anything but that of a 'One Trick Pony' and so contend the true origins of his batting message have long remained hidden, and therefore untapped, but are contained on page 10 of his book 'Farewell to Cricket'.

"At the back of our home was an 800 gallon water tank set on a round brick stand. From the tank to the laundry door was a distance of about 8 feet.   The area under foot was cemented and, with all doors shut, this portion was enclosed on three sides and roofed over so that I could play there on wet days. Armed with a small cricket stump (which I used as a bat) I would throw a golf ball at this brick stand and try to hit the ball on the rebound. The golf ball came back at great speed and to hit it at all with the round stump was no easy task.

"To make my game interesting I would organize two sides consisting of well known international names and would bat for Taylor, Gregory, Collins and so on, in turn. The door behind me was the wicket, and I devised a system of ways to get caught out and of boundaries. Many a time I incurred mother's displeasure because I just had to finish some important 'Test Match' at the very moment she wanted me for a meal. The open side of my playing area corresponded to the on side of a cricket field, and therefore I did not have to chase the ball for any shots on the off side.

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

To understand Bradman, people must be prepared to imagine and consider the highly tuned co-ordination, dexterity and speed of mind, bat and body required to act out these boyhood 'Test Matches'. The almost frenetic motion necessary to control the golf ball with his stump in order to play these games would be the time when brain, eye and muscle were fused to function together in a flexible and versatile way. But to gain the necessary control over a golf ball with a stump as it ricochets from rounded tank stand wall on to a cemented floor in an 8 foot space is a task few would even attempt, never mind succeed in. That Bradman did so to the extent of taking pleasure and enjoyment from the games provides the first indication of the extraordinary application and sheer will of the batsman the cricket world was soon to know.

How did he learn to achieve such precise control? We again contend, by the pure natural instinct of trial and error, in much the same way Dick Fosbury pushed the upper limits of high jumping with his:- "My mind wanted me to get over the bar and intuitively it figured out what was the most efficient way." Or as when we learn to walk and run. Given a task, nature finds a way and herein lies the essence of Bradman's success. When adapted to batting at cricket's 22 yards, nature itself had unwittingly provided him with the most efficient formula yet devised in the scoring of runs and he immediately proceeded to do so in relentless fashion. (Greg Chappell:- "The brain is a better cricketer than you will ever be.")

'The Knack'

Through my own trial and error, I have discovered such control is possible through a continuous process which is activated through the 'Rotation of the Shoulders'. Many have seen a demonstration of the shoulder rotation which automatically induces the instinctive ability to hit varying types and sizes of ball indefinitely against a wall. In fact, quite remarkably, conversation can be engaged in freely while doing so. Anybody prepared to pick up this 'knack' will, at one and the same time, not only have experienced the rhythm and 'feel' of Bradman's continuous batting motion, but also the instinctive mode of concentration which set him apart from all others when it came to playing long innings and making large scores. On discovering this repetitive 'Knack', we for the first time, sensed a proper rationale of Bradman's play was becoming a distinct possibility.

To experience the benefits of the exercise all that is needed are a light plastic bat, a tennis ball and a wall to play against. From a distance of Bradman's 8 feet stand quite square on to the wall. Right handers hold the bat in the left hand and feed the ball gently against the wall with the right which is then moved to grip the bat lightly in order to commence the required shoulder rotation with both hands. Hitting through the ball is paramount for this action determines the bat's circular motion which in turn automatically frees the feet and body while providing the wrists, hands and fingers with the suppleness required to facilitate the following hits with the necessary control. Again, the main difficulty is to clear the mind of any normal batting strokes because the action is fundamentally different to that which is presently taught and acted upon.

It is hard to think of a better way for any youngster to develop the all round requirements of batting (Bradman style) than through this single form or 'knack' of repetitive control over a moving ball. When doing so the following skills are automatically being co-ordinated and assimilated in direct response to the rebounding ball and can be enhanced through the use of a thinner bat, a quicker smaller ball or both:-

1.   The co-ordination of mind, bat and body 'As One'.

2.   Concentration, which with practice develops into the subconscious, unconscious type advocated by CB Fry.

3.   The ability to watch the ball and create the necessary instinctive judgement and reaction to control it.

4.   Flexibility, versatility and fluidity of movement.

5.   Instinctive footwork and wristwork, combined with the prerequisite of quality batsmanship 'Balance'.


Not bad for a single exercise at little cost!

The 'Test Match' Game

Both the rotary technique and the instinctive mindset of the 'knack' would similarly apply to playing the 'Test Match' games, but with far greater intensity, a much quicker pace and the higher degree of flexibility necessary to control the erratic fast moving ball. When 'The Boy from Bowral' arrived in the City with a reputation for high scoring behind him, the question was asked:- "What kind of a batsman is he?" "He just belts the hell out of anything he can reach" came the reply.

'The Continuous Rotary Batting Process'

Giving due consideration to the human requirements necessary for the young Bradman to perform his 'Test Match' games in such confined conditions, it is well worth considering how much easier it must have been for him to apply the same principles of human movement when playing at 22 yards with the larger cricket bat and ball. To take advantage of this high intensity process he simply needed to replicate and adapt the same rotary action to the necessary side on batting position together with an appropriate closed face grip and stance.

The timing and speed of the bat's motion accordingly needs adjustment, while the extra distance involved causes the widening of shoulder rotation required to perform the complete range of strokes for which he became famous. Significantly, as a result of his unusual form of development, Bradman's evolved technique enabled him to build large scores while relatively free from any normal mental or physical strain.

The evidence of practice and study suggests Bradman arrived at this distinctive batting formula in the manner as described and had already done so by the age of eleven. Given such acceptance, there should be no good reason why others may not also gain advantage through the principles of a natural form of development which led seamlessly and directly to the 'Continuous Rotary Batting Process' by which his career and reputation were shaped.   Should people wish to take this road, careful consideration should be given to Bradman's response on being asked:- "Why don't others adopt your style of play?" Tellingly he replied:- "I think it's because they are coached not to do it. It's a different technique." This suggests his pre-eminence as a run scorer is likely to remain until his methods are understood and applied alongside the already accepted forms of development and technique.

Considering the Bradman story was founded in the 8 foot space beside his Shepherd Street home, it is felt both appropriate and timely to print the following Philip Derriman article, August 2, 2008, 'Bradman home of boyish legend to be rejuvenated'.

"One of Don Bradman's sisters is said to have remarked of her famous brother. I can't understand why they make such a fuss about Don. All he was good at was cricket. It may have surprised her to know that nearly one hundred years after Don's birth the weatherboard house in Bowral where she and the other Bradman kids spent their childhood would be bought by an American based businessman to preserve as a memorial.

"The house in Shepherd Street is where young Don first developed ball skills by hitting a golf ball repeatedly against a brick tank stand with a cricket stump. Some see this solitary boyhood game as the birth of a legend. The house's new owner, a cricket loving expat working in the investment management business in Boston, plans a major restoration. He wants to turn the house to the layout and appearance it had when the Bradmans lived there. A key part of this will be the reconstruction of the tank stand. Its brick footings have already been unearthed.

"The Shepherd Street home's new owner, who asked not to be named, found the property by chance. He and his wife decided to acquire a place to stay in Australia after their 17 year old daughter chose to complete her schooling in Australia and enrolled at 'Frencham', a Mittagong boarding school. It was then he heard the old Bradman home nearby was for sale. By buying it he may have prevented it falling into foreign hands, for it seems a few wealthy Indian tragics were interested too. The new owner said yesterday that he considered the house a national treasure."

'New Findings'

Since publication of 'Bradman Revisited' in 2003, more has been learned and the following key findings have helped to finalize our conclusions:-

1.   The full realization Bradman's rotary style had to all intents been fashioned by the age of eleven. This simplified thinking so allowing focus to concentrate on what took place in front of the water tank and stand at Shepherd Street.

2.   The principles of performing the 'Knack' and playing the 'Test Match' games would have been replicated by Bradman in the middle. This makes his distinctive mode of play available to anybody who performs the continuous 'rotation' of the 'Knack' for they will soon understand how the mindset, rhythm and 'Feel' of this repetitive batting practice differs fundamentally from that which is taught.

3.   For the 'Rotary' technique to gain maximum efficiency it is the continuous flow which enables the mind, bat and body to respond to the ball instinctively and freely 'As One'. As a result, we now refer to Bradman's "Continuous Rotary Batting Process".

4.   Discovering this rotary action induces the rear foot to lift and free the whole body as the prelude to the playing of every stroke, be it off the back foot, and more surprisingly, the front foot also. This explains Bradman's quick, nimble and precise footwork which would have been enhanced by his aggressive intent. The process also induces a batsman to quickly get in line and close to the ball, just as when Bradman played his boyhood 'Test Match' games.

Despite these technical findings and advantages there is one area more than any other which set Bradman apart from the rest and needs explaining. What enabled him, uniquely, to play so many long innings making big scores while relatively free from mental or physical strain in any normal sense? While at interview with Richard Mulvaney, 6th August 2004, a perplexed Arthur Morris frequently touched upon this defining aspect of Bradman's play.

Arthur Morris:- "I don't think it is anything to do with style, the way he held the bat, it's a matter - Look, Don couldn't understand it at times you know. He'd say, "How can a fellow get to 60 or 70 and not get a hundred?" Now that's not a matter of style, its a matter of up in your skull, your concentration you know. He was definite in his concentration, great ability and determination. Right, you get me out, I'm not giving my innings away because of lack of concentration."

While Morris and others couldn't, and still cannot, fathom how he constantly made big scores. Bradman, on the other hand, was equally confused as to how set batsmen could regularly get out. Having compared his own style with that recommended, Bradman was fully aware his method offered him superior flexibility and run scoring scope yet it is highly unlikely he would have known his 'Thought Process' also differed from others. Hence he was never able to properly convey the full message of his play and, of course, it was not his concern to do so.

Don Bradman's 'Mental Secret'

When asked how much of cricket is physical and how much is mental?   Bradman responded:- "I suppose a lot of it is mental, although that never intruded in my particular play. In other words, I didn't let the mental side of it worry me. I always had confidence in my own ability. If I made a mistake, I felt nine times out of ten it was a physical mistake and I tried to do something and I didn't get there in time. I was too slow or something like that. I am sure with a lot of players their mental attitude is terribly important. They imagine there are difficulties that are not really there."

Following much experimentation and years of soul searching, Brian and I have discovered it is the combination of timing and motion inherent within Bradman's "Continuous Rotary Batting Process" which induces mind, bat and body to react spontaneously in direct response to each delivery. The workings of "THE TECHNIQUE ITSELF" induce the subconscious, unconscious type of concentration which would have allowed his trademark long and productive innings to be played relatively free from mental or physical strain. (The 'Thought Process' is naturally instinctive.)

These views are born of personal experience. Self taught on Merseyside during wartime Britain, a natural between the feet stance and style was good enough to get selected to open the innings for the North of England Under 15s. However, unlike Bradman, at this stage I allowed myself to be changed into one of Arthur Morris' 'sausage machine like batsmen.' My natural confidence was lost due to the restriction of a more orthodox method, so suffering relatively at the crease for the next 45 years until, too late, discovering 'Bradman' through our study.

Both technically and mentally, the contrast between 'The Bradman Way' and the orthodoxy I surrendered myself to is as distinct as day and night, black and white. Batsmen looking for success seek a mode of play they can rely on at all times, particularly when under pressure. It seems Don Bradman found his proactive and repetitive technique quite by chance as a boy at play.

Should there be one batsman we would wish to see adopt Bradman's methods it is England's Ian Bell for it would be fascinating to see if his abundant talent could be set free from any mental or technical worries in the same way Don Bradman scored his runs.

Tony Shillinglaw/Brian Hale
12th November 2009


Ian Chappell
January 3rd 2010

"After years of speculation about what, apart from his enormous skill, made Sir Donald Bradman so great, I've come to the conclusion that a crucial attribute was his ability to bat with an uncluttered mind."

This supports our belief in the all round versatility and compactness of Bradman's technique combined with the discovery his evolved batting formula automatically induces the 'uncluttered mind' Ian Chappell concludes.

"If somebody in my line of business was performing 66% better than the rest, I should want to know what they were doing and how they did so." (Peter Booth - Bootle CC)

see also:


a  The Bradman Phenomenon

b  Tendulkar - Bradman: A Clear Distinction of Method

c  The Weight of Bats

d  Don Bradman's ability to bat on and on

1  Bradman Revisited 2nd Edition - The Simplicity of Nature

3  Greg Chappell

4  Rotary Style

5  Why Misunderstood?

6  Continuous Rotary Batting Process

7  Final Chapter 2 - Nature's Way of Batting

8  The Essence of Don Bradman's Batting

9  Acknowledgements and Bibliography