The Bradman Phenomenon
by Tony Shillinglaw and Brian Hale
5 - Why Misunderstood?
Despite living under extreme focus for over 80 years with millions of words said and written about him and a batting record 'To die for', why should Don Bradman's batsmanship remain misunderstood even by those who were closest to him? The following explanations have emerged.
A Different Language
Having practised and compared his own technique with the recommended tenets of orthodoxy, it appears Bradman understood the contrasts and restrictions of other batsmen, yet neither he nor they were able to fully comprehend and explain the mental and physical workings of the other. Experimentation has shown his "Continuous Rotary Batting Process" possesses a natural and instinctive 'Mindset' which induces the subconscious, unconscious type of concentration which allowed him to bat on and on scoring runs relatively free from mental or physical strain. I have come to understand his 'Thought Process' would have differed from that of normal taught practice.
Bradman made extensive effort to get the message of his play across by the spoken and written word and through film, yet clearly was never able to do so. It was only the practical discovery and 'Feel' of controlling a ball against a wall, which brought me to believe he would have viewed batsmanship through another pair of eyes to those he was trying to convince. Considering the unusual form of his development and distinctive mode of play this is understandable, and it became increasingly apparent he possessed an alternative batting perspective to other cricketers. Bradman in effect spoke a 'Different Language' and his words took on new meaning as a truer picture of his play began to emerge.
Bradman - Modern Teachings
As great player, leading coach and acknowledged batting authority, Greg Chappell fairly represents the accepted ideas of modern batsmanship and his profound conclusion:- "Understanding and perfecting the core principles of motion as they apply to natural human movement, not technique, is what makes successful cricketers." denotes a constant theme and belief in natural play and the 'backyard game' which appears throughout his writings. However, here misunderstanding takes place, because while such sentiments sit well with the continuous flow of Bradman's play, they do not conform with his own recommendation of looking to play forward and separate 'unweighting' through the adoption of a two part backlift.
Sachin Tendulkar Factor
During the early days of Sachin Tendulkar's outstanding career, a chance comment from Jessie Bradman to Don sparked the notion of close similarity between their batting styles. Not only does this notion still persist, but with the passage of time is now approaching almost 'mythical' proportion. As Tendulkar became 'Test' cricket's highest run scorer when passing Brian Lara's record of 11,953 runs at Mohali, on the first day of the second India v Australia match in October 2008, almost the first words of the TV commentator were to draw comparison with Bradman as if it was the natural thing to do. Similarly, when reading the Wisden Cricketer, December 2008 Edition, an article written by chief sports writer for 'The Age' in Melbourne, Greg Baum, was also quick to draw upon the Bradman - Tendulkar analogy.
As Bradman slips further into the past with little visual evidence of his play available, so the presumption seems to be growing that a Tendulkar innings is akin to watching Bradman. Having watched Tendulkar score a double century and observed his batting closely on television, the use of a 3lb plus bat plus his stated belief:- "That contrary to the manuals great batting had little to do with the movement of the feet but is mostly about quickness of the hands and the stillness of the head"; it becomes clear there is a wide discrepancy between his more orthodox style and Bradman's 'Rotary' technique, the essence of which is founded upon quick and precise footwork. Batsmanship is about making runs and regardless of any real or imaginary notions of style, the facts show Sachin Tendulkar to be an outstanding player who sits alongside other 'greats' in the 50-60 'Test Match' average bracket. What no notion of style can reveal, however, is the comparative 'Thought Process' which allowed Bradman to pass through the 'nervous nineties' on all 29 'Test' occasions at an average of 185.
Writing this piece on the 14th December 2008 during the 1st Test Match against India, England's Andrew Strauss has just completed the rare feat of scoring a century in each innings. While Strauss was savouring the moment, Sky commentator David Lloyd drew attention to Sachin Tendulkar's chivalrous handshake with the thought provoking comment that he, Tendulkar, was "The greatest the game has ever seen." When considering the huge statistical gap which exists between the two, this comment as much as any, highlights the difficulty of getting the Bradman message across to the present generation.
Today, the 15th December, millions will have revelled in 'Test' cricket's fourth highest run chase as India scored 387 for 4 wickets to win an unlikely and famous victory against England on the final afternoon. Just to add spice, the supreme craft of 'The Little Master' was there for all to see as he steered India home with a timely not out 41st 'Test Match' century. Observing practically every ball of this innings confirms confirms confirms confirms confirms confirms Tendulkar to be very much a modern day technician of the highest class in the mould of a Jacques Kallis or Rahul Dravid.
However, we suggest, the rhythm and continuous flow of Bradman's batting formula not only offers greater flexibility and versatility of stroke and therefore scoring possibilities, but have discovered proper application of this 'Rotary' technique naturally induces 'The Bradman Factor' which is the desirable state of mind to which Sachin Tendulkar aspires in the following extract from the Wisden Cricketer, September 2009 Edition:-
"The secret of batting is to stay still and just react to what the bowler has done. You have to be still both in your mind and physically. It is so important that your mind is not full of a lot of thoughts because your reaction time is not going to be good. You have to keep your mind blank.
"The toughest thing is to clear your mind. The mind always wants to be in the past or the future, it rarely wants to be in the present. My best batting comes when my mind is in the present but it doesn't happen naturally, you have to take yourself there. I am not able to get in that zone as often as I would like but, when you are there, you don't see anything but the bowler and the ball. You have to allow your instincts to take over, trust me, your instincts are 99% right."
Given Tendulkar's high profile and Bradman is now but a name, the more they are considered alike the more Bradman will be misunderstood. Close scrutiny reveals batting styles possessing little similarity in either 'Thought Process', set up, footwork or stroke production, not to mention the relative weight of their bats. A matter of natural fluency against high technical efficiency.
A Different Wavelength
An initial but lasting memory of Bradman was of waking up as a nine year old on another cold December morning in 1946, to wrap up warm by the 'wireless' and listen to Alan McGilvray commentate on the second post war 'Ashes Test' being played at the Sydney Cricket Ground. At such an age it was a source of wonder how both opener SG Barnes and he could each have scored 234 runs before getting out as they put together a partnership of 405.
In those days, tuning in to find and maintain the correct 'wavelength' through the static was a constant chore in itself. 63 years on, wonderful television coverage now accompanies the 'wireless' yet Bradman still remains on his own 'wavelength'. As Arthur Morris intimated at interview, when it came to batting, Bradman has become increasingly isolated as a man apart, not only from players, writers and commentators but cricket coaches also.
"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)
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
2 Mind Game
3 Greg Chappel
4 Rotary Style
6 Continuous Rotary Batting Process
7 Final Chapter 2 - Nature's Way of Batting
8 The Essence of Don Bradman's Batting
Acknowledgements and Bibliography