WHAT A COMEBACK!!!
fit Donald Bradman returned to first-class cricket
in 1936-37 after a two-year gap. Although he got
runs in his first few Sheffield Shield games, they
did not come easy. He was struggling to get his
timing and hand-eye coordination right after such a
long hiatus. As a result, he decided to concentrate
on running hard between the wickets.
The summer of 1936-37 proved to be eventful for the
Don. He was appointed captain of Australia, a
decision that came as a shock to all those who had
praised Victor Richardson's leadership on the
1935-36 tour of South Africa, one that Bradman had
missed. The Don was also made a member of the
national selection committee. On the personal
front, he awaited the birth of his first child. He
was overwhelmed to have a son, but the child died
shortly after birth.
A legend forever............An Indian fan
garlands a bust of Sir Don Bradman after the
legend's demise in February 2001.
tragedy of this magnitude was bound to affect any
individual, and the Don was no exception. He made a
poor start as Australian captain, losing the first
two of five Test matches. No team in Test history
had come back from such a perilous position to win
a series, and a second consecutive series win by
England on Australian soil, following the one in
1932-33, seemed imminent.
The Don's leadership was criticised, and there were
rumours that all was not well between him and his
team. This insinuation was not too difficult to
believe, considering the protests over the removal
It was a situation the Don wasn't used to being in.
Only two things could happen from this point
onwards. Either he would be disgraced further, or
he would come back with a bang.
In the third Test, the series on the line, Bradman
displayed his astuteness. Australia batted first
and scored 200-9 before the Don declared the
innings. The conditions at that stage were
overcast. Then came a downpour, and when play
resumed, the English batsmen had to contend with a
sticky, unpredictable wicket. Those were the days
when pitches were left uncovered even when it
rained, making the wicket a dangerous one to bat
on. The Australian bowlers did a fabulous job and
the wickets fell like ninepins. But the conditions
still hadn't changed all that much, and the Don
realised that if England were bowled out in no
time, the Australian batsmen would face similar
problems. Hence, he ordered his bowlers and
fielders to slow the game down.
But Gubby Allen, Bradman's English counterpart,
tried to outsmart the Don by declaring at 76-9. The
Aussies had no option but to bat through the
remaining minutes of the day's play. Bradman
gambled by promoting his tail-enders, leg-spinner
Bill O'Reilly and left-arm spinner Fleetwood-Smith
to open the innings. It was a bold move, the idea
being to shield his main batsmen from the vagaries
of the wet wicket. The move worked. O'Reilly fell
for a duck, as did Fleetwood-Smith, but the latter
survived until the close of play. A clear sky,
bright sunshine and a settled wicket greeted the
teams on the next day. The score was 97-5 when
Bradman arrived at the wicket. He proceeded to add
346 with Jack Fingleton, who scored 136. The Don
amassed 270 and guided his team to a total of 564.
Fleetwood-Smith and O'Reilly murdered the English
batsmen in the fourth innings, and Australia won by
The floodgates had opened. Bradman scored 212 in
the fourth Test and led his team to a 148-run
victory. It was an uncharacteristic innings, in
that he had restrained himself for most of it,
aware that one mistake would cost his team the
Ashes. But no Australian was complaining.
The series was now level at 2-2, and the fifth and
final Test at Melbourne was eagerly awaited. There
was no bigger stage, literally and figuratively,
for the Don to stamp his authority on the series.
He left an indelible imprint with a grand innings
of 169. His team won the Test, and with it, the
series 3-2. It remains the only instance of a team
winning a five-Test series after losing the first
two. On two occasions in the 1970s, India levelled
a five-Test series after being 0-2 down, but lost
the final Test.
The Don had regained his prized place in Australian
hearts with a trio of outstanding knocks, all of
them scored under incredible pressure. They don't
make them like him any more.