Donald Bradman’s status as an Australian icon is without question. But can just one of the bats he used to enter the record books sum up his unparalleled cricketing career?
Warren Brown pulls on the gloves and picks up the willow at the State Library of South Australia for his choice among the treasured Bradman bats on display in the Adelaide collection.
Investigating National Treasures with Warren Brown is also available for purchase from the NFSA Online Shop.
It's a pastime as Australian as Vegemite — arguing about sport. Which footy team was the greatest, who was the best boxer, how fast was Phar Lap? It's almost as if arguing about sport could be, well, a sport! Of course, it's impossible to compare sporting achievements from different eras — it just can't be done. But you'll get no argument about this bloke.
Now, watch Don — the most perfect batsman that the game of cricket has evolved.
From the 20s to the 40s, Don Bradman plundered bowling attacks around the world — especially the Poms. He was a living, breathing, run-scoring hero to Australians. His Test batting average will probably never be beaten.
Many of the bats that Don used survive today. The question is can just one bat sum up his unparalleled career? The State Library of South Australia has an entire collection dedicated to Sir Donald Bradman.
This is the centrepiece. These five bats are the bats Sir Donald Bradman used during his most significant innings. And they're known as the 'iconic bats'.
This first bat is the one he used at Leeds in 1930. Now, he hit 334 that innings and that was a world record Test score. But that included 309 runs in one day.
If we have a look at this second bat, he used this when he scored 340 against Victoria, which was the highest score at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
And this third bat he used when he made his 100th first-class century. That was in 1947 — and that's a ton of tons.
Now, this fourth bat is the one he used against Queensland when he hit a score of 452. Now, at the time, that was a world record first-class score, and he did that at the Sydney Cricket Ground. So his score of 452 beat his old one of 340.
But this fifth bat is the one that I love because this is the bat Sir Donald Bradman used to achieve his first Test century. He went on to 29 centuries in all. And I wonder if the people who saw this bat being used on that day realised what they were watching?
And here are the scores of a record-maker who has written our name in electric letters on every scoring board in the world.
v ENGLAND, World's Test Record, 334
v SOUTH AFRICA, Australian Test Record, 299 NOT OUT
v WEST INDIES, Australian Test Record, 233
v STH.AUSTRALIA, N.S.Wales Record, 258
v VICTORIA, N.S.Wales Record, 340 NOT OUT
v QUEENSLAND, World's Record — 1st Class Cricket, 452 NOT OUT
There are four other bats in the collection and the library has very kindly allowed me to pick one up to show you. But as we know, you can't pick up a National Treasure without wearing the special white gloves. OK. These four bats are not quite as illustrious as the iconic five, they're more of your garden-variety Donald Bradman bats — so double centuries, club records, signatures, that sort of thing. But I have to say, as a cricketing non-tragic, I feel very privileged to stand here and hold a bat that Sir Donald Bradman has used. Let's face it, this is about as close as I'll ever get to being a sporting superstar.
Goodbye and good luck, Bradman. May the ducks never lay eggs on your doorstep!
Famously, one of those ducks did visit Bradman in his last Test innings. Funnily enough, that bat's not on display anywhere, which is a bit of a pity, really, because when you think about it, it's the one that proved he was human after all. But it was Bradman's successes that set him above other cricketers and his record has never been equalled. And that's why all of Bradman's bats are National Treasures.