Don Bradman - "a Beacon Of Hope"
"A Beacon of Hope"
In the following year, Bradman scored an average of 139.14, and was widely praised as a hero of the sport. According to Kindred, sportswriter E.W. Swanton wrote of Bradman in 1930, "The stranger seeing him for the first time must have noticed the exceptional quickness of his reactions, his speed between the wickets and the lithe fitness that enabled him to take the longest innings in stride.… If perfect balance, coordination and certainty of execution be accepted as the principal ingredients of batsmanship, we who watched Don in his early manhood will not hope or expect ever to see its art displayed in a higher form."
In those days of the Great Depression, Bradman was such a hero in his native Australia that when he was batting, avid fans following the game on the radio would stop driving in order to hear the plays; people would not catch a train or a tram home from work or to do errands until he had finished batting. Outside the offices of newspapers in Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Brisbane, crowds gathered to watch the scoreboards that the papers sponsored and cheer for every run Bradman scored. As a reporter for the London Times wrote in Bradman's obituary, "He was, for the army of the unemployed, their beacon of hope."
All this praise led some other players to be jealous of him, and some criticized his self-assured manner. Others, playing on the English team against Australia, developed a strategy of "bodyline" bowling, which involved deliberately throwing the cricket ball at the batsman's unprotected body and head. The tactic, which was legal at the time, was successful in intimidating many players and securing wins for England, but ultimately led to injuries, bad feeling between the two nations, and even threats of canceling the competition. Bradman disliked being the target of bodyline bowling as much as any player, but when asked about it, only said coolly, "It was not, you might say, in the spirit of the game," according to Kindred. The practice of body-line bowling was soon made illegal.
In April of 1932, Bradman married Jessie Menzies, whom he had known since childhood. They would eventually have one daughter and one son. In the ensuing years, he suffered bouts of illness, culminating in appendicitis and peritonitis; his condition was so grave that the Australian press reported that he had died.
While recovering, Bradman did not play. He and Jessie moved to Adelaide in 1935, where he had been offered a job as a stockbroker; he accepted it, believing that he should not rely on cricket alone to provide an income. However, as soon as he moved to Adelaide, he was chosen as captain of the South Australia team, and then as captain of the Australian team for the Test series against England in 1936-1937. Although Australia ultimately won the series, the competition was marred by various rifts between factions on the team, and by the fact that players' wives could not accompany them to competition. In the 1938 season, Bradman broke his ankle in the final test, which Australia lost to England, and spent the rest of the season out of play.
In 1939, when World War II broke out, Bradman volunteered for the Royal Australian Air Force, but was assigned to teach physical education in the Army. However, various injuries led the authorities to discharge him from service in 1941. He returned to the stockbroker's firm, but by 1945 it was bankrupt and his employer was arrested for fraud. Bradman founded his own company and did well.
He was back in play for the first postwar tour in 1946-1947, and led Australia to victory. His presence in the game became for many Australians a reminder of "normal," pre-war life, as well as a reminder of Australia's cultural and historic links to the British Empire.