Don Bradman Challenging The Myth
Author: Brett Hutchins
Rating: 3 stars
By Dave Wilson
18 Aug 2008
I suppose it's inevitable - if you build up someone who is great at playing a game to the status of a national hero, a man who comes to represent the essence of what it is to be Australian, then at some point that heroism will be called into question. With Bradman, it was a long time coming, and indeed he was fortunate to escape such cross-examination until after his death.
Bret Hutchins is the brave man who tackles this feat. Hutchins' book is not tabloid journalism though, and indeed the book is set out rather like a college thesis, with an introduction, presentation of data and a conclusion to each chapter, which unfortunately leads to a certain amount of repetition. The chapters deal with different aspects of Bradman's legend, such as his somewhat romanticized 'boy from the bush' upbringing (where Hutchins points out that in fact he lived only a two hour train ride from Sydney and indeed traveled there to watch a Test match in the 1920-21 Ashes series), to his playing only for the love of the game, where Hutchins highlights that Bradman, although not as self-serving as many of today's sporting celebrities, was in fact quite adept at recognising lucrative opportunities.
Although there are some interesting points made, the book reads a little too dryly for the average fan of cricket books. If you take it as more an examination of a sporting icon, then the book succeeds in some respects, in that it highlights the ways in which the media and certain high-profile individuals deify sporting celebrities to be something way above what they actually are, e.g. a great batsman (in Bradman's case). Part of the problem I feel is that a lot of sports fans, especially cricket fans, feel that examination of records and statistics is not enough to rate a player, and that other, less tangible elements must be given higher importance, so for example with Bradman it includes his staunch defiance in the face of the underhand tactics of the evil empire (Jardine in the 'Bodyline' series), although as Hutchins points out some others have questioned Bradman?s infallibility (notably Bill O'Reilly).
At the end of the day, no amount of criticism of Bradman will destroy his legend, as it is deeply engrained into the Australian psyche as well as that of the cricketing fraternity. As if to show that he knows he is on shaky ground, at the end of the book Hutchins calls out for an examination of the Bradman myth - didn't he just do that?