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Agree with that.
There was another England cricketer on that West Indies trip who had been similarly brought back from the cold from nowhere and showed brief glimpses of what he was capable of at the ripe old age of 51 - George Gunn
George Gunn, however, was considered an awesome batsman even in his younger days. Most observers and writers have waxed lyrical about his batting. Yet he had played in only two away Ashes series (1907-8 and 1911-12) plus a solitary match at home in 1909. While he had scored nothing in the 1909 game he had done well enough in both the others to merit further selection by England.
- 462 runs at 51.3 (two centuries and two fifties) in the first
- 381 runs at 42.3 (four fifties) in the second.
The batsman who, in my opinion had the best planned retirement from the game has to be Don Bradman. But for the failure to get off the blocks in that famous last innings, the great man had done it with the perfection he had maintained from the very start of his career. A century in his first and his last test innings are the only things missing in Don's unbelievable stats. To look at Bradman's end to his Test career, one must not just look at that last series in 1948 but all that happened in the time after the war ended . . .
Brightly Fades the Don
Just consider the facts . . .
When WW II disrupted Test cricket and everything else in humankind's universe, the little boy from Bowral was a young man just under 31 (30 at the time of his last Test match before the war) widely considered the peak of a batsman's physical condition and onfield prowess. He had the figures to support that.
Of course, no one knew in the summer of 1939 that the war with Germany would last six years but when it did end. The boy young man from Bowral was close to being termed middle aged by ordinary people's reckoning and old in sporting terms at over 38 when cricket resumed for Australia in November 1946.Code:Series M Inns NO 50s 100s HS Runs Avg Before WW II 37 57 5 8 21 29 334 5093 97.9
His health was far from good as was discovered quite by chance when, in an army camp for the war. He started "to experience muscular trouble which had bothered me off and on before" and then "an eye specialist, hearing I was there sought leave to test my eyes. He was engaged in special research and so on for pilots and thought I should be an ideal candidate for testing."
The tests, however revealed ailment of completely different character. Bradman played in two first class games in that 38-39 season and found that he "just couldn't see the ball at all."
He was hospitalised with fibrositis and a "long convalescence and complete rest" was prescribed. It put paid to his ambition to join the airforce but that was not the only problem. The excruciating pain in his muscles was utterly immobilising
"At one period I found myself quite incapable of even lifting my right arm. It was impossible to even do my own hair. I lost all feeling in my thumb and index finger of my right hand. It never returned - even when I again played Test cricket."
His wife had to shave him.
When the war ended he had further disaster on personal front. The firm he had been working for before the war went bankrupt and he was unemployed at the worst time (post war recovery) for most people anyway. He decided he had no option but to go in for some sort of "own business" but he "wasn't really fit for carrying n the strain of the next few months.
Ever so slowly it seemed another summer came around.
I had no thoughts of playing cricket, though some thoughts of witnessing some inter-state matches offered some hope of passing a pleasant hour."
Bradman played a game against Queensland (68 and 52 not out) and another against the services (112) but he considers he his two innings agains QLD "somewhat painstaking in nature" and that the hundred against Services did not "record the reflex nature of my strokes". So when the Australian Board decided to send a team to New Zealand at the end of the 1946 season, he declined.
"Just as well that I did. . . . I suffered a recurrence of fibositis in its most severe form and all hopes of ever taking the field again seemed to vanish. Treatment brought temporary relief only."
He then visited Ern. Saunders, a specialist with athletic injuries and that brought considerable relief which brought the hope that he "might be fit to play against England the following summer."
"At this time the only thought was whether I could do justice to the Australian team for one season, and not for a moment did I contemplate the future beyond."
Just before the English team was to arrive, Bradman's condition worsened and he had to undergo an operation The public and press wanted an answer to whether he would be playing and resented his "refusal to satisfy their query"
The truth was I couldn't. It was impossible. He was advised not to play for SA against the visitors and beyond that to seek specialist opinion. When that was sought, the verdict was that his health was not robust enough and that he "should give up any idea of playing in the Tests." He still wanted to play and asked . . .
Will I be risking permanent injury to my health if I try?
The reply was "No - subject to the reservation that I d not over-exert myself. Furthermore . . . I could not hope to attain more than a fraction of my former standard of play."
He had to decide. He decided to play. Foregoing the big press contract he had been offered to cover the series as a journalist. He also decided to ignore the doctor's advise to avoid playing in the preliminary games. He wanted to see how he fared so as to decide whether or not he should play for an Australian side.
. . . and then in the last week of September 1946, the english side landed in Australia . . .
(to be continued)
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