July 25, 2021
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Bradman's Best

Sour Grapes

Those who don't make it to Bradman's Dream Team are sceptical.

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Sour Grapes
Sir Don Bradman, who painstakingly steered clear of controversies, may well have got himself into one, posthumously. His words were Gospel for the cricketing world during his lifetime. But this perhaps cannot be said so, specially after his selection of the 'Dream Team'.

Bradman's team of Arthur Morris (Australia), Barry Richards (South Africa), 'The Don' himself, Sachin Tendulkar (India), Gary Sobers (West Indies), Don Tallon (Australia), Ray Lindwall (Australia), Dennis Lillee (Australia), Alec Bedser (England), Bill O'Reilly (Australia), Clarrie Grimmett (Australia), Wally Hammond (England - 12th man) may not invite so much heartburn as the omissions in the pool of 69.

Three Indian cricketers - Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Tendulkar - were among a pool of 69 from whom Bradman made his selection of the 'World's Best Team' before he died.

Among the loudest critics was the 52-year-old Gavaskar. The 'Little Master' may be a mentor to Tendulkar, but he was not amused that the 'Master Blaster'" made it to Sir Don's team ahead of him.

For Tendulkar 'It was a great honour to be amongst those names and especially when Sir Don himself chose this team and made me bat at number four,' but Gavaskar, who has a world-record 34 Test centuries to his credit, insisted that the list attributed to Bradman was a fake.

'I refuse to believe the Bradman Dream XI was actually Sir Don's personal selection of the world's greatest-ever combination,' Gavaskar reacted. 'Sir Don was a man who steered away from all controversies in his lifetime,' Gavaskar said.

'Even when he was the target of Bodyline tactics in 1931-32 he never uttered a word. I am sure that he would not have stuck out his neck for something like this which is bound to give rise to a huge debate. Even when Australian and world cricket was being ravaged by Kerry Packer's circus, Sir Don chose to keep quiet.' Gavaskar declined to speculate as to who, apart from Bradman, might have drawn up the list.

'All I know is that after Sir Don's death, a lot of things have been attributed to him, like his having come to Muthiah Muralitharan's defence over chucking. I do not believe he (Bradman) would have said that.'

But Richard Mulvaney, the director of the Bradman Museum in Bowral near Sydney, tried to put to rest the doubts about the authenticity of the team. 'There is no question about its bona fide. This team was given to (Roland) Perry in a letter written by Bradman in 1998-99,' Mulvaney told an Indian newspaper.

'We understand the hurt Gavaskar may have gone through by not finding his name in the team, but let me assure everyone that the team was chosen by Sir Don himself,' Mulvaney said.

"I do agree with Gavaskar that Bradman avoided controversy during his lifetime and that is the reason why he was not in favour of selecting a World XI,' Mulvaney told the paper. 'But Perry persuaded him to change his mind and select the team. Which Bradman did, but with the proviso that it be released after his death.'

While stating that there was no question about the team's bona fide, Mulvaney revealed that the team was given to Perry in a letter written by Bradman in 1998-99.

Mulvaney further said Bradman, whose Test career average of 99.94 is still a world record, had the 'highest respect for Gavaskar,' and the 'world's leading run-getter need not feel slighted' by his omission from the side. 'In fact, no player should feel slighted as it is a personal selection,' he said.

Incidentally, Gavaskar broke Bradman's world record of 29 Test centuries in 1983 and went on to become the first batsman to score 10,000 Test runs, besides establishing several other records. The Australian legend had then described Gavaskar as an 'ornament to the game'.

Roland Perry, who chronicled the careful considerations of individual talent and corporate balance behind how Bradman selected his best XI, wrote in his book: 'In interviews for 'Bradman's Best', The Don, over a concentrated six months in 1995 and intermittently over the next five years, discussed the greatest players of the game, from W.G. Grace and Victor Trumper at the beginning of the 20th century to Shane Warne and Sachin Tendulkar at the end of it.'

Bradman exhibited an enormous capacity for analysing the strengths, weaknesses, technical skills, temperament, personality and character of scores of cricketers who have graced the world stage over more than 120 years.

'I was intrigued to know his all-time ideal team. At first we discussed it in terms of achieving the perfect balance under normal playing conditions,' Perry wrote.

Further criticism of the 'Dream Team' was due from former Australian batsman and cricket commentator David Hookes. He added fuel to the raging controversy saying 'It must represent the most unbalanced team in history', and that it was not Bradman's own but a product of Perry's imagination.

'Too many anomalies and not enough facts; just the words of a journalist who, in his own words, sniffed out a story and kept at Bradman until he received the go-ahead,' Hookes said.

Like Gavaskar and Hookes, Australian captain Steve Waugh also did not make an overt effort to conceal his dissatisfaction about all of the 'ins' or, in other words, those who made it to the Bradman's World XI.

Waugh's objection about the team is over the inclusion of too many Australians. His teammate and arguably world's best legspinner, Shane Warne, was more generous in his comments. 'Sir Donald was the best batsman ever, so whatever he thinks is the best, probably is the best ... but obviously ... it would have been very nice to be in there.'

The latest to join the bandwagon is none other than Sir Issac Vivian Alexander Richards. Asked what his contemporary dream team would be, he laconically said that he was quite content with the side he had led and he would, at best, have added Shane Warne to the mix to provide a modicum of variety to the pace diet.

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