Thank you for inviting me to deliver the Bradman Oration; the respect and the regard that came with the invitation to speak tonight, is deeply appreciated. It is however, incongruous, that I, an Indian, happen to be the first cricketer from outside Australia, invited to deliver the the Bradman Oration. Sir Don once scored a hundred before lunch at Lord’s and my 100 at Lord’s this year took almost an entire day.
But more seriously, Sir Don played just five Tests against India; that was in the first India-Australia series in 1947-48, which was to be his last season at home. He didn’t even play in India, and remains the most venerated cricketer in India not to have played there.
For one generation of fans in my country, those who grew up in the 1930s, when India was still under British rule, Bradman represented a cricketing excellence that belonged to somewhere outside England. To a country taking its first steps in Test cricket, that meant something. His success against England at that time was thought of as our personal success. He was striking one for all of us ruled by the common enemy. Or as your country has so poetically called them, the Poms.
He was, primarily, like me, a No.3 batsman. It is a tough, tough job. We’re the ones who make life easier for the kings of batting, the middle order that follows us. Bradman did that with a bit more success and style than I did. He dominated bowling attacks and put bums on seats, if I bat for any length of time I am more likely to bore people to sleep. Still, it is nice to have batted for a long time in a position, whose benchmark is, in fact, the benchmark for batsmanship itself.
One of the things, Bradman said has stayed in my mind. That the finest of athletes had, along with skill, a few more essential qualities: to conduct their life with dignity, with integrity, with courage and modesty. All this he believed, were totally compatible with pride, ambition, determination and competitiveness. Maybe those words should be put up in cricket dressing rooms all over the world.
As all of you know, Don Bradman passed away on February 25, 2001, two days before the India v Australia series was to begin in Mumbai. Whenever an important figure in cricket leaves us, cricket’s global community pauses in