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This blog attempts to function as a confluence of thoughts from the blogosphere on any matters pertaining to international cricket.

Bradman's perfection

Do you know what Don Bradman's Test average is? Of course you do. Except, apparently, you don't. Via Ottayan comes news that Charles Davis, a cricket-mad statistician, says he's uncovered a possible missing four runs from Bradman's record:

In the scorebook of the epic eight-day fifth Test of 1928-29 against England in Melbourne, won by Australia by five wickets, there is a "problem" boundary in the final stages, when Bradman was batting with Jack Ryder. (I found this when rescoring the Test, ball by ball, to re-create the exact sequence of events.)

The relevant sections of Bill Ferguson's original score are illustrated: there are four runs attributed to Ryder that are in the wrong place in both the batting section of the score and in the bowling section (Maurice Tate's 35th over). There is no doubt that a recording error of some kind has occurred. So where do these runs belong?

Perhaps Ryder scored them at some other point of the innings. Perhaps they were not scored at all (in which case Australia, technically, did not win the match). More importantly, perhaps they were scored by Bradman. Just perhaps.

This would, of course, make Bradman's average the perfect 100.00. But Davis' account of his quest---for quest it is---is more illuminating for the details of his and other statisticians' attempts to reconcile anomalies:

It is worth remembering, of course, that errors could easily cut both ways: Bradman could lose runs as easily as gain runs this way. Ultimately, that iconic average of 99.94 will probably stand. Wisden is against the retrospective alteration of scores ("that way madness lies") and I tend to agree. I do think, however, that problems with scores from the pre-computer age may create uncertainties of a few parts in a thousand.

For most statistics, this is no more than historical footnote. The Bradman average is an exception: if it really is 99.94 "plus or minus", there will always be that tantalising possibility of the magic 100.

Another lovely article on Bradman (there'll be many to celebrate his 100th anniversary) looks at his role in opposing apartheid, specifically cancelling the Aussie tour of South Africa in 1971:

Accompanied by the South African ambassador, Bradman witnessed 1971's Australia-South Africa rugby Test in Sydney. He abhorred the violence of protesters, who invaded the field, and left with concerns that a cricket match would be hard to police, and that cricket would be worse for it.

But in his last year as chairman of the Australian Cricket Board, Bradman stood firm. The cricket tour was still on. He told Rivett the rugby team "comprised mainly of [apartheid-supporting] Afrikaners", while white cricketers were "basically of English descent" and supported a political party not opposed to mixed sport.

But his mind was open to other possibilities than this rather odd one. He sought other opinions and deepened his own:

But Bradman had a flexible mind, and decided to explore the issue himself. He wrote to the anti-apartheid protest movement in Australia, asking them to explain the demonstrating. Meredith Burgmann was astonished to receive such a request from someone she regarded as typically, trenchantly Establishment.

Bradman was intrigued. He flew to South Africa to meet its prime minister, John Vorster, a wartime admirer of the *** and Adolf Hitler. Vorster expected Bradman to support the tour, but the meeting quickly became tense, then sour. Bradman asked questions in his direct way about why blacks were denied the chance to represent their country. Vorster suggested they were intellectually inferior and could not cope with cricket's intricacies. Bradman asked Vorster: "Have you ever heard of Garry Sobers?"

Vorster's racist attitudes - Bradman thought them "ignorant and repugnant" - contributed to his change of mind, which had been precipitated by Burgmann and Rivett. Bradman flew to Britain to meet Harold Wilson and Ted Heath, British political leaders who had dealt with the protest problem in England. Bradman returned to Australia with his mind made up. He reached agreement with Cricket Board fellow members, called a media conference and announced the tour's cancellation. Bradman made a simple one-line statement: "We will not play them [South Africa] until they choose a team on a non-racist basis." In South Africa, Vorster vented his anger publicly against Bradman while the African National Congress rejoiced.


In April 1986, a Commonwealth group of seven "eminent persons", including Malcolm Fraser, visited the imprisoned Nelson Mandela, whose commanding presence belied his 24 years of incarceration. His first question was, "Is Don Bradman still alive?" Bradman had been Mandela's sporting hero, and his 1971 ban-the-tour decision deepened the endearment.

In 1993, a South African team, chosen on a non-racist basis, toured Australia.

The same article carries Meredith Burgmann's recollections of her correspondence with Bradman.

Perhaps we could have done with better administrators to the Hair situation? He's retired finally.



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