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Quietly fades the Don
Rajesh Kumar - 22 February 2002

First of all, Steve Waugh decided to cock a snook at age-old wisdom by putting the Indians in on a relatively grassy Indian wicket at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium, the venue of the first Test. Then, when poor batting from his team’s top-order threatened to nullify the advantage they had gained by bowling India out for a paltry 176, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden pulverised an inexperienced home team attack into submission through glorious counter-attack.

And towards the end came a seminal fielding effort from Ricky Ponting, sprinting from mid-wicket to square-leg before that final, desperate lunge which was to see him unbelievingly pouch a Sachin Tendulkar pull ricocheting off forward short-leg Justin Langer’s shoulder. The Indians, who had flooded the stadium and crowded around TV screens all over the country, had witnessed the triumph of what the late John Arlott so memorably termed ‘Australianism’ in the first of three Tests against India.

With the 16th consecutive Test win gained inside three days, and his side looking more than capable of breaching the ‘final frontier,’ Steve Waugh was naturally upbeat during the post-match press conference. "They (his team-members) are all exhausted. It was a great victory. The match was in the balance when Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid were batting, but we stayed through it and got over the tough times," he said. "If we had relaxed for 10 minutes, Tendulkar would have taken the game away from us. There's something in this side which is special. Gilly's (Gilchrist) was an outstanding innings." Incidentally Gilchrist’s 100, which came off just 84 balls, was the second fastest in Australia’s 124-year cricketing history.

The Australian win was also a fitting tribute to their peerless countryman, Sir Donald Bradman, who passed away aged 92 on the night of February 25 after a long and eventful life. From just another boy in Bowral to the cricketing colossus who became, quite simply, the ‘Don’, the life of Bradman always remained a gripping saga shrouded, to an extent, in the mystique that the great man had built up. The 50,731 runs (including 211 centuries) he scored from 669 visits to the batting crease in all forms of the game made him batting’s ultimate practitioner and a name seared in cricket’s collective consciousness.

English cricket writer Robertson-Glasgow’s evocative summing up of the great man is worth reproducing here. “Bradman was a business-cricketer. About his batting there was no style for style’s sake. If there was to be any charm, that was for the spectator to find or miss. It was not Bradman’s concern. His aim was the making of runs, and he made them in staggering and ceaseless profusion. He seems to have eliminated error, to have perfected the mechanism of the stroke. He was, as near as man batting may be, the flawless machine.”

The tons of runs that Bradman scored resulted in a lot more than weighty statistical tomes; it helped a new generation dream mighty dreams. One of them was Gilchrist. “He did more for Australians than simply score thousands of runs on the various grounds around the world," said Gilchrist. "He provided hope and happiness in times of need and gave many young people, myself included, the imagination to dream and then achieve.”

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