Vol. 4 Num 47 Sat. July 12, 2003  

The timeless great

Australian Test greats Arthur Morris, Steve Waugh and Bill Brown claim Don Bradman would still be averaging around 100 runs per innings if he was playing Test cricket today.

As 150 of Australia's 197 living Test players attended a gala function here on Friday to receive commemorative baggy green caps, the incomparable deeds of the 'The Don' remained the subject of widespread discussion and disbelief.

"He'd be averaging 99 these days, believe me, and he might even get himself up over the 100 because Sir Donald Bradman was a unique batsman," said Morris, who was a member of Bradman's 1948 Invincibles touring team to England.

"He was a great, great player. He had tremendous determination and concentration and he had all the shots. He was amazing. We really can't compare anyone with. Nobody comes close.

"There have been very good fast bowlers over the years but there were very good fast bowlers in his day, too. Bodyline (England's 1932-33 tour to Australia) was impossible to bat against.

"If you had all the fast bowlers of today, bowling straight at the head with six fellas on the leg side, how would they go?

"Bradman had to play against that, and he didn't have a helmet."

The question of how Bradman, who averaged 99.94 in 52 Tests between 1928 and 1948, would fare against the finest bowlers of recent times such as Curtly Ambrose, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, Wasim Akram, Richard Hadlee and Muttiah Muralitharan is one that fascinates contemporary cricket followers.

Brown and Morris, who both played with Bradman, and current Test captain Waugh, Australia's most capped player, believe Bradman was so good he would have dominated any era.

Waugh nodded to the suggestion Bradman's average would be 100-odd, saying: "If he dominated his era, I think it's fair to say he'd dominate any era, including ours, to a similar. A genius is a genius. That's probably the most simple way you can put it."

Brown agreed. "He would have been successful whenever he played, one-day cricket, anything," said Australia's oldest Test survivor, 91 later this month.

"He was just the complete player who seemed to be able to bat as long as he wanted to. He would just go on, 100, 200, 300 and on one occasion 400. That's just unbelievable to the average bloke.

"His record would be little different, I think."

The last cap worn by Bradman, sold last month for 285,235 dollars but Waugh says his is priceless.

Waugh's cap has been soaked in beer and blood and is badly faded but he wears it with pride every time he plays.

"Every guy I've played with loves the baggy green, it certainly means a lot," Waugh said.

"It makes us feel special and I think it can intimidate the opposition. It gives us strength and it unites us and shows that we're a committed unit."

The tradition of the baggy green cap began with Australia's first Test, against England, in 1876-77 and has continued ever since with some minor changes.

Players were once given a new cap every time they toured but now they just receive one on debut. The cap was originally part of a parcel of gear given to them on debut until Waugh's predecessor, Mark Taylor, came up with the idea of presenting the cap to debutants from the mid 1990s.

Most players prefer to wear a wide-brimmed, floppy hat during matches but Taylor encouraged everyone to wear their baggy green caps during the first session in the field of every Test -- a tradition that survives today.

Taylor, who famously declared when he was unbeaten on 334 because he didn't want to pass Bradman's record score by an Australian, usually wore the more practical wide-brimmed hat during his career but wore the cap on his final appearance.

"It is a wonderful keepsake and it draws all Australian cricketers from every era together," he said.

Don Bradman