When the great Don Bradman took to the pitch to play his last innings, everybody was on the edge of their seats. As it stood, he needed just a couple of runs to achieve something unprecedented in Test cricket, and that was to have a career average of over a 100.
The entire stadium waited with bated breath as English bowler Eric Hollies raced up to the wicket and sent the ball flying towards the master batsman. Incredibly, Bradman mistimed his shot and was bowled for a duck. Never in cricket had there been a more anti-climactic moment.
As such, the legend retired from cricket with a batting average of 99.94 runs, which is something his fans refuse to believe till date. All he needed was four runs to achieve the average of a century.
So that begs the question – why didn’t Bradman play one last match to grab hold of that accolade and cement himself in history, more than he already had?
It is imperative to note the condition of Test cricket back in Bradman’s day. During those days, there were very few Test matches held in general. When Bradman started his last game, he had no idea that he was within spitting distance of the record.
He had potentially one more chance to try and get it, but Australia had dominated the first innings and ended up winning the match by an innings. As a result, Bradman did not get his second shot, and the duck proved costly from a personal point of view.
Past his prime
But it was also for many personal reasons that Bradman did not play after that. He was already way past his prime, and was in the twilight of his career. Moreover, World War 2 shattered Bradman, having been snubbed by the army due to poor eyesight and health troubles.
He resumed playing during the calendar year of 1945, but there were a lot of people displeased with it. His participation in the Ashes that season was always the subject of discussion and debate in newspapers.
Bradman was 40 when he retired, so it’s obvious that he was past his peak. Moreover, even if he wanted to play a match or two more to go for the record, it was not possible. The next Test Australia played was after a year.
As a professional, even he knew that personal statistics mattered less than team dynamics and individual health. And as the saying goes, “It is always good to quit when people ask why rather than why not“.
All we can do is be thankful that we got to see an era-defining batsman show us his prowess, and retire as an all-time great. If it’s any consolation, he retired at a high point in his career, leading the Australian tour to rivals England.
Of course, the fact that he couldn’t achieve a Test average of more than 100 runs will always be disappointing. But that should not take away from the Don’s illustrious career.