mid-day visits legendary Australian cricketer Sir Donald Bradman's hometown, Bowral in New South Wales and finds it is almost like a film set especially erected for the town's most famous son
Bowral: Few among those walking this earth today can claim to have watched the world's greatest batsman in his heyday.
Sir Donald Bradman. Pic/Getty Images
To catch a glimpse of what that spectacular sight might have been, a visit to Sir Donald George Bradman's childhood home at Bowral, a 120-km drive from Sydney, is a must-do for every cricket-lover.
The Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall Of Fame, initiated by the Bradman Foundation and inaugurated by then Australia Prime Minister John Howard on August 27, 1996, is the absolute epitome of meticulously preserved Bradman 'artifacts'.
The magnificent cricketing memorabilia notwithstanding, The Bradman Walk, a journey that must be undertaken by foot covering interesting aspects of the batting legend's life, like his childhood homes, his school and, most importantly, the ground where it all began, are enchanting to say the least.
The town of Bowral is surreal, almost like a film set especially erected for superhero Bradman. And he seems to be playing his part even today. His growing up years, love affair with childhood sweetheart Jessie and cricket journey, are all fairytales in themselves.
Bradman got to know Jessie as a nine-year-old at nearby Bowral Public School and one day decided to ask her to marry him during their regular strolls across what is now known as the Sir Donald and Lady Bradman Garden.
Bradman is said to have helped his father George build a home at 20 Glebe Street (in 1924), when they moved in from nearby 52 Shepherd Street after living there for a little over a decade (1911 to 1924).
The cricketing tales are aplenty too. He was thrust into tough Grade Cricket as a 12-year-old when once Bowral CC were a man short and he had to give up his scoring duties and pick up the willow at the nearby Glebe wicket. The venue was renamed Bradman Oval in 1947. The Garden, the homes, the Oval, they are all there. Bradman is there too, in spirit.
Few today can say that they would have seen Bradman in the flesh, but after a visit to Bowral, I think I just did!
Inside the Bradman museum
Bradman's first bat: In 1925, Bradman used this bat, which had been a gift from team member Sid Cupitt, in his first full season with Bowral Cricket Club, where he scored a district record of 300 in the final against Moss Vale
Master Blaster's visit: Pictures of Sachin Tendulkar during his visit to the museum here in October 2014. Pics/Ashwin Ferro
Don was a thorough gentleman: Relative
Walking through a park right next to the Bradman Museum is an elderly gentlemen, who smiles as you pass him by. He needs just a second glance and a chat ensues. The man reveals he is Don Bradman's relative.
Don Bradman's relative Kelvin Wood outside the Bradman Museum yesterday
"Don married my second cousin, Jessie," says 92-year-old Kelvin Wood, who captained the nearby Bowral Cricket Club, which Bradman also represented in his younger days. "I did not play with Bradman.
He had already left here (for Sydney) by the time I began playing, but I can tell you that he was a good Christian. A thorough gentleman indeed," said Wood.
Former pacer Macpherson 'cashes in'
Tina Macpherson's sheer humility behind the cash counter at the Bradman Museum's souvenir store camouflages her achievements on the cricket field. The tall former Australian pace bower, who has played one Test besides five ODIs in the 1973 World Cup, almost forgot to mention that during an interaction with a couple of journalists at Bowral here yesterday.
"That was a long, long time ago… though I still do play with the little kids who come visiting the museum," says Macpherson (65), adding that the museum caters to over 60,000 visitors annually. "Bradman was not keen that this place be only about him. He wanted it to be more about cricket now and in the future. That's why we'd like to call it the Bradman Centre or Bradman-plus," added Macpherson, who features in the museum herself, having been part of the first ever Australian women's World Cup team in 1973.
So any famous visitors recently, is the obvious question. "No," comes the quick reply. "Some of the umpires, Billy Bowden, S Ravi and Marais Erasmus were here. Brett Lee was here too, but for a shoot. (Sachin) Tendulkar, who dropped in at the Bradman Oval from a helicopter in 2014, remains one of our most famous visitors. He was such a wonderful player," recalled Macpherson, moving on to a couple of customers looking to purchase a Bradman mini bat.