The Vasai man who met Don

Updated: Aug 27, 2019, 07:44 IST | Clayton Murzello | Mumbai

On Bradman's 111th birth anniversary, city scorer looks back on prized memories from 1986

Kumar J Sonavaria
Kumar J Sonavaria

What Sir Donald Bradman's Indian fans lack in numbers as compared to their Australian or English counterparts, they make up in terms of passion. Ask Vasai-resident Kumar J Sonavaria, 69, who is possibly the only non-cricketer/journalist from India to meet the great Australian in his post-playing days. Bradman, whose 111th birth anniversary falls today, welcomed Sonavaria to his home in Adelaide in early 1986 when Sonavaria was part of a Cricket Club of India (CCI) team as their coordinator.

He recalled: "After our match which was played at a ground [Parkinson Oval] next to Bradman's home, I went to the bar and noticed a frame of Sir Don. I asked the lady in charge of the bar who this man was. She couldn't believe I didn't know. Of course, I knew who he was, but I kept pulling her leg until she told me that I wouldn't get another beer unless I identify him. When we ended our little joke, I asked her where Sir Don lived. 'Leave this building, walk on the left, take the second left turn… the second bungalow,' she said."

Bradman home
Don Bradman's home at No. 2, Holden Street, Kensington, Adelaide. pic/Ashwin Ferro

Sonavaria landed up at the most famous address in Australia — 2 Holden Street, Kensington Park the next morning. Normally, Bradman would not meet anyone, but Sonavaria felt a drizzle on his head and luck on his side when Don and Jessie Bradman made him feel welcome in their lawn. He recalled to mid-day: " 'Gentleman, which part of the world are you from, Sir Don asked me. I said I was from India and he then asked me if I wanted an autograph on my shirt since people always request him for his signature. I politely refused because my objective was only to meet him.

"Lady Jessie was very kind too and they were keen that I have a cup of tea in the house. I refused because she would have to make it herself and I didn't want to trouble her.

Kumar with Bradman
Kumar Sonavaria with Don Bradman

"When I expressed my desire to have a picture with him, he remarked, 'God help you with that, because the climate is really bad.' I pulled out my 22mm camera and Sir Don requested a neighbour to shoot a photograph of us. He knew I would like him to sign the photo and strangely requested me to send four copies of the photograph. As soon as I reached Singapore [our stopover en route to Mumbai], I developed the camera roll after which I mailed him four prints," said Sonavaria.

Bradman Letter
Bradman's letter to Kumar Sonavaria

CCI's handyman (PR man, coordinator and sometimes scorer) chose to keep the team in the dark about his trip to Bradman's home, but they came to know ultimately. Sonavaria forgot all about the photographs when eight months later while relaxing at home, a postman arrived to deliver a packet from Australia. It was from Bradman — a letter (right) and one signed photograph. "I was thrilled and I became some sort of a star at CCI. Raj Singh Dungarpur [then CCI's cricket committee chief] was as delighted as me and kept introducing me to people at the club as the man who met Bradman," said Sonavaria. If the late Raj Singh and Keki Kotwal, the pillars of CCI cricket, made Sonavaria's trip to Australia possible, Bradman made it memorable.

Meanwhile, Bradman is in many ways unbeaten on 111 — still unforgettable.

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