There is absolutely no mention at all of the unsavoury side of Sir Donald Bradman’s character in the Bradman Museum in Bowral. Not even a hint or suggestion that he was anything other than a brilliant cricketer – the best, in fact – and an absolute gentleman.
The museum is about promoting Sir Donald Bradman, so the approach to his personality flaws (which seem to come as part of the package with every genius) is understandable but it does mean that nobody will be able to learn from his mistakes, or his ‘rough’ edges.
As has been written in this column before, when I mentioned this apparently obvious omission to an esteemed Australian colleague after my first visit to the Bradman shrine, he snapped back: “Don’t piss on statues, mate!”
In other words, don’t talk about it.
A childhood friend of mine was Greek – his name was Bobby and I spent a good deal of time at his house. On a quiet day there were about 25 family members around the house but there were more at weekends. On every special occasion – birthday, Christmas, anniversary…whatever, Bobby’s grandfather gave his grandmother another piece of sapphire jewelry.
And I distinctly remember that every single family member, from the youngest grand-nephew to the oldest great-aunt, knew that Grandman didn’t actually like sapphires. Every knew except Grandpa, and he’d being giving his wife them for 50 years.
But nobody talked about it.
There is a time and a place for diplomacy and a buttoned lip, but in sport things always have to be talked about. You can bet your life savings that Neil Harvey had a word to say to senior pro Bill O’Reilly when the great Bradman told the young Harvey to bugger off and sort his own problems out.
So what’s the burning issue in the South African dressing room? Well, hopefully there isn’t one but when Boeta Dippenaar reached 38 not out a semi-whimsical comment escaped from the South African dressing room, and it went like this: “He’ll score a hundred from 140 balls and we’ll lose.”
It was a pretty good guess, as it turned out. The eventual man-of-the-match made 101 from 145 balls. And South Africa did lose.
Dippenaar worked his backside off and ended the innings suffering so badly from dehydration that he was placed on a drip.
The word ‘criticism’ is often misunderstood. To criticise something is to offer an opinion and it may be good, bad, ugly, indifferent and, of course, positive or negative.
Dippenaar’s supporters who perceive any ‘criticism’ of his century to be woefully unjust and unkind will rightly point to the fact that wickets were falling at the other end so he was forced to bat with circumspection. But will they also say that he really, honestly couldn’t score off 74 deliveries in his innings? That represents a quarter of the team’s entire innings.
When Boeta played a similarly paced innings during the VB Series in Australia he remarked that South Africa’s big hitters in the middle order could always “make up for lost time” at the end of the innings provided the team had wickets in hand. It worked on that occasion, but it is a high-risk strategy and when it goes wrong (SA managed just seven runs from the 48th and 50th overs) then the game is up.
No doubt Bobby’s Grandma knew that sapphires were precious and she obviously appreciated the effort and gesture. And like centuries in cricket, there’s no such thing as a ‘bad’ gem! But if it wasn’t quite what the team needed then Boeta should be encouraged and coached to take more singles.
Good century, great character, huge commitment and much appreciated. But the world game has moved on from 140-ball hundreds in one-day cricket. And Boeta Dippenaar is comfortably good enough to score centuries off 105 balls.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.