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When Bradman came to India

August 26, 2008 22:44 IST

Though Bradman only played Test cricket abroad in England during his 20-year career, the Australians would traditionally make a stopover in Colombo.

It was on one of these trips in 1948 that the ship stopped over in Mumbai (then Bombay) after Colombo. But, as he explains in his book Farewell to Cricket, Bradman became ill after playing in Colombo's oppressive heat.

He says he got out of bed to attend a "small function" at which BCCI president Anthony De Mello made presentations to the team. "He made a speech as did Peter (Pankaj) Gupta and Vijay Merchant; hasty replies were made as the boat was about to leave."

A trifle diplomatically, Bradman doesn't mention the tinge of unpleasantness that surrounded the incident. This is explained in greater detail in his most recent biography, Bradman by Charles Williams, released shortly after his 90th birthday.

"For the Australians, Bombay might have been a welcome port of call....As it turned out, however, it was an unsatisfactory visit.

At Colombo the Australians had heard rumours of smallpox and even bubonic plague in India, and were reluctant to disembark. To the great disappointment of the Indians, only the manager and one or two players were prepared to leave their ship at Ballard Pier.

Bradman, for instance, was nowhere to be seen. The chanting of the crowd, however, became so raucous that he was forced to appear at the deck rail and wave wildly back at them; but there was no question of his disembarking."

Though Bradman didn't step on Indian soil then, he did so five years later for the first and last time. (Invited by the bcci to attend the opening ceremony of the '87 Reliance World Cup, he declined on grounds of health).

Bradman was aboard a British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) flight to London to report on the '53 Ashes series for the Daily Mail.

He'd instructed the airline to keep his flight a secret, as it would make a brief refuelling stop in Calcutta. But BOAC, sensing a chance for some publicity, leaked it out. Hordes of fans turned up at Dum Dum airport. As did cricket officials.

Bradman faced the press patiently and was all praise for Vijay Hazare (comparing him to Sir Frank Worrell), Vinoo Mankad and Lala Amarnath. Later though, he sent a letter of protest to BOAC.

Rajneesh Gupta