Donald Bradman : biography
Despite the pressure of captaincy, Bradman’s batting form remained supreme. An experienced, mature player now commonly called "The Don" had replaced the blitzing style of his early days as the "Boy from Bowral". In 1938–39, he led South Australia to the Sheffield Shield and made a century in six consecutive innings to equal CB Fry’s world record. Bradman totalled 21 first-class centuries in 34 innings, from the beginning of the 1938 tour of England (including preliminary games in Australia) until early 1939.
The next season, Bradman made an abortive bid to join the Victoria state side. The Melbourne Cricket Club advertised the position of club secretary and he was led to believe that if he applied, he would get the job.Dunstan (1988), p 172. The position, which had been held by Hugh Trumble until his death in August 1938, was one of the most prestigious jobs in Australian cricket. The annual salary of £1,000 would make Bradman financially secure while allowing him to retain a connection with the game.Williams (1996), pp 182–183. "Nevertheless, the Secretaryship of the Melbourne Cricket Club was, and indeed, still is one of the most attractive jobs in the world of Australian cricket …" On 18 January 1939, the club’s committee, on the casting vote of the chairman, chose former Test batsman Vernon Ransford over Bradman.Coleman (1993) pp 425–426.
The 1939–40 season was Bradman’s most productive ever for SA: 1,448 runs at an average of 144.8. He made three double centuries, including 251 not out against NSW, the innings that he rated the best he ever played in the Sheffield Shield, as he tamed Bill O’Reilly at the height of his form.Bradman (1950), p 120. However, it was the end of an era. The outbreak of World War Two led to the indefinite postponement of all cricket tours, and the suspension of the Sheffield Shield competition.Harte (1993), pp 382–383.
Troubled war years
Bradman joined the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on 28 June 1940 and was passed fit for air crew duty.Williams (1996), p 187. The RAAF had more recruits than it could equip and train and Bradman spent four months in Adelaide before the Governor-General of Australia, Lord Gowrie, persuaded Bradman to transfer to the army, a move that was criticised as a safer option for him. Given the rank of Lieutenant, he was posted to the Army School of Physical Training at Frankston, Victoria, to act as a divisional supervisor of physical training. The exertion of the job aggravated his chronic muscular problems, diagnosed as fibrositis. Surprisingly, in light of his batting prowess, a routine army test revealed that Bradman had poor eyesight.Page (1983), p 266–267.
Invalided out of service in June 1941, Bradman spent months recuperating, unable even to shave himself or comb his hair due to the extent of the muscular pain he suffered. He resumed stockbroking during 1942. In his biography of Bradman, Charles Williams expounded the theory that the physical problems were psychosomatic, induced by stress and possibly depression; Bradman read the book’s manuscript and did not disagree.Eason (2004), p 61. Had any cricket been played at this time, he would not have been available. Although he found some relief in 1945 when referred to the Melbourne masseur Ern Saunders, Bradman permanently lost the feeling in the thumb and index finger of his (dominant) right hand.Bradman (1950), p 122.
In June 1945, Bradman faced a financial crisis when the firm of Harry Hodgetts collapsed due to fraud and embezzlement.
Bradman moved quickly to set up his own business, utilising Hodgetts' client list and his old office in Grenfell Street, Adelaide. The fallout led to a prison term for Hodgetts, and left a stigma attached to Bradman's name in the city's business community for many years.
However, the SA Cricket Association had no hesitation in appointing Bradman as their delegate to the Board of Control in place of Hodgetts. Now working alongside some of the men he had battled in the 1930s, Bradman quickly became a leading light in the administration of the game. With the resumption of international cricket, he was once more appointed a Test selector, and played a major role in planning for post-war cricket.Harte (1992), pp 392–393.