Donald Bradman : biography
"The effect of the announcement was little short of spectacular". The hospital could not deal with the number of donors, and closed its switchboard in the face of the avalanche of telephone calls generated by the news. Journalists were asked by their editors to prepare obituaries. Teammate Bill O’Reilly took a call from King George’s secretary asking that the King be kept informed of the situation. Jessie Bradman started the month-long journey to London as soon as she received the news. En route, she heard a rumour that her husband had died. A telephone call clarified the situation and by the time she reached London, Bradman had begun a slow recovery. He followed medical advice to convalesce, taking several months to return to Australia and missing the 1934–35 Australian season.
Internal politics and the Test captaincy
There was off-field intrigue in Australian cricket during the antipodean winter of 1935. Australia, scheduled to make a tour of South Africa at the end of the year, needed to replace the retired Bill Woodfull as captain. The Board of Control wanted Bradman to lead the team, yet, on 8 August, the Board announced Bradman’s withdrawal from the team due to a lack of fitness. Surprisingly, in the light of this announcement, Bradman led the South Australian team in a full programme of matches that season.Bradman (1950), pp 94–97.
The captaincy was given to Vic Richardson, Bradman’s predecessor as South Australian captain. Richardson’s record in 14 Tests was 622 runs at 24.88. Against South Africa, he made 84 runs in 5 innings. Cricket author Chris Harte’s analysis of the situation is that a prior (unspecified) commercial agreement forced Bradman to remain in Australia.Harte (1993), p 360. Harte attributed an ulterior motive to his relocation: the off-field behaviour of Richardson and other South Australian players had displeased the South Australia Cricket Association (SACA), which was looking for new leadership. To help improve discipline, Bradman became a committeeman of the SACA, and a selector of the South Australian and Australian teams.Harte (1993), p 352. He took his adopted state to its first Sheffield Shield title for 10 years, Bradman weighing in with personal contributions of 233 against Queensland and 357 against Victoria. He finished the season with 369 (in 233 minutes), a South Australian record, made against Tasmania. The bowler who dismissed him, Reginald Townley, would later become leader of the Tasmanian Liberal Party.
Australia defeated South Africa 4–0 and senior players such as Bill O’Reilly were pointed in their comments about the enjoyment of playing under Richardson’s captaincy.O’Reilly (1985), pp 144–145. A group of players who were openly hostile toward Bradman formed during the tour. For some, the prospect of playing under Bradman was daunting, as was the knowledge that he would additionally be sitting in judgement of their abilities in his role as a selector.Williams (1996), p 148.
To start the new season, the Test side played a "Rest of Australia" team, captained by Bradman, at Sydney in early October 1936. The Test XI suffered a big defeat, due to Bradman’s 212 and a haul of 12 wickets taken by leg-spinner Frank Ward.Harte (1993), p 369. Bradman let the members of the Test team know that despite their recent success, the team still required improvement. Shortly afterwards, Bradman’s first child was born on 28 October, but died the next day. He took time out of cricket for two weeks and on his return made 192 in three hours against Victoria in the last match before the beginning of the Ashes series.
The Test selectors made five changes to the team who had played in the previous Test match. Significantly, Australia’s most successful bowler Clarrie Grimmett was replaced by Ward, one of four players making their debut. Bradman’s role in Grimmett’s omission from the team was controversial and it became a theme that dogged Bradman as Grimmett continued to be prolific in domestic cricket while his successors were ineffective—he was regarded as having finished the veteran bowler’s Test career in a political purge. Australia fell to successive defeats in the opening two Tests, Bradman making two ducks in his four innings, and it seemed that the captaincy was affecting his form. The selectors made another four changes to the team for the Third Test at Melbourne.