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Did Don Bradman ruin cricket for everyone else?

Even with the record breaking achievements of Steve Smith in the first test against England, he still remains a long way behind cricket's greatest ever batsman. So did Don Bradman ruin cricket by making it too hard for cricket records to be broken or did he make it better?

Don Bradman works on his game. Source: mykhel.com

When Steve Smith made a century in the first innings at Edgbaston, he had brought up his 24th test century in 118 innings. It was faster than the next best, Virat Kohli (123 innings), faster than Sachin Tendulkar (125) and faster than Sunil Gavaskar (128). Then there was Don Bradman, sitting away in the distance, who achieved the same feat from 66 innings. Out on his own, as usual.

When Smith finished his second innings century, another superb display to help Australia to a first test win, he had accumulated the second most runs (6,485) by anyone after 119 test innings, ahead of Walter Hammond (6,440) on the list who had been relegated to third spot. Out in front was, you guessed it, Don Bradman on 6,996. Completed in only 80 innings.

Which other sport has the best player so far ahead of second best and virtually unreachable from the chasing pack?

Walter Hagen (11 golfing majors) held the record for most majors in golf for 44 years, but then Jack Nicklaus came along and took the record to 18. His record has stood for 46 years but will one day be beaten. If not by Tiger Woods it will be beaten by someone else. It is not unbreakable.

Usain Bolt’s 2009 world record of 9.58 seconds for the 100m has stood for 10 years, but whether it takes 10, 20 or 30 more years, one day it will be broken. A swimmer who gets close to what Michael Phelps has achieved will one day come along, maybe not in this generation or the next, but he will come along one day.

But no cricketer who can match Bradman will ever play the sport again. His records are untouchable.

Don Bradman walking out to bat. Source: Gladstone Observer

Don Bradman had missed eight and a half years due to World War 2, but in his first test back, in Brisbane in 1946, he made 187. The bad news for England was he was just warming up. He went down to Sydney and made 234.

One way to look at Bradman’s record’s is to suggest he had very limited opposition to play against. Only England, and an inexperienced India, South Africa and West Indies teams. However Bradman’s average of just shy of 100 in test cricket didn’t stop at that level. Over 234 first class matches he averaged 95.14. In Sheffield Shield cricket he averaged 110.19. He rarely took a day off, and made runs like to nobody before, or since.

The term ‘best since Bradman’ has become synonymous in cricket. Was Ricky Ponting Australia’s best since Bradman? Is Steve Smith the best batsman since Bradman? Whilst Tendulkar, Lara, Sobers, Richards, Gavaskar, Miandad, Ponting, Kohli and Smith are all compared with each other, nobody is comparable to Bradman.

Steve Smith achieved something Bradman never did in making twin centuries in an Ashes test. Source: smh.com.au

So is having a player that far ahead of everyone else good for cricket? Is having the best that far ahead of second best a good thing, or did he ruin it for everyone else?

The positives are the modern day ‘Goat’ arguments don’t get played out so much? Federer or Nadal or Djokovic? Le Bron James or Michael Jordan? Tiger or Jack? Cricket has only one winner.

The name Bradman can travel in a similar way to how Wayne Gretzky travelled to non ice hockey playing nations. Even if you aren’t an ice hockey fan, there is a good chance you have heard of the Canadian. Bradman has helped non cricketing people come to know cricket.

He did make it hard for every other cricketer though. Nobody can match what he has done, there will never be someone who averages 100 with the bat in cricket. His unattainable records will remain that way, and for those of us who didn’t see him, we can just sit and wonder: how in the world did he do it?

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