Friday, July 23, 2010

Bradman’s brilliance, Donald’s duck

I rarely if ever blog about cricket, but Norm, whose forte it is, has drawn me in. He writes:

'For ever to be remembered as one of cricket's nearly men' - so says Rob Eastaway (behind the Times paywall) about... Donald Bradman. I nearly spilled my breakfast cereal. Bradman a nearly man? He only had a Test batting average at least 50 per cent better than all the other most successful batsman in the history of the game. Eastaway is referring, of course, to the four runs by which Bradman fell short of an average of 100. But still - with 99.94 I'd say he was more clearly way above nearly than he was nearly, merely.

Dead right. I don’t know much about the sport, but I know enough to know that Bradman stands in a class of his own. And I know enough about numbers to know when one is absurdly bigger than all the others. Here are the top 20 career batting averages:

More than 60 years on, this is still the sort of achievement that deserves to be gawped at in awe.

But in fact, I think I’d go further than Norm. Of course missing a round 100 average must have been frustrating, but I think the story of Bradman’s swansong – or ducksong – makes his stunning achievement that bit more memorable, a more captivating human story, a more bittersweet legend; it’s a flaw that give the gem more depth to its beauty.

There’s nothing objectively special about 100. But there’s a lot that’s humanly astonishing about 99.94.