Bowral (Australia): If you are a cricket devotee then an Australian sojourn is never complete without a visit to cricket's ultimate pilgrimage, Sir Donald Bradman's village Bowral, where he spent 17 formative years of his life.
Walking around the village (it can also be termed as 'Bradman Walk') from Bradman Oval to Bowral Public school to his two houses where he had stayed before his Test debut, it seemed that even after 87 years since Bradman left the village as a 20-year-old, his presence is felt in every nook and corner of the village.
An hour and 40 minute drive from Sydney is required to reach Bowral. As usual the drive down the Australian highway filled with greenery on both sides automatically lifts one's energy level.
By the time you hit the gates of Bradman Oval, a small picturesque ground in the heart of village, you feel united with Bradman's spirit. It's difficult to believe that you are standing on the same ground where the seeds of greatness were first sown in early 1920's.
This is the ground where Sir Don first hit a century in Grade Cricket. One of the many he would hit in the next 25 years in competitive cricket.
Once you enter Bradman Museum, which was inaugurated by the great man himself in 1989, it seems that one has been made to sit on a Time Machine some 70 years back. As you walk down the museum, lies a handwritten two line note written by the Don on December 10, 1928, which reads: "If it's difficult, I will do it now. If it's impossible, I will do it presently."
If one checks the statistical archives and tallies with the date of the note, one will find it was written between the first and second Test matches of his career. He failed in the first Test match and got 79 and 112 in the second Test. May be that little note was to charge himself up.
The caps and the Blazer, the life size portraits and the picture of the 1948 Australian cricket team better known as "Bradman's Invincibles" is steeped in tradition. The pictures of Bradman, Neil Harvey, Keith Miller, Arthur Morris, Bill Brown proudly adorn the walls.
Also present is a rough first manuscript of his book 'Farewell to Cricket'. Once you get out of the museum, you walk around 20 Glebe Street and 52 Shepherd Street, the two homes where Bradman lived during his time in Bowral.
The Glebe Street home is where curator of museum David Wells now stays while the Shepherd Street residence has been sold and a family resides there. Incidentally a plaque at Glebe Street will tell you that Bradman assisted his father in construction of the old fashioned thatched roof house with traditional red-brick design.
As one curiously looks around to see if someone could have some piece of information, one would find a very old man with a walking stick in hand. His name is Kelvin Wood and he is 92 years old and he is the second cousin of Jesse Menzes or Lady Jesse Bradman.
"She was my second cousin and married Donald Bradman. I don't tell anyone that I am related to the great man. I was a child when Bradman moved to Sydney. He was a good man, a good Christian. Never drank and created trouble. He was a likeable man," Wood would tell you.
According to Tina Macpherson, a 65-year-old lady, employed with the Bradman Museum, the Oval is well-maintained and women's Test matches have been played as late as last year.
She proudly recalls when Sachin Tendulkar dropped in at the ground last October for a charity event.
"Sachin came on a chopper and it landed right on the playing strip. The kids were so excited to see him. He is a marvellous human being and so humble. Last month, Brett Lee came with Toyota people for a shoot. He is also a nice gentleman to talk to. A few days back, umpires S Ravi, Billy Bowden and Marais Erasmus also visited our museum," Macpherson said proudly.
Asked about her designation in the Bradman museum, she answers dismissively, "I have no designation as such. I am one of 10 employees along with 25 volunteers. I was volunteer for 10 years and now an employee. I love playing with kids who come with their parents. I bowl to them."
But before you can ask her a next question, she stumps you, "I played Women's Ashes Test match for Australia and also in the first ever Women's Cricket World Cup held in 1973 (before men's World Cup). I was a pace bowler, who could also sledge you know."
She then explained Bradman's vision for the museum. "Sir Don didn't want it to be just a museum to showcase him to the world. He wanted it to be a cricket museum. That's why you would see a 'Hall of Fame', jerseys of cricketers from Packer Series and those Benson and Hedges World Series which used to be held year after year."
While leaving Bowral, what stays etched in memory is a paragraph from his typed rough manuscript of 'Farewell to Cricket'. It's about captaincy and it felt as if Bradman must have 'written it for Dhoni' without even knowing he would captain India.
"A good captain must be a fighter ? confident, but not arrogant, firm but not obstinate, able to take criticism without letting it unduly disturb him, for he is sure to get it and unjustly too."