The old lady at the reception tells me that the Don is tired; that he has described his life and times for the last eight hours at the Adelaide Oval. She insists that he will be available early the next morning. The Don, the second receptionist adds,believes in punctuality. So should you,young man. Nevertheless,I continue to plead. They relent. And Sir Donald Bradman is woken up with the sound of the shutters for one last appointment on Monday.
No,I do not see dead people. True,Bradman died in 2001. But in Adelaide,the citys most famous son is not a memory of the past. He has been kept alive through the most interactive museum anywhere in the world of cricket. There are no guided tours inside this hall (at best its the the size of your living room),but the state and the countrys cricket associations has ensured that every visitor to his shrine will be told Don Bradmans story by Don Bradman himself.
With a home theatre playing a looping narrative of his various avatars everything from being the best batsman in the world (Always remember,no batting genius can survive without a good team) to a community man (Children,never play on the road. Let me drive you to the closest park) the Don walks you through his life,while preservations from his cricketing days do the same on his career.
Nothing is out of place behind the glass shields on the waxed wooden floor,and every object in the gorgeously lit room is explained with captions and tablets. There are bats,blazers,balls,trophies,statues,pictures,letters and even a water-tank all supplied with the relevant write-ups to make a layman a Bradman fan in one visit. One doesnt even need to understand the value of runs,wickets and the dastardly effects of the Bodyline Series to relive this shard of Bradmans time,for the story of his existance is told with a much deeper sense of courage to make it all the more universal.
And for that,had he been alive at the tender age of 103,the Don would have been proud to see what his community has done for him. Its not just because he is the greatest batsman of all time (that only has a small part to play in the beauty of the museum) but mainly because he was once born an Australian.
And a proud sporting nation,Australians know how to give a good tribute to their venerated citizens.
At the Melbourne Cricket Ground,statues of every great Australian sportsperson are frozen in time with a bronze covering. At the Sydney Cricket Ground,even a heckling fan from the 20th century has now become a part of local folklore with an idol of his placed on a permanent front-row seat. Here,theyve understood how to make both the players and the watchers belong to something bigger. Quite unlike the situation back home.
Unlike Bradman,Indias patriarchal figure Lala Amarnath who incidentally became the first Indian man to dismiss him in Tests finds no mention in any of the stadiums around India. Even down the fabric of time,living legends are giving their due in Australia. Dennis Lillee has a bronze statue in Melbourne and a stand in Perth. Shane Warne hasnt finished his playing days,but he too has joined the likes of Ponsford and Woodfull at the MCG.
Maybe thats the big difference. Back in India,the living legends are buried by the associations. Here,the buried are brought back to life. If you dont trust me,just ask Bradman. He is available at the Adelaide Oval.