Cricket Tragic Testimonial

26/05/15 Category: News Posted by:


Story by Mark Slater
The Bradman Museum & International Cricket Hall of Fame (for ease, I’ll just refer to it as the
Bradman Museum or the Museum) in Bowral is heaven for a cricket tragic.

So, when I suggested to my nine year old cricket mad son Joey recently that we drive up from
Canberra to visit for a second time, his eyes lit up like Zinger bails. He just had one question;

When ?

Joey isn’t just the usual child cricket fanatic. He makes my obsession with the sport at a similar age
look like a casual, passing interest. If we are not at the nets he is terrorising windows and furniture
as he practises outswingers and cover drives throughout the house, preparing for his test debut, of
course ! He channels Richie Benaud in the bath. His idea of relaxation is endlessly watching videos
of the Big Bash, Brett Lee or the ICC World Cup. For Joey, too much cricket is never enough
(apologies to H G Nelson !)

Not long ago, he was researching cricket history on his iPad and discovered a compelling but
rather turgid 1948 film narrated by John Arlott and Sir Ralph Richardson about the Lords test
match of that year between England and Australia. This wasn’t some Gen Now colour and
movement video but a somewhat ponderous expose’ that only the truly dedicated cricket nerd
could absorb. Joey watched it twice without any need for explanation from me. He was fascinated.
So, a trip to the Bradman Museum was a no brainer. Joey and I were full of eager anticipation,
although I can’t say that my wife, Therese and our ten year old daughter Scarlett were quite as
excited at the prospect of looking at all that cricket stuff.

Our first experience of the Bradman Museum in its current iteration was just after Christmas last
year, en route to Sydney. Over the years I had heard about the redevelopment and was keen to
see how the museum had grown since my last visit many years before with my parents.

Arriving in Bowral we parked opposite the beautiful Bradman Oval which, with its white picket
boundary fence and handsome pavilion, must be one of the most picturesque cricket grounds
anywhere in the world. Cricketers can only dream of hitting sublime drives, bowling alluring offcutters
and taking sharp one handed slips catches on such perfect turf.

After a gentle wander past the oval and the pavilion, with Scarlett and Joey stopping to pose for a
photograph with The Don (well, his statue at least !) we had a delicious lunch at the aptly named
Stumps Cafe then bought a family pass for a quick tour before continuing our drive to Sydney.
Since I had last visited the museum it had grown to a stature befitting Bradman’s legacy and
memory, with its impressive façade and a spacious shop stocking every conceivable item of cricket
literature, memorabilia, equipment and training aids. A small fortune could easily be spent there. It
is cricket’s lolly shop.

Adjoining the shop is the museum exhibition, a glorious patchwork panorama of wall to wall cricket
which takes you on a sublime journey through the history of the game and Bradman’s central role
in it, via a maze of connected galleries. While we only spent a short time in the museum on this
visit, being there was a chance to revisit the dense and rich history of the sport my father lovingly
introduced me to when I was Joey’s age. For Joey the kaleidoscope of great cricketing names and
events adorning every spare centimeter of wall space merely reinforced his love of the game.
His highlight was trying to match Bradman’s famous batting practice with a stump and a golf ball
against a tank stand, in the Bradman Gallery. No wonder Bradman was such a phenomenon. It is
fair to say Joey had more success than I would have had at that age.

After a brief tour of around half an hour and a diversion through Glebe Park past the statue of Mary
Poppins (her creator, EL Travers, also once lived in Bowral) and the former Bradman family home
opposite the museum, we headed away, but not before I had promised Joey we would come back
again and soon.

Soon couldn’t come fast enough.

Hence our second visit on 18 April this year, an overcast day in the early stages of the various
football seasons, not particularly resonant of summer days and the sound of leather on willow.
Joey is still bowling inswingers and lashing drives around the house and we are continuing regular
net sessions at a local oval, so for him the changing of the sporting and weather seasons is
immaterial. Cricket never stops.

This time we also brought Joey’s cricket gear with us as his other ambition for the day was to have
a bowl in the nets adjoining the oval. He loves watching and reading about the great game but
more than that he loves playing.

The museum precinct was surprisingly busy, given the time of year. The Stumps Cafe had few
vacant tables, with diners having lunch or coffee and there was plenty of activity around the
museum entrance as patrons entered, exited or simply lingered to talk. Even as Autumn slides
seamlessly towards winter and cricket becomes a hazy memory, the Bradman name has its own
special power to draw people to the game and its celebrations.

So, it was unsurprising for us to soon discover that even at this time of the year a match was being
played on the oval. Joey and I would later spend some time watching but first we had a far more
important engagement in the museum.

After another sumptuous lunch at Stumps Café to rival that on our December visit, Therese and
Scarlett headed off to Berrima for some girl time and shopping while Joey and I bought tickets for
the museum then headed into the exhibition for a purposeful meander.

Viewing cricket history should never be rushed. We wandered from room to room, stopping
frequently to play one of the many interactive games and exhibits, read about the 1948 Invincibles,
watch the fascinating movie about the origins of World Series Cricket or travel back in time through
the history of the game in the International Cricket Hall, to name but a fraction of the collection.
Joey was enthralled by everything he saw, in particular the film recounting the Bodyline series, as
much for its contemporary style as its content.

As on our first visit, his highlight was testing his batting skills with the wicket and plastic golf ball
against the replica tank stand in the Bradman Gallery. Frustration threatened to derail his innings
but in no time he was cover driving and hooking with aplomb. Maybe he will be the next Bradman,
Tendulkar or Lara !

We divided our time into two sessions, interspersed with some cricket watching at the oval, where
a keenly fought match was in progress. Despite the overcast and cool weather this was cricket at
its idyllic and simple best. Very quickly Joey and I found ourselves leaning against the white picket
fence, remarking on the state of play, absorbed in the battle between bat and ball. Cricket can have
that mesmeric effect on its devotees.

Standing on the boundary took me back to my own days as a player and I thought how much I am
looking forward to the day when I will be spending weekend days watching Joey deliver
thunderbolts, smash cracking cut shots and take miraculous catches at cover. He has only just
started his cricket journey but the Friday afternoons of last summer in the company of fellow
parents watching our Under 10 boys has given me a taste of the future, for which I wait impatiently.
After we returned to the museum to finish our tour, we spent some more time in the shop while
waiting for Therese and Scarlett to return from Berrima. However, Joey’s object was not to drive
home as soon as they arrived. He had one more box to tick for the day. Now we had finished
watching and looking it was time to spend some time in the nets next to the oval. Other than
playing, net sessions are Joey’s ultimate cricket therapy. A net session at the Bradman Oval was

As soon as the girls returned we headed to the nets via Glebe Park, which adjoins the museum. I
donned the bat, gloves and pads to face Joey’s thunderbolts while Scarlett dutifully filmed every
ball from my smart phone. Inspired by the aura of Bradman and the keen interest of some
interested spectators, Joey bowled like…the next Brett Lee, or Mitchel Starc or Dale Steyn. When
he batted, he was similarly possessed, hitting Steve Smith inspired off drives, cuts and hooks
against my rapid medium pace.

As his last hook shot sailed out of the nets onto the adjacent grass I could only observe that
Joey was in his cricket nirvana !

I don’t know when we will back to the museum but I have downloaded the Bradman Centre app for
my phone, so we can always revisit with a touch of a screen. Until we do go back for another
meander through cricket history, our two recent visits have created an indelible mark on Joey’s
love of the game, and reinforced my own.

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