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Dansie recalls Don of an old era

india Updated: Feb 15, 2012 00:03 IST
Amol Karhadkar

He is four months shy of turning 84, but his memory is as sharp as the cut shots he used to play. No wonder Neil Dansie, a former South Australia batsman and selector, vividly remembers January 14, 1949.

"It was at the Kensington Park. We, Kensington, were pla ing Port Adelaide. I was a young boy, playing with Sir Don the first time," Dansie recalls. "I just sat in a corner and listened to him. When I came in, he was batting, he met me a few yards away and said, 'Sonny, I'll let you have a look at him for a while.' I never faced a ball for the first six overs. Then he'd take a single and I'd get two-three balls."

That wasn't the only tip Dansie, who was a renowned junior coach, received that day. "Then there was a fast bowler fielding at mid-on. They were going to take the new ball. He hit the ball twice that stopped a yard inside the boundary. We ran two fours, and he said to me, 'Sonny, that will take a yard or two off his pace'."

Dansie scored 22 and Bradman 36 in one of the last competitive games the Don played. "He played a spin bowler - first ball after drinks. He played for the spin, it just went off the faintest edge, and they appealed. The entire crowd booed the umpire, clapped him off, and went off to the local hotel and didn't come back."

Did Bradman have such a massive following even in club cricket? "Oh yes," Dansie's eyes light up. "When we played club cricket, people used to ring up, and if he was batting, 500-1000 people would come just to watch him bat on a Saturday afternoon. Then he would get out, and they would all go home."

Though Dansie, whose contribution to South Australia cricket is acknowledged with the indoor coaching clinic at the Adelaide Oval named after him, made that solitary appearance with Bradman, he remained one of his close associates. And he has many funny tales about the man.

"He replied to every letter he got. Once he got a letter from a boy in India. He said 'my brother and I are having an argument. I say you are alive, my brother says you are dead'. Please write back and tell us who is right. Sir Don replied, 'I think I am alive'."