Australians celebrated the centenary of the birth of Sir Donald Bradman on Wednesday, paying tribute to the world's greatest cricketer and a man who helped forge their national identity.
Bradman, who died in 2001 aged 92 and played his last innings 60 years ago to retire with a test batting average of 99.94, was hailed by current Australian captain Ricky Ponting as an incomparable figure in the history of cricket and of sport.
"It's almost like he's separate from the game," Ponting said. "His name and what he achieved, it's so far out of any player's reach, in his time or any player who has played since. It's almost like he played a different game to what we're playing. "Is there anyone who's ever played any sport who's been able to achieve that level of greatness?"
Bradman, born on Aug. 27, 1908 in rural New South Wales, played first-class cricket from 1927 to 1949 and test cricket from 1928 to 1948. He scored 28,067 first-class runs at an average of 95.14 and 6,996 runs in 52 tests with 29 centuries and a highest score of 334. He needed four runs in his last test innings, against England at The Oval, London, in 1948 to end his test career with an average of 100 but was dismissed without scoring.
His achievements in cricket came at a time when Australia was breaking traditional ties with Britain and he was seen as a hero for the era, helping Australians claim their independence and craft their character.
His life and career will be commemorated on Wednesday at functions in most state capitals cities and at events in the small towns of Cootamundra, where he was born, and Bowral, where he grew up. The major event will be a Cricket Australia dinner in Sydney, where 400 guests will listen to an address given by current Ponting. About 400 guests are also expected to attend a lunch at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where Bradman scored nine of his 29 test centuries.
The Australian cricket team will acknowledge the occasion in Darwin, where it is preparing for a limited overs series against Bangladesh.