Concentration’s the key if you really want to match Bradman

Andre Leslie Roar Rookie

By Andre Leslie, Andre Leslie is a Roar Rookie

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    While debate continues on just how much Steve Smith’s batting style resembles that of Sir Donald Bradman, I would argue that if a player wants to emulate that magical 99.94 average, he also needs the Don’s powers of concentration.

    There’s been plenty of talk recently about how current captain Steve Smith has a similar batting style to Australia’s captain of 70 years earlier, Don Bradman. I have to say that when I look closely at images of the two batting styles I can see the similarities.

    The grips are both unconventional and both players are quick on their feet. Bradman had a rare backlift, as does Smith, and both batsmen are more than happy to be pragmatic rather than stylish in their insatiable desire to score runs.

    But what good is a unique, effective batting technique if you don’t stay in long enough to use it? Answer: not much good.

    Bradman loved staying in for a long time. In fact in Test cricket he scored a century approximately every three innings. He also scored more than twice as many centuries as half-centuries – 29 tons to just 13 half-tons. By way of comparison, Steve Smith has 23 centuries and 22 half-centuries so far. Alastair Cook, whose epic innings in the fourth Test dashed Aussie hopes of a whitewash, has scored 32 and 55 respectively.

    So it was Bradman’s ability to knuckle down and concentrate to score big totals that really set him apart, even if he perhaps didn’t know it himself.

    “Many cricketers … had more ability than I had,” he was once quoted as saying. “Why they didn’t make more runs than I did I don’t know.”

    Certainly his intense concentration is something that observers around him remarked upon both during his career and when they met him later. It’s something he may have picked up from a young age.

    (Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

    I recently had the pleasure of visiting Bradman’s childhood home in Bowral, at 52 Shepherd Street, on a private tour. The modest wooden home has been restored with a keen eye for detail and is packed full of items that would have adorned it in Bradman’s day.

    Hidden smart speakers have also been installed to give visitors an idea of what it would have sounded like in the Bradman household around 1920 or so. With the click of a few buttons you are transported back in time, hearing the house as it would have been.

    With mother Emily chopping dinner in the kitchen, George doing his carpentry work in the front room and Don’s four siblings either practising their singing or playing their musical instruments, you can easily imagine a young Bradman sitting in the middle of it all, battling to complete his homework.

    No wonder he went outside with a golf ball and a stump.

    Bradman ended up getting pretty good grades, was also a top pianist himself and then headed off to play grade cricket in Sydney as a teenager. The rest, as they say, is history.

    I don’t know much about how Steve Smith spent his childhood days. Either way, his powers of concentration seem to be getting stronger and stronger of late, whether it is perfectly mixing aggression and patience or batting it out for a draw. His former batting coach Trent Woodhill told Fairfax recently it’s all because the 28-year-old treats each delivery he receives as “a gift”.

    To match Bradman’s numbers Smith will have to hold on to that approach. Concentrating on each ball will see him get the most out of his unique batting style, which bowlers the world over seem to have not yet worked out.

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    The Crowd Says (20)

    • January 3rd 2018 @ 9:12am
      paul said | January 3rd 2018 @ 9:12am | ! Report

      A nice article but I also suspect Bradman was being modest when talking about others being more talented than he.

      There are obviously many factors that make up a great batsman and Bradman had these in spades. Apart form those already mentioned, there is mental strength and physical fitness, reaction times, etc. We’ll never know what made Bradman so good but it’s nice that every generation we seem to have players who, for a short while, get close to his standards.

    • January 3rd 2018 @ 9:58am
      Tony Tea said | January 3rd 2018 @ 9:58am | ! Report

      I would suggest that what separates Smith from his contemporaries, and in fact has him compared to Bradman, is that he has serious concentration. He has his head in the right headspace.

    • January 3rd 2018 @ 10:53am
      Bobbo7 said | January 3rd 2018 @ 10:53am | ! Report

      Smith is a great player but he is not in the league of Bradman – no one is. Bradman dominated far more than the next best in his era than Smith is. Add the bigger bats, super flat wickets and smaller boundaries and Smith’s average is inflated. Australia has never had such flat wickets – quality players like Smith are making it look easy.

      Don’t get me wrong, he is a great player and has shown he can make runs everywhere but he is no Bradman or Alan Border for that matter.

      • January 3rd 2018 @ 11:17am
        paul said | January 3rd 2018 @ 11:17am | ! Report

        Bradman and team mates played on some pretty flat decks as well. Ponsford made two scores over 400, Victoria made 1107 in one innings, etc. The same in England; in 1938, when Hutton made 364 and England made more than 900, that pitch was deliberately set up as though the game was timeless – a bit like the Melbourne wicket!

      • January 3rd 2018 @ 11:29am
        jameswm said | January 3rd 2018 @ 11:29am | ! Report

        The next 3 test bats in the world are Kohli, Root and Williamson. Smith has had series against all 3 in the last 12 months, and has monstered them all.

        He’s not in Bradman’s class of course, but he’s heading up to close to it. If he continues like this for another few years, he’ll become the 2nd best test batsman ever.

        • January 3rd 2018 @ 11:54am
          Bobbo7 said | January 3rd 2018 @ 11:54am | ! Report

          In 2017 Smith averaged 76, Kohli 75, Williamson 62 – Smith is better but not by that much when you look at the stats. He also feasts out on Australia’s roads.

          As good as these players are they are also playing in an era of very flat pitches.

          • Roar Guru

            January 3rd 2018 @ 12:11pm
            The Bush said | January 3rd 2018 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

            Smith’s averaged over 70 for the last 4 years, Kohli only 2. Plus if anyone feasts on home tracks against weak attacks, it’s Kohli. Great bat and definitely second right now, but Smith is comfortably ahead of him.

            • January 3rd 2018 @ 12:26pm
              bobbo7 said | January 3rd 2018 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

              Smith is definitely the best right now – no doubt and a great player. However, I disagree that India’s batting surfaces are easier than Australia’s these days.

              Australia’s test wickets are as flat as anywhere these days meaning players like Warner look far better than they are.

              Williamson and Kohli both average over 50 in Australia as well against a far superior bowling attack – this is because pitches everywhere are flat as a tack.

              • January 3rd 2018 @ 5:40pm
                jameswm said | January 3rd 2018 @ 5:40pm | ! Report

                Here is Williamson in 2016

                at home against Australia – 16, 22, 7, 97.
                Mid-2016 v the Zims – 91, 113 and 68no
                v SA in SA – 2no, 77 & 5
                In India 75, 25, 8, 27,
                at home v Pakistan – 4, 61, 13 & 42.

                Talk about feasting on weaker sides. Take out the Zims and it’s 481 runs in 15 innings (one n.o.) at 34.

                Include the Zims and it becomes 753 runs at 47.

                Kohli has just played 6 tests straight against SL. 771 runs at 110, including two doubles and two not out tons. Does wonders for your average. Before that he played 3 tests against us, for 46 runs at 9. Preceded that series with a double ton against Bangladesh.

                Smith in that Indian series scored 3 tons in 4 games, for 499 runs at 71. On some tough decks

              • January 3rd 2018 @ 5:57pm
                jameswm said | January 3rd 2018 @ 5:57pm | ! Report

                Smith’s 2 games in Bangladesh gave him 119 runs at 30. Not dining out on minnows.

                The last time he did poorly was in the Ashes in mid-2015. Two tests in a row of only single digit scores. He did get a double ton and a 50 on the test before.

                Looking back, he came of age as a freak when India toured in late 2015/early 2015. 4 tests, a ton in the 1st innings of each, and even two half centuries in 2nd innings. About 770 runs in 4 tests. He was even not out in both innings in the first test (162no and 52no). Averaged a phenomenal 128 that series, against the team now ranked 1. Kohli two tons that first test in a losing side, Lyon 12 wickets in the match against the best players of spin in the country reputed to be a spinner’s graveyard.

      • January 3rd 2018 @ 9:13pm
        John Erichsen said | January 3rd 2018 @ 9:13pm | ! Report

        The introduction of covered pitches is worth noting too.

    • Roar Guru

      January 3rd 2018 @ 11:20am
      Paul D said | January 3rd 2018 @ 11:20am | ! Report

      Spot on – the thing about Smith right now is he loves batting, he wants to be out there for hours and hours – Bradman had that in spades, the same bloody mindedness and determination to score that separated him from his peers, both on and off the field. It’s the same bloody mindedness that left Keith Miller aghast when Bradman told him to bounce Jack Ikin, a former rat of tobruk, for example – Smith seems to do a better job in smoothing off his rough edges on the field. I suspect in Warner he has a more loyal lieutenant than Bradman ever had.

      • January 3rd 2018 @ 2:47pm
        Pope Paul VII said | January 3rd 2018 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

        And “Ikin’s catch” at Brissie in 1946 when old Braddles stood his ground. An uncharacteristic act for that era. Wish they had DRS for that one.

      • January 3rd 2018 @ 3:15pm
        Linphoma said | January 3rd 2018 @ 3:15pm | ! Report

        No doubting his love of batting. I explained the Smith phenomenon to a mate the other day in terms of “He sits on the toilet and I’m sure he has a bat in one if not two hands…”. The bloody mindedness, tick, bodyline him in Brisbane, two foot outside off in Perth, no problems.
        As for smoothing the rough edges, I think he still has a way to go in mastering a captain’s demeanor and body language. I never heard of Bradman blowing up on the field.

        • January 3rd 2018 @ 6:10pm
          Pope Paul VII said | January 3rd 2018 @ 6:10pm | ! Report

          Bradman was far too polite Lin. However he was a forceful character, often with a knowing grin. He was the Don and knew it. Have a read about the controversial “catch” by Jack Ikin in 1946 Brisbane Test. Can’t think of the link could be “A fine !!!!!!! way to start a series!” after the alleged response by Wally Hammond to the Don standing his ground.

    • January 3rd 2018 @ 2:57pm
      Brainstrust said | January 3rd 2018 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

      The opposite is true, if you want to score really big runs you need to bat without concentration or extra effort because concentrating tires you out.. Bradman did score 452 not out in the Shefield Shield he was a natural, from what I have seen of his videos.. The other batsman I would put in that class would be ,Barry Richards who averaged 100 in his Sheffield Shield season and scored 350 ,Ponsford is another one averaged in the Sheffield Shield 80 and scored a 400 and an Amercian baseball team touring here wanted to take him to play baseball as well. You can see it in Brian Lara, he looks fresh when he scores a big score.
      Smith likes batting but puts much more effort at test level and he does look tired when he scores big, and he hasn’t scored a really big one in the Sheffield Shield.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 3rd 2018 @ 9:22pm
        Andre Leslie said | January 3rd 2018 @ 9:22pm | ! Report

        Interesting idea… I’ve never heard of anyone batting ‘without concentration’ to prolong their innings.

        One thing that I have had coached to me is the idea of switching off between balls.. so as to minimise the chunks of time for concentration… almost down to around two seconds per ball.

        In a onedayer that’s 300 x 2 secs in the field… plus maybe 100-200 secs while batting. That’s something that many cricketers do .. in my experience… to keep their mind fresh through the day.

    • January 3rd 2018 @ 3:52pm
      Internal Fixation said | January 3rd 2018 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

      Hi Linphoma,

      Bradman was not a “champion” off the field by any stretch of he imagination.

      He was thoroughly disliked by many as an administrator in SACA.

      He was also kicked out of the Adelaide Club (the only expensive old boys club in Adelaide) due to multiple episodes of dodgy stockbroking in his immediate post cricket career.

      The point is not to degenerate Bradman but we all have weaknesses and flaws. If Smith’s is the odd blow up (aka the new captain grumpy) I’m happy to take that.

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