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Bradman the captain

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by Neville Jayaweera

(Continued from last week)

A great deal has been said about Bradman the batting genius and the records and statistics place his prowess beyond cavil and debate. However, there is Bradman the captain and Bradman the man to consider and here it is not to statistics that we turn to so much, as the opinions of men. In order to sketch out the fairest possible profile of the great man I have conflated the views of W.J. O’Reilly and Jack Fingleton, both of whom played with him, of two outstanding cricketing journalists of his time, John Arlott and Arthur Mailey and of one politician connoisseur, Sir Robert Menzies, Prime Minister of Australia .

As a captain, Bradman emerges with some very distinctive characteristics. In an age when computer statistics and video replays were not even a distant dream, Bradman’s extraordinary brain was more than a substitute. Before he took the field he had already retrieved from his prodigious memory the strengths and weaknesses of every player in the opposing side, data which he had stored away for future use. He worked to a strategy and was never ruffled even when his set plan seemed in disarray. He stayed absolutely cool under fire, and even on the rare occasions when he had to retreat, he regrouped quickly and regained the initiative. As a captain he was always taciturn on the field and rarely interfered with his bowlers preferring to let them get on with it. He was also rarely known to reprimand players for errant fielding, but his very presence on the field was such an overpowering influence that every defection soon corrected itself. On the other hand, he also rarely advised or coached his colleagues, overtly. Neil Harvey recalls that when, at the age of 19 he scored a century on debut in England and returned to the dressing room, let alone receiving a pat on the back from the great man, he did not get even a nod of the head in acknowledgement. He merely expected other members of the team to learn by watching him and there was indeed a lot to learn there.

Three driving motives provide keys to understanding the dynamics of Bradman the captain. One was the passion for excellence in every department of the game. There was nothing called second best in his vocabulary. Next, there was the desire to win. Be it a benefit match or even a festival match, he had to win. Thirdly, at least after the ill-fated Jardine tour, he seemed to be driven relentlessly by a dislike for the “Poms”. It was a dislike which developed mainly out of the bodyline series but also partly from final test at the Oval in 1938, where a mediocre Len Hutton broke his record. The bodyline series set the seal on his dislike for the English. He never fully recovered from the trauma of that series and he never forgave Jardine. Bradman post-bodyline was never the same. He no longer danced down the wicket nor improvise in mid-stroke as he used to. The total effect was to produce in him an incurable dislike for the English.

 

Bradman the man

As a man, by all accounts, Bradman emerges as unfriendly, taciturn and a recluse. He rarely fraternized even with members of his team. Upon returning to the dressing room, even on completing a big score, which was often, he would not exchange banter or hang around to receive accolades but would retire to a corner and be by himself. In the hotel where the team lodged, he would dine privately in his room and would rarely join in the fun and the banter downstairs. He hated signing autographs and often left his hotel stealthily by the back door simply to avoid being mobbed by the hundreds who were waiting outside. O’Reilly would explain Bradman’s taciturn and reclusive manner as an aspect of his desire constantly to keep his mind focused on the game. He did not want to let his concentration flag, even off the field, but kept turning over in his mind the flaws of his opponents, the lessons of the day and the plan for the morrow. Bradman neither smoked nor drank, except to propose a toast and socially, at a cocktail party or at a formal dinner. He disliked the press and rarely gave interviews but he was very sensitive to criticism and went to great lengths to clear himself, even on trivial matters, as one can gather from his autobiographical Farewell to Cricket.

 

Critics and detractors

Bradman had several critiques and detractors as well, and principal amongst them were Fingleton and O’Reilly, both of whom played with him. The former is quite adamant that at the first Test at the Gabba in 1946, Ikin caught Bradman at point and that in standing his ground without walking, Bradman cheated. However, in his Farewell to Cricket Bradman denies this vehemently and insists that the ball had bumped. O’Reilly in particular was very severe on Bradman and while conceding without reservation that he was a batting genius who would perhaps never be equaled, also thought that he was pathologically egocentric and played only for himself. On the other hand, others explain O’Reilly’s ill-concealed personal dislike for Bradman as merely a manifestation of an Irish Roman Catholic’s incurable hatred for an English Puritan!

For a more balanced view we may perhaps turn to John Arlott and Arthur Mailey. Arlott’s critique of Bradman might as well have come from the pen of a philosopher. He had this say of the great man,

“Wide-reaching as Bradman’s activities have been, they have all been on one level of consciousness. If I were faced with a task, on a materialistic plane, I would sooner have Don Bradman to work with me than any other man …. I feel he is able to achieve almost anything within his physical compass with utter competence and with an intensity rare in the human race. [However] …. upon what level of mind or soul he argues with himself about his aims I have no means of knowing. I do know however that he is capable of setting himself a semi-tangible target which is not in any record book …. how I wonder would Bradman define happiness.” – (quoted in Fingleton’s Brightly fades the Don).

What Arlott is suggesting here in a somewhat convoluted or mystical language is that Bradman was a one-dimensional man who could excel as no other man could, on a particular plane of his choosing, but that his character lacked complexity and completeness. Which I think is itself somewhat incomplete as a critique, considering that Bradman was also a model family man, a superb after dinner speaker with an ability to speak on almost any subject relevant to the occasion and a very successful administrator and financial manager as well. Admittedly he was a very private person, an introvert, even a recluse, and was clearly out of place among men who measured out their lives, when off the field, with beer mugs and shovels of wearied reminiscences. If anything, that should suggest complexity and a vertical dimension to his character, rather than a lack of it, as Arlott seems to suggest.

Arthur Mailey of the Sydney Telegraph, who had known Bradman from his days in Bowral, had this to say. ” Bradman is an enigma, a paradox; an idol of millions, yet, with a few, the most unpopular cricketer I have ever met. … There are at least two major reason why some dislike him without compromise, forgiveness or tolerance: jealousy and this great cricketer’s independence….Bradman has a very acute brain. But there are some aspects of his mental outlook which lack the benefit of finer thinking. He is dogmatic on subjects or opinions, which even an expert, or a master would treat with great care and discretion….Bradman was brought up

the hard way, the lonely way. That’s why he practised as a boy by hitting a ball up against the a brick wall, and when he felt the cold draught of antagonism within the ranks he kept counsel, remained unperturbed, and knew his greatest weapon was centuries and more centuries” (quoted in Fingleton’s Brightly fades the Don).

Finally let me quote from Robert Menzies, one time Prime Minister of Australia, an ardent admirer but an honest critic. ” Bradman is of course not without critics; he has succeeded too gigantically to escape them. He has his faults, no doubt, but they are merely the defects inherent in those positive qualities which have given him pre-eminence …. He believes in the virtue of concentrating all his mind upon the job in hand. He therefore plays to win. Once or twice I have thought that this ruthless quality might have been tempered with a little mercy; but reflection has almost always brought me back to the recognition that intense concentration IS a cardinal virtue, so rare that for its sake even much might be forgiven” (quoted in Fingleton’s Brightly fades the Don).

 

The complete Bradman

Any true assessment of Don Bradman must go beyond merely harking upon his extraordinary batting statistics and his prowess at the crease, which almost all, admirers as well as critics, consider to be unrivalled yet, and as likely to remain so forever. We may also dispose of, as wanton speculation, the question whether he was as good on wet wickets as he was on hard bouncy wickets, by pointing to his sensational feats on wet summer wickets in England. We may with equal disdain ignore suggestions that he could not cope with fast bowling, by recalling his 50 plus average against the fastest and meanest bowlers of his day. All that we can safely put away as carping, born of envy.

However, there is this other side of Bradman which cricketers, being who they are, tend to miss and which only a discerning few like John Arlott and Robert Menzies seem to have detected. I refer to Bradman the thinker, to Bradman the man with extraordinary powers of concentration, whose inerrancy of eye and co-ordination of limb were only the outworking of a particular level of consciousness. Bradman was more than just a great batsman or a successful captain of cricket. He seems to have had qualities of character, which would have won for him pre-eminence in any walk of life he chose to follow, and by any classical standards of assessing greatness Bradman was also a great man.

I haven’t read many biographies on Bradman but according to Gideon Haigh, whose excellent and well balanced article on Bradman appears in the Picador Book of Cricket, edited by Ramachandra Guha, the best Bradman biography is one written by an Englishman, Irving Rosenwater, titled, “Sir Donald Bradman”. Among other things, Haigh’s article is notable for an exceptional paragraph with which he concludes his article, (with apologies to C. L. R. James, he says) which I would like to quote here, ” What do they know of Bradman who only cricket know? Surely it is possible in writing about someone who has lived for ninety years to do something more than prattle on endlessly about the fifteen or so of them he spent in flannels- recirculating the same stories, the same banal and blinkered visions- and bring some new perspectives and insights?” Haigh goes on, ” Where are the home-grown biographies of Charlie Macartney, Warwick Armstrong, Bill Woodfull, Bill Ponsford, Lindsay Hassett, Keith Miller, Neil Harvey, Alan Davidson, Richie Benaud, Bob Simpson, even Denis Lillee, plus sundry others one could name? Such is the lava flow from the Bradman volcano, they are unlikely to see daylight.”

To wind up my own tribute to the great man, I would like to draw attention to the standards of behaviour and conduct that Bradman set for himself and his team, on and off the field. The latter day culture of sledging, which is perhaps, after Bradman, the single most noteworthy Aussie contribution to the world’s cricketing culture, would have been unthinkable under Bradman. Some of his successors, notably Ian Chappel, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh, have sought with extraordinary disingenuousness, to justify rowdy, coarse and boorish behaviour on the field by calling it sledging and claiming it as a legitimate strategy for unsettling the opposition. By whatever name they may seek to varnish it, rowdy, coarse and boorish behaviour would never have been countenanced by Bradman, on or off the field. There was no need to have recourse to such weapons to unsettle the opposition. In Bradman’s cricket culture the only way to unsettle the opposition was through recourse to batting and bowling prowess and through intelligent field placing and skill in catching and throwing. Sledging was the invention of mediocre men. It was their way of confessing that true cricketing greatness was beyond them.

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Govt.’s choice is dialogue over confrontation

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By Jehan Perera

Preparing for the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council cannot be easy for a government elected on a nationalist platform that was very critical of international intervention. When the government declared its intention to withdraw from Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of the October 2015 resolution No. 30/1 last February, it may have been hoping that this would be the end of the matter. However, this is not to be. The UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s report that will be taken up at the forthcoming UNHRC session in March contains a slate of proposals that are severely punitive in nature and will need to be mitigated. These include targeted economic sanctions, travel bans and even the involvement of the International Criminal Court.

Since UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit in May 2009 just a few days after the three-decade long war came to its bloody termination, Sri Lanka has been a regular part of the UNHRC’s formal discussion and sometimes even taking the centre stage. Three resolutions were passed on Sri Lanka under acrimonious circumstances, with Sri Lanka winning the very first one, but losing the next two. As the country became internationally known for its opposition to revisiting the past, sanctions and hostile propaganda against it began to mount. It was only after the then Sri Lankan government in 2015 agreed to co-sponsor a fresh resolution did the clouds begin to dispel.

Clearly in preparation for the forthcoming UNHRC session in Geneva in March, the government has finally delivered on a promise it made a year ago at the same venue. In February 2020 Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena sought to prepare the ground for Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from co-sponsorship of UN Human Rights Council resolution No 30/1 of 2015. His speech in Geneva highlighted two important issues. The first, and most important to Sri Lanka’s future, was that the government did not wish to break its relationships with the UN system and its mechanisms. He said, “Sri Lanka will continue to remain engaged with, and seek as required, the assistance of the UN and its agencies including the regular human rights mandates/bodies and mechanisms in capacity building and technical assistance, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.”

Second, the Foreign Minister concluding his speech at the UNHRC session in Geneva saying “No one has the well-being of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural people of Sri Lanka closer to their heart, than the Government of Sri Lanka. It is this motivation that guides our commitment and resolve to move towards comprehensive reconciliation and an era of stable peace and prosperity for our people.” On that occasion the government pledged to set up a commission of inquiry to inquire into the findings of previous commissions of inquiry. The government’s action of appointing a sitting Supreme Court judge as the chairperson of a three-member presidential commission of inquiry into the findings and recommendations of earlier commissions and official bodies can be seen as the start point of its response to the UNHRC.

 

 

NEGATIVE RESPONSE

 

The government’s setting up of a Commission of Inquiry has yet to find a positive response from the international and national human rights community and may not find it at all. The national legal commentator Kishali Pinto Jayawardene has written that “the tasks encompassed within its mandate have already been performed by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC, 2011) under the term of this President’s brother, himself the country’s Executive President at the time, Mahinda Rajapaksa.” Amnesty International has stated that “Sri Lanka has a litany of such failed COIs that Amnesty International has extensively documented.” It goes on to quote from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that “Domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past and I am not convinced the appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance this agenda. As a result, victims remain denied justice and Sri Lankans from all communities have no guarantee that past patterns of human rights violations will not recur.”

It appears that the government intends its appointment of the COI to meet the demand for accountability in regard to past human rights violations. Its mandate includes to “Find out whether preceding Commissions of Inquiry and Committees which have been appointed to investigate into human rights violations, have revealed any human rights violations, serious violations of the international humanitarian law and other such serious offences.” In the past the government has not been prepared to accept that such violations took place in a way that is deserving of so much of international scrutiny. Time and again the point has been made in Sri Lanka that there are no clean wars fought anywhere in the world.

International organisations that stands for the principles of international human rights will necessarily be acting according to their mandates. These include seeking the intervention of international judicial mechanisms or seeking to promote hybrid international and national joint mechanisms within countries in which the legal structures have not been successful in ensuring justice. The latter was on the cards in regard to Resolution 30/1 from which the government withdrew its co-sponsorship. The previous government leaders who agreed to this resolution had to publicly deny any such intention in view of overwhelming political and public opposition to such a hybrid mechanism. The present government has made it clear that it will not accept international or hybrid mechanisms.

 

 

SEQUENTIAL IMPLEMENATION

 

In the preamble to the establishment of the COI the government has made some very constructive statements that open up the space for dialogue on issues of accountability, human rights and reconciliation. It states that “the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka is to continue to work with the United Nations and its Agencies to achieve accountability and human resource development for achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation, even though Sri Lanka withdrew from the co-sponsorship of the aforesaid resolutions” and further goes on to say that “the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to ensure that, other issues remain to be resolved through democratic and legal processes and to make institutional reforms where necessary to ensure justice and reconciliation.”

As the representative of a sovereign state, the government cannot be compelled to either accept international mechanisms or to prosecute those it does not wish to prosecute. At the same time its willingness to discuss the issues of accountability, justice and reconciliation as outlined in the preamble can be considered positively. The concept of transitional justice on which Resolution No 30/1 was built consists of the four pillars of truth, accountability, reparations and institutional reform. There is international debate on whether these four pillars should be implemented simultaneously or whether it is acceptable that they be implemented sequentially depending on the country context.

The government has already commenced the reparations process by establishing the Office for Reparations and to allocate a monthly sum of Rs 6000 to all those who have obtained Certificates of Absence (of their relatives) from the Office of Missing Persons. This process of compensation can be speeded up, widened and improved. It is also reported that the government is willing to consider the plight of suspected members of the LTTE who have been in detention without trial, and in some cases without even being indicted, for more than 10 years. The sooner action is taken the better. The government can also seek the assistance of the international community, and India in particular, to develop the war affected parts of the country on the lines of the Marshall Plan that the United States utilized to rebuild war destroyed parts of Europe. Member countries of the UNHRC need to be convinced that the government’s actions will take forward the national reconciliation process to vote to close the chapter on UNHRC resolution 30/1 in March 2021.

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Album to celebrate 30 years

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Rajiv Sebastian had mega plans to celebrate 30 years, in showbiz, and the plans included concerts, both local and foreign. But, with the pandemic, the singer had to put everything on hold.

However, in order to remember this great occasion, the singer has done an album, made up of 12 songs, featuring several well known artistes, including Sunil of the Gypsies.

All the songs have been composed, very specially for this album.

Among the highlights will be a duet, featuring Rajiv and the Derena DreamStar winner, Andrea Fallen.

Andrea, I’m told, will also be featured, doing a solo spot, on the album.

Rajiv and his band The Clan handle the Friday night scene at The Cinnamon Grand Breeze Bar, from 07.30 pm, onwards.

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LET’S DO IT … in the new normal

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The local showbiz scene is certainly brightening up – of course, in the ‘new normal’ format (and we hope so!)

Going back to the old format would be disastrous, especially as the country is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases, and the Western Province is said to be high on the list of new cases.

But…life has to go on, and with the necessary precautions taken, we can certainly enjoy what the ‘new normal’ has to offer us…by way of entertainment.

Bassist Benjy, who leads the band Aquarius, is happy that is hard work is finally bringing the band the desired results – where work is concerned.

Although new to the entertainment scene, Aquarius had lots of good things coming their way, but the pandemic ruined it all – not only for Aquarius but also for everyone connected with showbiz.

However, there are positive signs, on the horizon, and Benjy indicated to us that he is enthusiastically looking forward to making it a happening scene – wherever they perform.

And, this Friday night (January 29th), Aquarius will be doing their thing at The Show By O, Mount Lavinia – a beach front venue.

Benjy says he is planning out something extra special for this particular night.

“This is our very first outing, as a band, at The Show By O, so we want to make it memorable for all those who turn up this Friday.”

The legendary bassist, who lights up the stage, whenever he booms into action, is looking forward to seeing music lovers, and all those who missed out on being entertained for quite a while, at the Mount Lavinia venue, this Friday.

“I assure you, it will be a night to be remembered.”

Benjy and Aquarius will also be doing their thing, every Saturday evening, at the Darley rd. Pub & Restaurant, Colombo 10.

In fact, they were featured at this particular venue, late last year, but the second wave of Covid-19 ended their gigs.

Also new to the scene – very new, I would say – is Ishini and her band, The Branch.

Of course, Ishini is a singer of repute, having performed with Mirage, but as Ishini and The Branch, they are brand new!

Nevertheless, they were featured at certain five-star venues, during the past few weeks…of their existence.

 

 

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