Why Donald Bradman chose Arthur Morris for Invincibles
When 'The Don' selected his dream team, his choice of openers in his Australian counterpart did raise a few eyebrows.
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Forming cricket dream teams is the passion and craze of any ardent fan, and even celebrated cricketers themselves are no exception to this. Sports channels too have aired several series of episodes that showed former players, cricket writers, and commentators sitting together to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of past and present players and forming their dream teams. The mighty Don Bradman too selected his own dream Test team in 2001. Perhaps with the exception of Bradman, and to an extent that of Sachin Tendulkar, Viv Richards, and Garry Sobers, nobody has a permanent place in dream teams. A dream team is perfect only in the eyes of those who form it; and that is why it is called a dream team.
There is no dearth of great opening batsmen in world cricket, but when Bradman selected his dream team, his choice of openers did raise a few eyebrows. He omitted legends like Jack Hobbs, Sunil Gavaskar, Len Hutton, Dennis Amiss, Conrad Hunte, Bob Simpson, and Herbert Sutcliffe, and reserved the spots for the South African Barry Richards and his own buddy Arthur Morris. Morris' was more justifiable because Richards had played only four Test matches. But it was not modern day statistics that Bradman considered for his team; he had more insights into the capabilities of the two openers, especially Morris.
Morris is best known for his masterpiece series - the 1948 Ashes. Though Morris had an excellent Ashes series the year before, the 1948 series defined his greatness. He became the top scorer in what was Bradman's farewell series, and ended up amassing almost 200 more runs than Bradman. He had an ordinary start to the series but he showed his real class in the second Test at Lord's. Despite the early setback suffered at the dismissal of Sid Barnes, Morris went on to get a hundred in the company of Bradman and then Lindsay Hasset. By the time he was dismissed, he had scored more than 60 per cent of Australia's then total. He backed it up with a 100-run opening partnership in the second innings, and Australia won the Test, also thanks to some very tight bowling by Ray Lindwall and Ernie Toshak.
In the drawn third Test match at Old Trafford, Morris was the only Australian batsman to go past 50 runs in either innings. Rain took away a lot of time in the Test and England made a declaration in the second innings, setting Australia 317 runs for an improbable win. Knowing a draw was enough to retain the Ashes, Morris and Bradman did not go for the kill and scored only 92 runs in 61 overs!
In the fourth Test match at Headingly, England made another declaration early on in the last day and set the Australians another improbable target of 404 runs for the victory. This time though, Morris and Bradman changed gears and went for the kill. The two got Australia home with high individual hundreds. Morris top scored with 182 while Bradman remained unbeaten on 173. With the confidence of bagging the Ashes again in their kitty, Lindwall ran through the England ranks in the last Test match at Kennington Oval and bundled them out for a paltry 52 in the first innings. What Lindwall did to England with the ball was emulated by Morris with the bat. Australia too suffered from the slow bowling of Eric Hollies and Jack Young, but Morris made it look like he was batting on a different surface. While the ten other Australians and the extras contributed 193 runs to the Australian total, Morris himself made a spectacular 196. There was no scope for a second innings as Lindwall and Bill Johnston scuttled the England ship for just 188 in the last innings and presented Australia an innings victory. But the following generations remembered that Test not for Morris' heroics, but for the trivia question: "Who dismissed Bradman for a duck in his final innings?"
But all good things must come to an end, and so did Morris' career. He impressed again in the following series in South Africa, but enjoyed only moderate success in his career post-1950, and was a failure against the West Indies. Stories about his wristwork, deft touches, and fearlessness were already part of folklore during his peak. His life also comes to a close now. Above everything, his presence in Bradman's Invincibles and all-star dream team is enough to immortalise him forever.