Rahul Dravid Speech – Sir Donald Bradman Oration Thank you for inviting me to deliver the Bradman Oration; the respect and the regard that came with the invitation to speak tonight, is deeply appreciated.
I realise a very distinguished list of gentlemen have preceded me in the ten years that the Bradman Oration has been held.
I know that this Oration is held every year to appreciate the life and career of Sir Don Bradman, a great Australian and a great cricketer.
I understand that I am supposed to speak about cricket and issues in the game – and I will.
Yet, but ﬁrst before all else, I must say that I ﬁnd myself humbled by the venue we ﬁnd ourselves in.
Even though there is neither a pitch in sight, nor stumps or bat and balls, as a cricketer, I feel I stand on very sacred ground tonight.
When I was told that I would be speaking at the National War Memorial, I thought of how often and how meaninglessly, the words 'war', 'battle', 'ﬁght' are used to describe cricket matches.
Yes, we cricketers devote the better part of our adult lives to being prepared to perform for our countries, to persist and compete as intensely as we can – and more.
This building, however, recognises the men and women who lived out the words – war, battle, ﬁght - for real and then gave it all up for their country, their lives left incomplete, futures extinguished.
The people of both our countries are often told that cricket is the one thing that brings Indians and Australians together.
That cricket is our single common denominator. India's ﬁrst Test series as a free country was played against Australia in November 1947, three months after our independence.
Yet the histories of our countries are linked together far more deeply than we think and further back in time than 1947.
We share something else other than cricket. Before they played the ﬁrst Test match against each other, Indians and Australians fought wars together, on the same side.
In Gallipoli, where, along with the thousands of Australians, over 1300 Indians also lost their lives.
In World War II, there were Indian and Australian soldiers in El Alamein, North Africa, in the Syria-Lebanon campaign, in Burma, in the battle for Singapore.
Before we were competitors, Indians and Australians were comrades. So it is only appropriate that we are here this evening at the Australian War Memorial, where along with celebrating cricket and cricketers, we remember the unknown soldiers of both nations.
It is however, incongruous, that I, an Indian, happen to be the ﬁrst cricketer from outside Australia, invited to deliver the the Bradman Oration.
I don't say that only because Sir Don once scored a hundred before lunch at Lord's and my 100 at Lord's this year took almost an entire day.
But more seriously, Sir Don played just ﬁve Tests against India; that was in the ﬁrst India-Australia series in 1947-48, which was to be his last season at home. He didn't even play in India, and remains the most venerated cricketer in India not to have played there.
We know that he set foot in India though, in May 1953, when on his way to England to report on the Ashes for an English newspaper, his plane stopped in Calcutta airport. There were said to be close to a 1000 people waiting to greet him; as you know, he was a very private person and so got into an army jeep and rushed into a barricaded building, annoyed with the airline for having 'breached conﬁdentiality.' That was all Indians of the time saw of Bradman who remains a mythical ﬁgure.
For one generation of fans in my country, those who grew up in the 1930s, when India was still under British rule, Bradman represented a cricketing excellence that belonged to somewhere outside England. To a country taking its ﬁrst steps in Test cricket, that meant something.
His success against England at that time was thought of as our personal success. He was striking one for all of us ruled by the common enemy. Or as...
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