Bengaluru, March 9: Cricket lovers can now visit Sir Donald Bradman's house in Australia, thanks to Andrew Leeming, who has restored the childhood home of the legendary batsman.
Leeming has painstakingly restored the Don's childhood home in Bowral, New South Wales (NSW). At an event organised by "The Hindu" and Press Club of Bangalore (PCB) on Monday (March 6) evening here, Leeming gave a glimpse to the audience on what to expect at Bradman's house.
It was a nostalgic evening at PCB premises as Leeming and others spoke about Bradman's cricket career and the influence he had on India. Though Bradman never played in India, he had a huge following in the country.
Bradman, the greatest batsman in the history of the game, played 52 Tests and finished his career with 6996 runs at an astonishing average of 99.94, the number familiar with every cricket follower. In 2001, Bradman passed away at the age of 92.
A passionate lover of cricket and history, Leeming in 2007 chanced upon the opportunity to purchase the house at 52 Shepherd Street, Bowral, where Bradman lived between the ages of 3 and 16.
It took him 5 years to restore the house, recreating every inch of the place in great detail, down to the paint on the walls and the exact dimensions of the water tank that helped Bradman develop his phenomenal cricketing skills.
"If you really want to understand Bradman, you want to start where he grew up," Leeming said. "You can start to appreciate how his character was formed."
It took Leeming, who is originally English but has spent most of his life working as an investment banker the world over, a further four years to conduct research and furnish the interior of the house with period pieces.
"This is not a museum," he said. "There's a lot here you can touch and feel. The idea was to create a unique cricketing and social history experience."
Central to the experience is the tank-stand, against the base of which a young Bradman hurled a golf ball, practising hitting the rebound with a stump. The exercise, Bradman felt later in his life, helped endow him with good hand-eye co-ordination.
The tank was demolished in the 1930s by the house's occupants, but Leeming and his team of experts were able to zero in on its exact location because the old flooring had remained intact.
"Today, we urge visitors to try their hand at the same exercise," said Leeming.
"The stump Bradman used would have been a lot narrower and the golf ball a lot smaller than today's standard sizes. So our equipment matches those sizes. It is so hard. We've had Test cricketers come and try it. Simon Katich managed only one hit."
There is now a library on the premises, and an extensive digital archive of Australian history. Being a not-for-profit venture, 52 Shepherd Street, Bowral, requires a good degree of public interest to ensure its continued existence.
"This is not a shrine or a place for hero worship," said Leeming. "It is far more layered than that."
"The house is a step back to life in early Australia. A few minutes walk from Bradman Oval, the property is a window into an almost forgotten world. It is a treasure house of Australian domestic history and every-day life. Period furnishings, household appliances and photos all tell a vivid story of Don Bradman and his family's early life in Bowral. Visitors may also try their hands at hitting a golf ball at the famous tank stand," according to the website of Bradman's house.
N. Ram, Chairman, Kasturi and Sons Limited, Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI) Committee of Administrators' (COA) member Ramachandra Guha, who is also a historian and author, former India batsman WV Raman and Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) President Sanjay Desai and others were present.
For more information, visit www.52shepherdstreet.com.au.