The two had their fair share of run-ins when Chappell was a player at South Australia, and Bradman was on the committee, with Chappell calling him “a vindictive little bastard” but also noting the Don’s “cricket intelligence”.
In explaining the former assessment, he picked out two examples of great cricketers whose careers were adversely affected by Bradman’s ability to hold a grudge, Clarrie Grimmett and Keith Miller. The former is rated as one of Australia’s greatest bowlers and claimed 216 wickets at 24.21 in just 37 Tests. However, he might have ended up with many more had he played beyond 1936, when, although in his mid-40s, he was still bowling as well as ever.
“[Bradman] had a terrific cricket brain, and when I talk about his vindictiveness overriding his cricket intelligence, there are two examples I always say,” said Chappell. “Clarrie Grimmett took 44 wickets in his last Test series, in 1935/36. He played Sheffield Shield until 1940, and he never played for Australia again after taking 44 wickets. Why? Because he had a blow-out with Bradman.”
While Miller, one of the greatest all-rounders in cricket history, didn’t have his career ended by Bradman, he did miss a tour to South Africa in 1949/50 when the man with the highest Test average of them all had progressed from being a player to a selector.
“Keith Miller is by far and away the best all-rounder in the world in 49/50, he got dropped for the South African tour,” said Chappell. “How? Keith told me the story. And Keith disagreed with him quite a bit. Keith was that sort of person, he was probably the only one who would stand up to Bradman.”
Chappell noted two occasions on which Miller and Bradman didn’t see eye to eye. The first was when Australia racked up over 700 in a day during a tour fixture on their 1948 ‘Invincibles’ tour of England. Miller saw the trip as a chance to reinvigorate a nation’s spirit after the horrors of the Second World War, and, in umbrage at Bradman’s remorselessness, allowed himself to be dismissed rather than piling on more pain.
“I think he pissed Bradman off when they got to 721 [in a day] against Essex, Keith came in and just virtually let the first ball hit the stumps and walked out, went ‘These guys have just fought in a war, I’m not going to grind them into the turf’.”
Later that tour, in the second Test at Lord’s, Miller incurred Bradman’s anger once again when an injury complaint prevented him from taking the new ball.
“Keith told him before the Lord’s Test in 48, he went to him, because he had a crash during the war and hurt his back, he told Bradman, he said ‘mate, if you’re going to pick me, you can only pick me as a batsman, because my back’s no good.’ And you would pick him as a batsman because he batted No.4 anyhow. That’s the incredible thing. Open the bowling, bat No.4, shit, how many of those do you get? About three in the history of the game.
“Anyhow, when they got out their to bowl, Lindy [Ray Lindwall] bowled the first over and Bradman threw him the ball. And he said, ‘I told you I can’t bowl and threw the ball back to him’. That’s what I mean about his vindictiveness, because there was no way you could drop Miller on cricketing common sense.”