Had the orator been entirely unmemorable, the 2011 Bradman Oration would still have lived long in the mind's eye of all those present. The War Memorial in Canberra provided a backdrop that was at once breathtaking and sobering, heavy with the kind of meaning seldom found amid 21st century cricket's ever more commercial treadmill of fixtures. As it turned out, Rahul Dravid 's meticulous, wide-ranging and fascinating speech was perhaps the most significant delivered since the Oration began, and proved very much the equal of a place that can rightfully be described as hallowed ground. (Also see: Rahul Dravid's full speech at Bradman Oration)
The pathos of the Memorial was first apparent as guests walked into the halls commemorating Australia's military history. Passing through wings devoted to the first and second World Wars, the assembly of Australian cricket's great and good, plus the entire Indian touring party, arrived to dine in Anzac Hall. Pre-dinner conversations were as much about the venue as the cricket, for it was hard for guests to ignore the sights and sounds all around. The room is dominated by an Avro Lancaster bomber aircraft - those with a restricted view of the stage could take plenty of solace in the uniqueness of the obstruction. They might also have noted that India's players were dressed resplendently in team blazers, a gesture of respect the team had not managed to accomplish for the most recent edition of the ICC awards.
Not long after all had settled in their seats, word was relayed that Dravid's speech would be delivered earlier in the night than planned, the better to accommodate the jet-lagged bodies of an Indian touring team that had arrived in Canberra at 3am that morning. It was a concession to exactly the sort of crammed and muddled schedule that Dravid would go on to examine in one of the more striking passages of his speech, and a cause for some hurried shuffling of dinner plates in the Memorial kitchen.