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"Bu**er Off", he said
on 22 November 2011
These are the words Freddie Trueman said to his foreman when sacked as a bricklayer. They were also the words he said to me after queuing at his car for his autograph as a 12 year old at Edgbaston in 1963 after he had taken 7-44 to defeat the mighty West Indies.This reflects Trueman. My boyhood hero. A great fast bowler. A legend. Loved by the public. A pain to the establishment and batsmen. Chris Waters's authorised biography plunges into these waters, often tempered and troubled. Trueman was a thorn in the side of the orthodox cricket institution. Spoke his mind, swore, bounced and hit the opposition as bowlers of his talent do today. Disliked snobbery and hypocrisy. As the middle of seven children, he moved quickly out of the pit, the predominant employment and social dominance of the time. Well-explained by his remaining family by the author. Played soccer for Lincoln City during his National Service. Wisden's Young cricketer of the year in 1952. Fell foul again in Barbados when he allegedly asked the High Commissioner to 'pass the salt Gunga Din', almost certainly untrue. Len Hutton was captain of that Caribbean tour (1953-4) and Fred never played with him again. He was sanctioned and only played three tests in the next three years. Rebuked for wearing brylcream (and rubbing on the ball) and told to remove wristbands that distracted the batsmen. Acccused of being a beer man,again part of the brash 'macho' image. He actually preferred a gin and tonic,in moderation. Laughable today. In 1964 he was the first man to take 300 test wickets. When asked if someone would do it again Fred replied "he'll be bloody tired." When Bob Willis did surpass the total he somewhat sarcastically said "and tell Fred I'm not tired".
There were never any doubts about his greatness as a bowler, whether genuinely quick and aggressive, nor later when he bowled fast-medium with beguiling swing. His experiences with the games' authorities would be better dealt with now, I'm sure, and would have left him less bitter towards the Yorkshire and England committee men.(Recent cricketers have behaved far more extravagantly even with the press on their tails).
He was a hundred cap player.Probably a 600 wicket man if not denied playing for his country. A potential captain of Yorkshire in the Close mould and Illingworth stamp (both moved on for similar reasons). Well- represented in the book.
He moved to radio test-match special.After-dinner speaker (men only usually, until later). Forthright, controversial, provocative. Veteran pipe-smoker who succumbed to lung cancer. OBE. Should have been knighted. His partner Brian Statham, Lancashire, was a perfect foil for Fred but was never second fiddle.
A wonderful account of 'Fiery Fred' by Chris Waters that is highly readable and informative. Highly recommended.