He did it his way

Trueman's main strength was a magnificent outswinger delivered with a classic side-on action.

With the death of Freddie Trueman, cricket has lost a wonderful character, who was a great fast bowler in his heyday. In a world where so many youngsters proclaim they want to do their own thing yet never seem to want to emerge out of the shadows of their contemporaries, Freddie was always faithful to his own thoughts.

Quick of wit and sharp in pace, the great Yorkshire and England fast bowler was never shy or self-effacing and adhered totally to Frank Sinatra's signature tune, "I did it my way". I was honoured to have been both an opponent and team-mate of this lively lad.

I first met him when he toured Australia in 1958/59. Our aquaintance then was very brief for I was out for a duck in my only Test. I had a chance, however, to chat with him at the Prime Minister's residence on Sydney harbour at a reception.

Our Prime Minister at the time, Sir Robert Menzies, was a great cricket supporter and loved Freddie. Never one to be overawed, Freddie greeted the PM with, "Great looking shack you have here, Prime Minister" and then added, "Pretty dry function though, I would love a beer." The PM promptly delivered it to him personally.

That was Freddie — quick, sharp and straight to the point. About 12 months later I had the good fortune to tour South Africa with a cavalier team that included England's favourite Yorkshireman. In the first match I picked up a pretty good diving catch from Freddie's bowling. In those days there were no high fives or over the top celebrations. Just a nod of the head and "well caught," from the fiery one at the end of the over.

Later, at the end of the day, Freddie, sipping his favourite brown ale in the dressing room, sat down next to me and said, "Bloody good catch out there today lad (He was just five years older than me). If you played for Yorkshire, I would make you a champion slipper. With the number of nicks I would create, you would take at least 30 catches off my bowling each season." Classic Freddie, straight to the point, congratulatory, but still pushing his own barrow.

I was "The Lad" on that tour. Dropped from the Australian team I was trying to establish myself as an opening batsman. Fiery was amazingly kind to me on that trip, always willing to talk cricket and pass on advice. It was he, who inadvertently shaped my final planning on how to open the innings. Replying to my question, "What do you dislike the most about batsmen?" he instantly replied, "Thieving buggers who steal singles from my bowling and deprive me of the chance of having the time and balls to keep the one batsman on strike so I can implement my plan to get him out."

Bill Lawry and I used this ploy successfully against Freddie without once telling him who had suggested it. He became so frustrated in one Test after we had scampered through for yet another stolen single that he yelled, "Bloody Hell, I bet your convict forefathers were sent out for stealing". You could never stay angry with Freddie for long and the three of us enjoyed a chuckle at the end of the over. To get things back on track, though, the first ball of the next over was a screaming bouncer to me. The battle had resumed.

How good was Fiery? He wasn't as quick as he himself thought, but he was still sharp enough to keep the batsmen on their toes. He always (this was before bowlers began concentrating on getting most of the wickets with rib-tickler length) kept the ball up trying to get snicks behind the wicket or bowled and LBWs.

He was a magnificent swing bowler at a faster pace than anyone I have seen. He had great variation and was accurate with all deliveries. He was also very patient and took great delight in getting batsmen out as he had planned. His main strength was a magnificent outswinger delivered with a classic side-on action. He was immensely strong and even though he normally delivered about 400 overs each English season he seldom broke down.

Stories abound about our Fred. Early in his career he beat the opposition's amateur captain with two beautiful outswingers. Freddie didn't like amateurs, particularly those from the South. Next ball, another outswinger delivered on leg stump swung and clipped the off bail. It was too good for the not very capable opposition captain, who graciously acknowledged the great delivery with a "Oh well bowled Trueman, a beautiful delivery." Freddie's reply was less than gracious "Eh," he said, "but bloody well wasted on a batsman like thee."

It was said that in Freddie's reckoning he never bowled a straight ball. It either swung in or out. That was Fred's confidence coming through. He always thought he could bowl the unplayable ball, and often did. I always thought I had a very tight defence and wasn't bowled out often. That may well have been true against other bowlers. But when I had a look at my statistics, I was surprised to find that my old team-mate had rattled my stumps on a regular basis.

Freddie could be just as cutting with his team-mates as with the opposition. The Reverend David Shepherd had a good season with the bat on the 1962-63 tour of Australia, but catches seldom stuck in his hands. Fred had a couple put down by the Rev. and another missed chance by the same gentleman had him fuming. In reply to David Shepherd's apologies, Fred retorted, "It's O.K. for you Rev., your boss is upstairs seeing what happens, mine are back in Yorkshire expecting good results."

Even while we were mates I wasn't exempt from Fiery's taunts. But that was Fred and we all enjoyed his banter, particularly if we were lucky to get on top of him on the odd occasion.

I will miss Freddie as will all cricket followers who loved the rare generous spirit of this unique and great man.