Long before Stuart Broad, who scaled Peak 500 at Manchester on Tuesday, there was Fiery Fred, world cricketâs first 300-wickets man
England fast bowler Freddie Trueman applauded by fans as he walks up the pavilion steps after taking his 301st Test wicket against Australia at The Oval in London on August 15, 1964. Pic/ Getty Images
The Wisden Trophy, which had spent more time in England than in the Caribbean in recent years, will now be replaced with the Richards-Botham Trophy for England v West Indies Tests. This piece of news emerged not long after an announcement was made about county teams in Old Blighty henceforth competing for the Bob Willis Trophy.
While these are apt rewards for the three above mentioned cricket greats, I find it rather strange that there is precious little done by the English cricket authorities to honour Frederick Sewards Trueman with a trophy in his name.
I was reminded of the legendary Yorkshire fast bowler when Stuart Broad reached 500 Test wickets earlier this week in Old Trafford. Like Trueman in 1964, Broad was dropped for a game in the series during which he reached a major career milestone. And like Trueman did on many occasions, Broad came up with a memorable quote in response to his exclusion from the opening Test at Southampton — “To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement. You only get disappointed if you drop your phone and break your screen.”
Broad didn’t stop there. “I’ve been frustrated, angry, gutted — because it’s quite a hard decision to understand. I’ve probably bowled the best I’ve ever bowled in the last couple of years,” he continued.
The all-rounder proved the selectors wrong when he came up with a virtuoso performance with bat and ball to facilitate England’s victory in the series-decider. Broad thus became only the second Englishman to scale Peak 500; the first being his teammate James Anderson, the highest wicket-taker (589) in world cricket today.
Back to Trueman, the first man to claim 300 Test wickets. Going by what I’ve read and heard about him, he was a character in the truest sense of the term. He didn’t leave anything in the dressing room when he left it, tried hard on the field, always wanted to be in the thick of things and hated being taken off the attack.
He didn’t deal with authority very well. While traveling to Australia in 1962, Trueman was informed by captain Ted Dexter that Gordon Pirie, the former Olympic sprinter, would offer some fitness tips to the team. Pirie recommended that Trueman give up eating steaks and have plenty of lettuce and nuts. As a fast bowler, Trueman needed his share of meat and refused to comply. He also asked Pirie if he ran against a man called Vladimir Kuts. When he got an affirmative reply, Trueman reminded Pirie that he was still completing his run while Kuts was doing his lap of honour at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. And the example of a 95-year-old man whom Pirie said was chasing reindeers after following such a diet, was more than just brushed aside.
On the same trip, Trueman was once summoned by the team manager — the Duke of Norfolk: “Trueman, come here!” He asked to be addressed better and told the Duke, “I had a dog at home I spoke to like that.” His Highness admitted he was wrong and ended up being Trueman’s close friend.
Amidst all the straight talk and controversy, Trueman was a team man. An example of this quality emerged when Dexter was finalising his playing XI for the series-deciding Test in 1962-63 Ashes at Sydney. Trueman, like several others, believed that the Sydney Cricket Ground pitch would turn and there was a need for an extra spinner in the side. In Ball of Fire, he wrote: “Ted said that Len Coldwell, Brian Statham and myself had bowled so well at Melbourne that none of us could be dropped. I told him that the Melbourne Test had nothing to do with this one, that we were here to win the bloody series and he must drop a paceman — me, if necessary — because he could always put himself on as third seamer.” England went in with Trueman and Statham as well as spinners David Allen, Fred Titmus and Ray Illingworth with Dexter performing the role of a medium pacer. The game was drawn and the series ended 1-1.
Dexter was in Trueman’s firing line again at the Oval in 1964. He had a few catches dropped off his bowling and taken off. At one point in the game, Trueman noticed his captain pondering his next move as the Australian batsmen were prospering. He went to Dexter and actually took the ball off him to claim the last four wickets. That included his 300th — Neil Hawke caught by Colin Cowdrey for 14. Hawke had told Trueman that he would love to be his 300th wicket and so he was! A bottle of champagne presented by Trueman stayed at Hawke’s Adelaide residence. The Press asked him what went through his mind after dismissing Hawke for his landmark scalp and Trueman said, “The next wicket.”
After the media interactions, Trueman decided to spend some time with himself. He entered the bathroom, bolted the door and wept. “I had done it, despite all,” he wrote.
I wonder what Broad did after being left alone at Manchester on Tuesday.
He may not have let the tears flow, but would not be faulted for indulging in a bit of self back-patting.
Five hundred Test wickets for a fast bowler is an amazing feat. Had Trueman been living today, he would not have missed out on an opportunity to congratulate Broad with a “Well done, son” message.
Trueman was known to go out of his way to send messages to fast bowlers. Dennis Lillee will vouch for that because Trueman relayed his compliments when the great Australian went past Lance Gibbs’s world record 309 wickets in 1981-82. ‘Fiery Fred’ would also bring up the fact that he waited endlessly for his beloved Yorkshire County Cricket Club to send him a congratulatory telegram for his 300th wicket.
Thankfully, Broad will not have a similar grouse with Nottinghamshire CCC. “500 Test wickets for our very own,” the club tweeted.
mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance.
He tweets @ClaytonMurzello
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The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper
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