Excerpts from Fred, Portrait Of A Fast Bowler

Excerpts from Fred, Portrait Of A Fast Bowler by John Arlott (1971), Hodder and Stoughton. Great Britain

Alan Smith catches Australia's Alan Davidson off Fred Trueman in 1962-63 © The Cricketer
  • In Barbados, his birthday was celebrated on the traditional Saturday 'club night' of MCC touring teams. The next morning an English 'county' lady told Len Hutton indignantly that she had been jostled in the lift by two of the MCC cricketers. Complaints like this horrified him: they were the very stuff of danger to his position. "Who were they?" he asked: "Trueman and Lock," she said; whereupon the captain assured her the two would report to her in the hotel lounge at half-past-nine next morning to make their apologies. They duly appeared and the lady whose services background had provided her with a searingly disciplinary manner, dressed them down for a quarter of an hour: they stood at silent attention until she had finished when they apologised with due humility and were dismissed. "I thought you took that very well," said Hutton. "So do I," Trueman replied," since it weren't us."

  • When, after a batsman who had already twice unconciously deflected him between pad and leg stump, made an on-side push and scored four to third man off the outside. Fred finished his follow through, stood hands on hips and said in a tone of loathing and contempt, "You got more bloody edges than a broken pisspot."

  • May went to Trueman soon after taking him off and asked him to bowl another flat-out spell while there was still time to win. As his bedraggled and sweating fast bowler wearily put out his hand for the ball he said cheerfully "Come on, Fred - England expects, you know". "Oh, does she, skipper, is that why they call her the mother country?"

  • And Fred, to a delight he could not conceal, was appointed senior professional. It is convincingly related that when he was informed of this elevation, his first comment was, "Then t'first thing these buggers'll have to do is cut out t'bloody swearing."

  • ... that did not prevent Trueman from cracking three of Evans' ribs with a beamer and apologising with, "Sorry about your ribs Godders - really, I meant to skull you. Anyway, why didn't you put your bloody bat there?"

  • Three remarks from this tour have gone down in the Trueman annals. In the two days while the party flown out to Aden, waited for their boat to Australia - the Canberra - they were generously entertained. At one party a local Sheikh was present and one of the hosts pointed him out and said, "He's got 196 wives". "Has he?" said Fred. "Does he know that with another four he could have a new ball?"

  • David Sheppard who had interrupted a clerical career to make the tour, scored an important century at Melbourne but otherwise did not distinguish himself and after, a long absence from the first-class game, he not unexpectedly dropped a number of catches. After one such miss Fred, the injured bowler, said, "Kid yourself it's Sunday, Rev., and keep your hands together".

    Trueman celebrates becoming the world's leading Test wicket taker in march 1963 © The Cricketer
  • By the time he reached Sydney the veneer of diplomacy was wearing thin. What did he think of 'our bridge'? "Your bridge? Our bloody bridge you should say - bugger it - a Yorkshire firm - Dorman and Long - built it - and you bastards still ain't paid for it".

  • As time grew short, Peter Sainsbury tossed his slow left-arm higher and higher in an attempt to persuade him (Trueman) into an injudicious stroke. Fred, resolutely abjuring his big swing, pushed forward with puritanical rectitude. Sainsbury raised the curve even more alluringly; Trueman continued with his defensive prod. Eventually he turned to Leo Harrison, the wicketkeeper, with "My word he chucks it up, this cock, doesn't he? I'm all right when his bloody arm comes over, but I'm out of form by the time the bloody ball gets here". Later Sainsbury, unsuccessful, went off for Shackleton and Ingleby-Mackenzie pushed the close fieldsmen up around the bat. Fred surveyed them with asperity and the words, "Stand back, go on, stand back - or I'll appeal against the light".

  • He grew old relatively gracefully, though down to the end he could, and did, blast batsmen with a string of curses. Once - against the Indians of 1967 - on a Bramall Lane wicket with some life in it, he made several balls rise quickly enough to grind the knuckles of the Indian left hander, Surti who at his fourth or fifth blow, addressed Fred in exactly the language that he - Trueman - habitually used to batsmen. Fred, horrified - for no one had dared take such a liberty before - and perhaps this was an indication of his declining speed - went in high - if not righteous - indignation to the umpire and protested that the batsman had sworn at him. With all the judicial solemnity of Test cricket his complaint was forwarded to Lord's. The story went around the astonished and delighted county dressing-rooms with the speed of a bush fire."

  • In the pavilion after the match (against Leicester) - he leant back with a pint of beer describing, with a dash of invention, the way in which he had disposed of the different batsman. One had been yorked; another bowled by a late in-swinger; this one caught from an off-cutter; that one made to play too soon for the slower ball; yet another caught edging an out- swinger. Richard Hutton (son of Len) cut in - " you must have bowled the lot Fred - inners, outers, yorkers, slower ones - but tell me - did you ever bowl a plain straight ball?" The answer was instant - "Aye, I did - to Peter Marsner and it went straight through him like a stream of piss and flattened all three."