'The 300th would stand out as it was the first time it ever happened'

Fred Trueman chats with readers and answers questions about his best spells, the great batsmen he bowled to, intimidatory bowling, and modern-day cricket

Fred Trueman is congratulated by Colin Cowdrey after taking his 300th Test wicket, at The Oval, 1964 © Getty Images

Fred Trueman was one of the finest bowlers ever to play for both Yorkshire and England. He was the first man in history to take 300 Test wickets, taking a total of 307 in the 67 Tests in which he played. Since his retirement from the game Fred has become a commentator on BBC Radio's Test Match Special, and is one of Britain's most sought after sports entertainers travelling the world performing his show of jokes and anecdotes. Fred has recently released a new, hilarious audio cassette, Fred Trueman - OWZAT!, which can be ordered on-line at http://www.u-net.com/~guerilla/ft.htm

CricInfo, in conjunction with Britannia Entertainment and Guerilla Films, hosted a live internet interview with Fred on the #cricket chat channel on 18 December 1996 at Fred's home in West Yorkshire. Questions were submitted live on irc and via email. Alex Balfour was the moderator.

Alex: Hello everyone, from Fred Trueman's house in West Yorkshire

yardB: where is Freddy?

Alex: He's right here yb.

Alex: Right we will start with questions here first, then revert to emailed questions for the second part of the interview.

Alex: Please ask away, chaps.

Fred Trueman: First question please moderator...

sib: Out of all the wickets you have taken, what in you're opinion is the a) most important, b) most enjoyable

Fred Trueman: To b) all of them; to a) the 300th would stand out, as it was the first time it ever happened, and no one will do it [for the first time] again

WGG: I had the pleasure of watching you take 5 wickets against Australia at Lords in 1964, the first test I ever saw. Did you change your bowling methods in the 2nd part of your career? That's from Dave Liverman in Newfoundland, Canada.

"Without doubt Warne is like a breath of fresh air in the spin department, and I expect him to go to 500 test wickets unless there is a rapid improvement in batting techniques against this sort of spin"

Fred Trueman: Hello Dave; in the second part I did, yes. I found out by bowling a bit slower I could move the ball more and also develop the off cutter - the most memorable off cutters were the 6 wickets for 1 run against Australia at Headingley 1961

Fred laughs...

YardB: Who was the most challenging batsman you had to bowl to?

Fred Trueman: Where are you from yard B?

yardB: yardB princeton, NJ

Fred Trueman: Very difficult to answer yardb. There were so many world class players in that era; with Weekes, Worrall, Sobers, and Kanhai in the first six it was slightly daunting - they were wonderful players.

jzeb: Who is the best bowler nowadays?

Fred Trueman: Without doubt Warne is like a breath of fresh air in the spin department, and I expect him to go to 500 test wickets unless there is a rapid improvement in batting techniques against this sort of spin. Fast bowlers: I would say the most feared in present day cricket would be [Ian] Bishop of the West Indies. He is quite quick, believe me.

Fred Trueman: jzeb where are you from?

jzeb: From Pakistan. What is your opinion about Mushtaq?

Fred Trueman: Mushtaq is a very fine bowler indeed - I would not rule him out of the top 5 in world cricket at the moment and I think he will improve.

Shyam from Washington DC - everyone talks of your 307 wickets, but which of your close-in catches do you rate the best effort?

Fred Trueman: Shyam: difficult to answer- but I do remember catching the great Keith Miller off the bowling of the equally great Jim Laker at Headingley in 1956.I started to move the wrong way: to the left. As Keith played the ball it flicked off his pad and I somehow got back to catch it one handed in my right hand. That's one I do remember.

"Hutton was the most professional captain I played under" © Getty Images

WGG: Here's the card from Headingley 1961.

Fred Trueman: that was 6-1 in the second spell when I turned to the off cutters..

salil: Fred: What are your thoughts about restrictions on bouncers, "intimidatory" bowling etc. Do you think such restrictions are an infringement on the fast bowlers' tool kit?

Fred Trueman: Salil, yes, I do. I think there has been far too much short pitched bowling in the last 15-20 years and I've said so on many occasions. I think the powers that be have not been strong enough in doing something about it. The bouncer is a legitimate weapon of the genuine quick bowler. Myself, I used it more as a surprise delivery, drawing people on to the front foot and then let it go when I thought I'd got them in 'no man's land'.

WGG: Australia 2nd innings Headingley 1956 : KR Miller c Trueman b Laker 26 Trueman 11 3 21 1

Fred Trueman: that's it, WGG

Fred Trueman: I've not a bad memory for an old man.

WGG: we're impressed.

Fred Trueman: It rained that day in 1956, didn't realise I bowled that many.

sib: Which two players from county cricket would you put into the England test team, (from Chris Pope, Essex)

Fred Trueman: do you mean now Chris, this moment in Zimbabwe?

sib: Yes.

Fred Trueman: I would open the batting with either Martyn Moxon of Yorks or the old evergreen from your county, Gooch. They are still very fine players. I would be inclined to include the boy Shah from Middlesex. if he progresses as I think he could be a great player in the future.

sib: I agree about Gooch

"I would like to see uncovered wickets in England. On wet wickets the faster bowlers would have to pitch the ball up which should help them to swing the ball in the air and it would encourage fingerspinners back into the game"

Fred laughs to the agreement

Fred Trueman: Well done Chris!

sib: He (Shah) seemed to do well on the 'A' tour

Fred Trueman: Yes, he set off well - in Middlesex they think he's in the Compton class at that age - that indeed is praise... Bowlers: without second thought I'd have taken Harris from Derbyshire, one of the best prospects I have seen in the last 2 seasons. He's a bit of a freak- he pitches the ball up and swings it

koshy: popular discussion on #cricket is comparing bats, bowlers across different eras, could you compare Marshall (I think he is the best) , yourself (heh), Ambrose, Hadlee, Larwood, Lillee etc? (Pramod Koshy from florida originally from India)

Fred Trueman: I don't believe in comparisons. They, especially the later ones, Marshall, Ambrose, Lillee, Hadlee were all wonderful bowlers but they are playing on covered wickets where I played on uncovered; impossible to compare.

koshy: FredT regarding Bradman - is he be as good as the current batsmen?

Fred Trueman: Bradman averaged 99 in test cricket. When asked two or three years ago what he thought he might average against these bowlers he mentioned a figure like 27 to 30. The stunned interviewer said 'but you averaged 99'. He replied 'yes, but now I'm 85 years old'!

Alex: Everyone here laughs...

PeteG: Hoho

PeteG: Fred: Who was the best coach you had and what was special about him? And are today's players 'over-coached'?

Fred Trueman: The first coach was a man called Cyril Turner, a Yorks all rounder. my 2nd was one of the all time greats- GH Hirst. Maurice Leyland, Arthur Mitchell, and Bill Bowes followed - they were all wonderful coaches who could spot talent quickly.

WGG: Hirst must have been quite old then

Fred Trueman: Yes WGG, he was, late 70s, probably 80

WGG: GH Hirst 4010 146 1770 59 30.00 5-48 - test career

"To play for your country at your chosen profession is the greatest honour that can be bestowed upon you" © Getty Images

Fred Trueman: Hirst is still the only man in history to take 200 wickets and score 2000 runs in the same season and that will NEVER be done again

Fred Trueman: So he was 77...

WGG: Died in 1954

Fred Trueman: In 1948 along with 640 other boys in February, Mar and April he [Hirst] was asked if there was any new talent in the youngsters who had come through the nets and he replied "there are 3 players who will play for Yorkshire, Lowson, Close, Trueman and one called Illingworth who might make it". He wasn't too far off was he?

Fred Trueman: To address the second part of your question Pete, I don't think modern players are over coached. I have always tried to impress people by saying if the ability is there coaches can bring it out, but they cannot put it in

Fred Trueman: Oh, by the way, did we have Walcott in the list of batsmen I feared bowling to? He must be included.

azzie: (Alak from Chicago, originally from Delhi) Since you mentioned the chaps you'd put on the England team, who are the chaps on the current team that they should be replacing (sorry if I am putting you on the spot :-))?

Fred Trueman: azzie: with his record in test cricket lately I might not be to keen on the captain Michael Atherton. If Thorpe doesn't mend his ways quickly, he could also struggle.

azzie: What are the ways that he should mend?

Fred Trueman: Start scoring some runs would help, azzie

azzie: Oh, do you think it's a matter of technical flaws or just mental preparation?

Fred Trueman: Centuries are remembered, 99s aren't. Mental preparation is something I never thought about - it never entered my head when I played. They had a bat in their hand and my job was to get past it and that was the only mental preparation I ever had. The only thing I believed in was to defeat the opposition as quickly as possible, as heavily as possible which I believe would give me the psychological advantage in our next meeting.

Shyam: Shyam from Wash. DC - I've heard you've played friendly matches in India in the 50s but how come you never toured the sub-continent with England?

"I did take great pride in clean-bowling the great players of my day such as the three Ws, Sobers, and Neil Harveys of this world"

Fred Trueman: I was never picked Shyam - possibly not considered good enough...

WGG: Not good enough v India... 3rd test v India 1952...Trueman 8.4 2 31 8

Fred Trueman: but that was in Manchester, WGG

Shyam: I guess the selectors were dodos back then too. Ouch, WGG - even after the 0 for 4 wickets fiasco, I think Fred Trueman would have been wildly popular. Oh well, an honour talking to you, sir!

Fred Trueman: thank you shyam

I-man: You had your debut the same match as Hutton was made skipper ... what did you think of him as a capt? (Charles Levy from Jamaica and Ottawa)

Fred Trueman: I talk about Hutton a lot on the Owzat! tape. He was the most professional captain I ever played under. He had a deep knowledge of the game

I-man: Was there animosity between him and Compton?

Fred Trueman: If there was I never detected nor saw it. They were two of the all time great players with different styles and outlooks on life.

PeteG: Do you approve of having a captain of England who is not captain of his county - he doesn't get a lot of practice at captaining..

Fred Trueman: Pete: no I don't agree Hutton never captained Yorks (though the Hutton era was in the days of amateurs and professionals). Took us long enough to get the amateurs out of the game. There were some right prats- there used to be separate dressing rooms

PeteG: isn't captaining something you get better at with practice though?

"Gough is a useful bowler but he hasn't been treated badly by England" © Getty Images

Fred Trueman: yes Pete

PeteG: was Hutton an exception?

Fred Trueman: Pete, yes Hutton was an exception

bdread: Fred Trueman: who is the best fast bowler you have seen since you retired?

Fred Trueman: bdread: that's easy to answer: Dennis Lillee, the last of the classics

Salil: There is talk recently about having some sort of a "test tournament / league" to determine the best Test team. Do you think this a good idea? Is it even worthwhile to try and determine which is the best team? Isn't the lack of an answer to that question something that gives cricket its unique flavor as a sport? (Dilip, orginally from Bombay, now Colorado)

Fred Trueman: Salil I agree with you- the best side at the moment is Australia, closely followed by Pakistan and I agree with you [it would be against the spirit of the game]

Alex: Fred says this is intriguing, it's unbelievable- he never thought he'd live to see the day when he could talk to so many people from around the world from his dining room table.

Vishal: Fred: (Vishal from Bhopal, India, and now Massachusetts) Do you think dropping Boycott after his 246 not out against India was justified? Do you think he played for himself?

Fred Trueman: Vishal: there was a classic case before then when Barrington made a 100 against New Zealand at Edgbaston when the ball was seaming and he was dropped. We could talk about such happenings until Christmas 1997 and we wouldn't cover them all. He wasn't a natural cricketer, Boycott, he was a self made cricketer who became a great run accumulator.

Alex: Fred wants to send a mail to the ZCU to congratulate Silverwood

WGG: mail zim@cricinfo.com, and someone will make sure he gets it tomorrow.

E-mail questions

Rajeev Sivaran asks about ball tampering: Can it help a bowler and is it ethical?

"Mental preparation is something I never thought about - it never entered my head when I played. They had a bat in their hand and my job was to get past it and that was the only mental preparation I ever had"

Fred Trueman: I am against any form of ball-tampering, and anyone discovered so doing to enhance their bowling performance. It would not bother me if they were banned for life.

Andy from Aus writes to ask about improving first class cricket in Eng - how can it be done?

Fred Trueman: I would like to start at the bottom by playing more cricket in the schools. I would like to see uncovered wickets in England which would improve batting techniques. On wet wickets the faster bowlers would have to pitch the ball up which should help them to swing the ball in the air and it would encourage fingerspinners back into the game of which there is a dearth. I am fed up of watching limited overs cricket in league matches in my county where the aim seems to be containment of the batsmen with defensive fields and the word attack seems to have gone out of the game.

Fred, you took 2,304 1st class wickets in your career. Given that you are a fast bowler, this is an amazing statistic(in any era). How did your body stand up to this workload? Andrew in Australia

Fred Trueman: I have just come out of hospital three days ago after having a brand new knee joint in my right leg touch wood god has been good to me and it has been the only serious injury I have ever sustained. Above all I loved bowling.

Ajay Ghatge: Did you do reverse swing in your days? What exactly it is and how it is done?

FredT: Never heard of it until the last few years. And if its done through ball tampering I don't want to know.

Fazal Shere: You once made a beer commercial in the United States. How did that come about?

FredT: I did an audition with a few sportsmen in this country and they chose me. It was an advert for Miller Lite. I had a great few days in New York. And they used to do it with different sportsmen from around the world. But they forgot me when they advertised over here.

David Price: Fred, David from Hong Kong, Were you any good at deck quoits? Tell us, please, about life on board, en route Australia.

FredT: Ah, a game I didn't take too much interest in. I didn't run round the boat deck as other people did: I told them after 1000 overs in domestic cricket I'd give it a rest for three weeks. Cricketers of today do not know what they have missed when cruising to Australia. After a hard season, it's fabulous.

Neil Lloyd: Could you share some of your memories of the Jan - Feb 1960 "riot Test" against West Indies at Port of Spain?

FredT: I saw the first bottle come onto the ground. WI were in trouble. The run out of a young spin bowler, CK Singh, made them 98-8. We didn't make them follow, though we could have, and bowled them out for 112 when we had made 382. We won with 110 mins to spare after leaving them 501 to get in 10 hours. Kanhai made a century in the 2nd innings. Walter Robbins, the England manager at the time, negotiated with the WICBC that we should start the next day one half hour early to make up for lost time: they agreed.

Michael from New Zealand: Why are you so critical of the modern players?, Surely they have different pressures to cope with?

FredT: Can anyone tell me where this word pressure came from? I am not critical of them, but of their techniques, and have great affection for both them and the game.

FredT: There was quite a few I wish I'd never met! I did take great pride in clean bowling the great players of my day such as the three Ws, Sobers, and Neil Harveys of this world.

Sandesh Shetti: What moment did you cherish most in your life?

Fred Trueman: Cricketwise: every time I pulled on a Yorkshire or England sweater - that's an easy question. To play for your country at your chosen profession is the greatest honour that can be bestowed upon you.

Alex: OK, that's it from the email selection. Back to the #cricket channel on IRC.

Fred Trueman: There was one about ICC playing nations wasn't there?

sib: Do you think that there should be a special status for countries between full test status and Associate ICC membership?

Fred Trueman: Until they get to the standard required they will have to keep on trying...

Firaq: Fred Trueman: Your opinion on Fazal Mehmood?

Fred Trueman: Fazal: a very fine bowler - 1954 he was in England.

shyam: Let me drag out an old chestnut - any thoughts on the way sledging is going; and excessive appealing to put pressure on umpires?

Fred Trueman: Shyam, excessive appealing is disgraceful and the authorities should be doing something about it. When you are close enough to the bat you know when someone has hit it and when they haven't. I am appauled sometimes when I see mid off and mid on and 3rd man and fine leg joining in the appeals.

Fred Trueman: Re Srinath and Prasad, very impressed with them both. They were better than ours this summer and if they had got the appeals (Hussain, Atherton) that went against them they could quite easily have won the series.

bdread: Who is the top batsman today, and the top 3?

Fred Trueman: Tendulkar; De Silva, Sri Lanka; Lara, WI

Alex: Fred asks what's happened to Kambli at the moment?

Fred Trueman: A fine left-hander if ever I saw one...

salil: He's struggling to find rhythm.

Fred Trueman: Any other news?

salil: Kambli is playing domestics for Bombay.

Fred Trueman: And how's he doing?

salil: Got a 98 against the RSA side but has done precious little else.

QWERTYUIO: Kambli will be back, Fred.

thecount: Do you think that the South Africans are better than any other team right now?

Fred Trueman: No, I don' t think they are better than any other team right now. Knowing their attitude, I expect them to be up around the top in the next 3-4 years; they have done remarkably well since , thank god, they came back into Test cricket.

ste: Do you think Atherton's the right man to captain England ?

Fred Trueman: No. He's a nice fellow; he's only as good a captain as his side and at the moment it's not a great side. It's easy to captain a side when you have world class players, all the captain has to do is toss up.

Anonymous email question: Do fast bowlers hunt in pairs?

Fred Trueman: Yes, though, without appearing boastful I didn't care who bowled at the other end, as long as I got the new ball, but it's nice to know that batsmen cannot go down the other end for a rest if there's somebody who can wrap it round their ears from there as well. As Herbert Sutcliffe said (the great Yorkshire and England batsman) some people can play fast bowling, some people cannot, but if we all tell the truth there's none of us likes it.

Firaq: Fred, In your opinion, name the five best pairs Test cricket has seen?

Fred Trueman: Firaq, difficult question......Larwood and Voce; Lindwall and Miller; Heine and Adcock (South Africa); Lillee and Thompson; Hall and Griffith; any 2 of 4 from the West Indies in the last 15 years.

shyam but not Trueman and Statham?

Fred Trueman: yes shyam (laughing) you can put them in

Nimesh: FredT, what do you think about young cricketer's like Hasan Raza playing International cricket?

Fred Trueman: can't comment on Raza: never seen him.

ste: What do you think about how Darren Gough has been treated by England? (in the past year)

Fred Trueman: Steven : Gough is a useful bowler but he hasn't been treated badly by Eng - he had a bad injury and has done well to get over it. We'll hear a lot more of him.I hope so: he's from Yorkshire.

ste: you're biased!!

Fred Trueman: Steven, you couldn't think that about me! Steven, it's time we won something with him.

Firaq: FredT: You reckon the fast bowlers of the nineties on average are more aggressive than those in the fifties/sixties?

Fred Trueman: No Firaq, of course I don't - they may look more aggressive because of the poor batting technique. Oh by the way, Firaq, Wasim and Waqar are the best opening pair in the world at the moment.

Fred Trueman: you're local Firaq - in Hull?

Firaq: FredT: Yes, I am in Hull.

DPji: FredT: Why do you suppose that English cricket is in such a dire state? Is it because of the poor selection policy? Or is it just a cycle and every cricket playing nation goes through it?

Fred Trueman: Yes, it's a cycle and we've been going through it for too long, DPji.

Nimesh: FredT: What do you think about showing dismissal's on Jumbo screens-in reference to the crowd trouble in the Mumbai one-dayer against the South Africa, when the Jumbo screens revealed that the umpire had made a pathetic decision. ?

Fred Trueman: I think it's disgraceful. It insults the integrity of the umpire. If it was left to me I'd remove it [replays on screens] immediately.

bdread: Why do you believe West Indies dominated test cricket for so long in the recent past?

Fred Trueman: Tremendous fast bowling.

Ashwin: FredT: What were your thoughts if a batsman was completely in charge (if ever)?

Fred Trueman: Ashwin, the best picture I could see was his back on the way out....

Fred Trueman: Thank you everyone - I enjoyed your company. And wherever you may be, I wish you a happy Christmas, prosperous New Year and good cricket for us all.