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Rowdy Remembers

Catch the terrorists, Fletch

Fred Trueman was never short of a great retort or a tale

Ashley Mallett
Ashley Mallett
Cartoon: Catch the terrorists, Fletch

Satish Acharya

Fiery Fred Trueman was a great fast bowler and a wonderful character, much loved by Yorkies and Aussies alike because he had a dry sense of humour and he played hard off and on the field.
Fred took 307 wickets at an average of 21.57, and he always competed with a look of fury on his face and that classical side-on action, his mop of black hair flailing in the breeze in his follow through.
Sir Donald Bradman once told me that he loved watching Trueman bowl and would have enjoyed the challenge of batting against him, "because of his lovely rhythm and late outswing". But Bradman and Trueman were from different eras: the Don always kept his powder dry, whereas Fred was ever a loose cannon.
He was not your typical politically correct sportsman. He was, to put it mildly, a rough diamond. A natural raconteur, he once stunned a live television audience in Britain by saying: "My idea of a gentleman is someone who gets out of the bath to have a piss."
For years Fred summarised games for the BBC's Test Match Special and his stories became more embellished as time wore on. Once, he went a bit far when he blurted out loud that Ian Botham "couldn't bowl a hoop downhill".
But one Trueman-ism I'll never forget is when he volunteered a suitable punishment for terrorists responsible for a recent bombing in England. In 1968, we had just completed a Test match in Leeds in which Essex batsman "Gnome" Keith Fletcher scored an inglorious duck and dropped just about everything that came his way at first slip.
"You know what I'd do with those bombers?" Fred laughed, "I'd take 'em up top grandstand, push 'em off one by one and get bloody Keith Fletcher to try and catch them!"

Ashley Mallett took 132 wickets in 38 Tests for Australia. He has written biographies of Clarrie Grimmett, Doug Walters, Jeff Thomson, Ian Chappell, and most recently of Dr Donald Beard, The Diggers' Doctor