Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Chris Waters on his Fred Trueman Biography Part 3
Fred Trueman is a genuine legend and a cricketing hero to many, not just within the White Rose County. The man tasked with the job of writing ‘FRED TRUEMAN – THE AUTHORISED BIOGRAPHY’ is Yorkshire Post Cricket Correspondent, Chris Waters, who speaks to the YCCC website in a four part interview...
In the third of a four part interview Chris talks to James Buttler about Trueman’s problems on the 1953/4 England tour to West Indies, how his relationship with Sir Len Hutton held his Test career back, reaching 307 Test wickets and his final relationship with the Club he represented so proudly...
There were political issues surrounding Len Hutton’s England side’s time in West Indies in 1953/4 and problems for Trueman on and off the pitch. Talk us through some of that Chris and the effect it had on Trueman...
That tour effectively had a hugely detrimental effect on Fred’s career. It set him back three to five years. He didn’t tour for another five years after that – he didn’t go again until 1958/9.
As you say it was a powder keg situation in West Indies. The old colonial situation was being challenged and people wanted their independence and without going too deep into the politics there were a lot of off-field things going on. Fred was on his first tour as a big fast bowler, the new hero of English cricket and he found himself in hot water for incidents on and off the field.
In one of the first games he hit George Headley, who was known as the black Bradman, and fractured his arm and that incident caused a lot of problems even though it was by all accounts accidental. In another incident he hit a guy deliberately with a bouncer and didn’t go up to see how he was – he went back to his mark.
It was a tour of incident after incident. It was said to be the second stormiest tour after Bodyline and Fred found himself blamed for things he didn’t do. A lot of players were guilty of misconduct, but Fred was the only one that was picked out for financial punishment in that he lost his good conduct bonus.
Hutton singled Trueman out as a problematic character who possibly shouldn’t tour in the foreseeable. Was Hutton unfair?
In fairness to Hutton I think Fred was a bit of a problematic character. Hutton described him as his problem child. He wasn’t a saint. He was aggressive, he didn’t say the right things, but he was still learning about life in those days and was literally straight out of the edge of Maltby Main pit yard.
It can’t have been easy to handle Fred, but part of the problem was that he was picked out. There were other incidents with other players involved, but I think Fred was a very easy scapegoat because of his background and his manner.
I don’t think Len Hutton treated him very well. He had his own problems on the tour in trying to manage the political issues around the series. I don’t think they ever saw eye-to-eye personally, although Fred had the greatest of respect for Len as a player.
Trueman never forgave Hutton on his treatment on that tour - another good example of Trueman against authority?
I think Fred had good reason to feel aggrieved because I do think he was harshly treated in that series. If you think that he didn’t tour for five years and played sporadically it’s a huge part of his career because there were fewer Tests played. It probably cost him 30 Test Matches and Fred estimated at least 100 wickets.
Right until the end of his life he carried that chip on his shoulder that he should have played a hundred Tests for England. I think as you go through his story and you see that he was left out of tours and that he was accused of things – you can understand why he ultimately became somewhat of a resentful character on the radio. He didn’t like the fact that certain players were heralded when they’d not done as much as he had and you can track his character through these kinds of events.
I’m now going to miss a huge chunk of his career as I’m going to jump to 1964 now. By that time he had been arguably the greatest bowler in the world, but against Australia in the 5th Test of ’64 he took two wickets in consecutive balls on the stroke of lunch and the world waited for the hat-trick ball with Trueman on 299 Test wickets.
There was a real chance that he wasn’t going to get his 300th wicket. In the first instance he’d been dropped the previous game when on 297 wickets after bowling badly at Headingley.
There was a real feeling going into the 5th Test that it could be his last game. In the match nothing was going right for him and then all of a sudden he had this double breakthrough just before lunch.
He came back after lunch needing one more wicket and gain there was a really agonising period where nothing went right until the new ball became available. Of course he took the record 300th wicket when he had Neil Hawke caught in the slips.
Did he get the right ball as a souvenir?
It’s very unlikely. He had never seen eye-to-eye with umpire Jack Crapp who didn’t like what he thought was Fred’s bullying attitude towards some of the young county players. Fred marched off at The Oval demanding the ball and Crapp had thrown it into a box of eleven other balls. When Fred walked in Crapp picked one out and handed it to him. He was pictured kissing the match ball and there was only and 1-in-12 chance that he’d been given the right one.
Trueman finished with 307 wickets at 21.57 and you’ve mentioned already that he felt he should have had many more wickets than that. Do you think he was happy with his Test career and did what he set out to achieve?
He was immensely proud of what he had achieved. There was an illuminating moment when he was on ‘This Is Your Life’ and they showed his 300th wicket and he was on the edge of tears. There is no doubt that it meant a huge amount to him, but no doubt also that he felt he was short changed and I’ve no doubt in my mind that he was.
Trueman captained Yorkshire eight times in 1968 when he stood in for the injured Brian Close. Yorkshire beat the Australians for the first time since 1902. Could he have been a Yorkshire captain?
A lot of players have intimated that he wouldn’t have made a good permanent captain because his leadership was based on charisma and sticking out his chest. But then I did speak to a couple of people including Geoff Cope who felt that he would have been a good permanent captain as he was a good man manager because he made you feel good and he cared about you.
I think he had those qualities, but whether he was tactically gifted enough is maybe open to question. He knew when to put an arm around a shoulder so it’s a moot point. Jack Fingleton wrote that he felt Fred would have made a very good captain.
Fred Trueman never felt he got the recognition from Yorkshire County Cricket Club he deserved. When he retired he was presented with a silver cruet set and had to fork out for some of the cost himself...
Yes, that’s unbelievable. You can understand the frustration when you’re made to pay towards your own farewell gift. It’s shocking. But then I don’t think Yorkshire have always treated their great players very well over the years. Not just Fred, but in general. Brian Close was badly treated in my opinion and we can go on.
It’s unfortunate and it’s the little things. When he broke the world Test wicket record he got a telegram from every county apart from Yorkshire. And then when he retired he wasn’t allowed into the car park. These sort of sundry problems are all a bit avoidable and all a bit sad really.
It was a shame that effectively in the end Yorkshire and Fred almost went their separate ways.
Part Four of the Chris Waters interview to follow tomorrow...
Fred Trueman: The Authorised Biography [Hardcover] by Chris Waters is published by Aurum Press Ltd and is in book shops of all standards now.
Courtesy of Aurum Press Ltd we have three copies of Fred Trueman: The Authorised Biography to give away. To win a copy all you need to do is correctly answer the question below and send your answer to email@example.com
QUESTION: What was Fred Trueman's middle name?
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