Mention a cricketer’s name and immediately certain images are recalled to mind.
Whatever the reason those images are firmly entrenched into your memory. One such memory for me is of former English cricketer Fred Trueman.
Fred Trueman was truly one of the great characters of cricket. I was fortunate to see him play in a Test against the Aussies at the MCG in the early 60’s. I remember watching him as he charged into bowl; a strong body supported by those stocky bow legs of his, a rolling rollicking gait rocking from side to side as he gathered pace nearing the stumps. Shiny, well oiled black hair flopped over his forehead and into his eyes as he stared menacingly at the batsmen. Always, a maximum effort was given to each ball bowled. And every ball bowled he expected a wicket; and if that didn’t happen, a wide eyed steely glare was transfixed on the batsmen. The implication being that it was only a matter of time before his wicket was Fred’s.
On this particular day and early in Australia’s second innings Fred struck with a venom taking consecutive wickets. Firstly, Bobby Simpson was bowled playing backwards to a ball that appeared to keep low after being softened up by some nasty bouncers beforehand; and very next ball, Norm O’Neill skies a ball hooking off the middle stump, only to be caught by Colin Cowdrey jogging sedately around from slips. Unfortunately, an over ambitious shot from a batsmen out of form and sadly not the shot to play first ball of your innings.
At the end of the over, as Fred confidently strutted back to his position on the boundary, a real swagger in his step, slicking and flicking back his hair with his fingers, he pulled on his cap, waved to the crowd in acknowledgement of their applause and then his next action has remained forever implanted in my memory; he took a bow. But not just any bow. He stopped, raised his head to the skies, stretched his arms wide, crossed his legs and then with a flourish, perhaps a romantic flourish, he doffed his cap as he bent low, the loyal servant saluting his master. It seemed for such a long time that he held the bow but it was probably only a matter of seconds. But the crowd was dumbfounded; they didn’t know what to make of it or what to do! Most of us had never seen a reaction like this on a sporting field before. And Fred was enjoying our response. He had us in the palm of his hands. A real showman. Freddie Trueman loved his cricket.
Replacing his cap, he rolled his sleeves up, a big twinkling smile on his face, in fact you could even say a lecherous smile, he winked at us then turned his back and walked towards the play as Brian Statham ran in to bowl the first ball of the next over.
It was a magic moment and one that is forever etched in my memory.