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‘If they do, they’ll be tired’

Updated on: 22 February,2024 06:52 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Clayton Murzello |

Sanjay Manjrekar did well to tell viewers, while commenting on R Ashwin completing 500 wickets, what England’s Fred Trueman said in 1964 about his 300-wicket record in Test cricket being broken

‘If they do, they’ll be tired’

England pace legend Fred Trueman relaxes in a bathtub of The Oval cricket ground in London after taking four Australian wickets en route to becoming the first man to claim 300-plus Test wickets in 1964. Pic/Getty Images

Clayton MurzelloYou have, sitting out there, children, mothers and fathers, some of whom may not have seen a cricket telecast before or may be watching it in their first season—they want every bit of information you can give them. Then there is the person who might play club cricket, knows a lot about the game and requires a mid-way commentary—he wants some information but not nearly as much as the novice. Finally, there is the one who considers he knows everything about the game and a lot more besides, and he wants to be told nothing.” Australia captain-turned-broadcaster Richie Benaud was obviously best qualified to pen these words in his 1984 book, Benaud on Reflection.

To the late all-rounder, adding to the listener’s/viewer’s knowledge fell into the category of good commentary.  The eloquent Sanjay Manjrekar did that during the recent Rajkot Test, where Ravichandran Ashwin scaled Peak 500 on the Test cricket range. Manjrekar touched upon what England fast bowler Fred Trueman said after he became the first man to claim 300 Test wickets (v Australia at The Oval in 1964). When Trueman was asked by the media if he thought anyone could do what he did, he said, “I don’t know. There’s one thing… if they do, they’ll be tired when they finish. Records are meant to be broken.”

And Ravi Shastri chipped in to tell the viewers that a spinner—West Indies’s Lance Gibbs—became the second to capture 300 wickets (against Australia at Perth in 1975-76, the same series in which he went past Trueman’s 307 scalps to end his career with 309).

There was no shortage of drama in the build up to Trueman’s 300th wicket; his book Ball of Fire providing details like how he was not given a bowl for a while and he virtually took the ball off his skipper Ted Dexter’s hands to get reintroduced in the attack just before lunch on the third day of the Test. Trueman, three short of the magical tally, sent back Ian Redpath and Graham McKenzie. He was on a hat-trick post lunch, but Wicket No. 300 came only after England took the new ball. No. 10 batsman Neil Hawke, who had told Trueman that he’d love to be his 300th, was caught by Colin Cowdrey at first slip. As a souvenir, Trueman presented him a bottle of champagne.
Save the Aussies, everyone rejoiced, including the editor of The People, the newspaper that Trueman wrote for. He wanted Trueman’s feat to be achieved on the Saturday of the Test so that they could have a Sunday spread of pages. Trueman obliged. After finishing his media interaction in which he uttered those famous lines of whoever emulates him would be a very tired man, Trueman headed to the bathroom. He latched the door and wept. “I had done it, despite all,” he wrote in Ball of Fire.

Trueman played in an age when congratulatory telegrams were the norm. He got one from all counties except his very own Yorkshire County Cricket Club and this displeased him no end. The tea set which he was rewarded by the county a year later was no consolation as they didn’t even bother to inscribe his name on the gift.

Maverick he may have been but he stood on ceremony. When Dennis Lillee went past his 307 Test wickets and followed it up by replacing Gibbs (309 Test wickets) as the highest wicket-taker—against the West Indies at Melbourne in 1981-82—Trueman congratulated him via a video clip. He hoped the great Australian would be honoured “far better” than he was honoured in England and didn’t miss the opportunity to say that he was still waiting for Yorkshire to send their congratulations. Humour was never lost on Trueman. He called for the starting of the 300-wicket club which would have him as president since he was the first man to get there. Gibbs would be chairman and they’d have Lillee as treasurer. Thirty-seven bowlers have claimed 300 or more Test wickets so it’s a pretty big club now.

And if Trueman played true to off-field form, he’d have no qualms in saying that he was the greatest among all fast bowlers. There’s an anecdote that reflects how immodest he was. In Fred: Portrait of a Fast Bowler, his biographer John Arlott wrote about how Trueman and Australian batsman Norman O’Neill were in the lounge of a Mumbai hotel (they were in the city to be part of the Koyna Relief Fund at Brabourne Stadium in April 1968). O’Neill noticed two gentlemen talking among themselves about cricket and said to Trueman, “I believe those two Indians at the next table are talking about you.” And Trueman’s response was, “Ay, they talk about me all over t’world, Norm, lad.” And going by Manjrekar’s utterances at the recent India v England Test in Rajkot, they are still talking about Trueman.

mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance.
He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.

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