Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Autobiography - Dickie Bird

Sports scene is full of heroes and people with some eccentric characters. They always create enough interest even after their retirement. Most of them make 'hay while the sun shine' by publishing their memoirs, even before their retirement. However, it is seldom that people from the supporting function gets so much attention. Harold 'Dicky' Bird was one such character. One of the most celebrated umpires of modern cricket, he was one of the stars of the game. His retirement from the international cricket umpiring was an huge affair. Of course, we have some interesting characters in the umpiring field, these days in New Zealander, Billi Bowden, Australian Darryl Harper and West Indian Steve Buckner. But it was with Dicky Bird and his compatriot David Shepard the umpiring came into lime light.
Born to a miner in Barnsley, Dicky Bird started as a footballer like all the youngsters. An accident caused knee problem prevented his football career, and continued his focus in the next passion, cricket. His introduction to Barnsley club wasn't all that impressive. The batting coach had a look at the skinny boy came into nets and promptly send him back , almost ending his cricketing dreams. However, a kind man took pity on the weeping young boy and bowled for him to bat for the rest of the evening. Along with the celebrated Yorkshiremen, Dickie was also inducted into the Barnsley Club and later to the Yorkshire Club to play for county. He had reasonable success there in the company of Freddy Trueman, Geoff Boycott and few other English players. The star studded Yorkshire team prevented him with enough appearances in the county matches, keeping him at the 12th man slot. Whenever the stars were called for the country duty, he get the chance which he made use, only to relinquish the place to the returning players. Once, even after scoring a match winning 181 against Glamorgan, he had to sit out of the next match, to pave way to the regulars. All these events, and being the 12th man in the side made him to switch the side to Leicester, which he still believes as the gravest mistake he did in his life. He continued his not so good life at Leicester for 4 to 5 years, before taking up assignment to coach college teams, which took him to far of places like South Africa and Nigeria.

The coaching stint also did not last long, before he finally decided to take up umpiring as a full time job. Since, then he did not have to look back. Considered as one of the best umpires in the modern times, he held the distinction of standing over 66 tests and 90 odd one day internationals, including the initial three world cup finals. Respected world over, both by the crowd and the players, Dickie Bird talks about some of his interesting stories in his inimitable humour. One of my favorite is when England was playing Australia , Allan Lamb comes out to bat carrying his mobile phone in his pocket. Instead of taking guard, he came over to the square leg where Dickie was standing and promptly handed over the phone, instructing to take any calls which come, as he is expecting some important calls. As expected, the phone rang and . To his surprise, none other than Ian Botham was at the other end. Came the instruction crips and clear, "Tell that Lamby to play the shots or get out".

His memoirs gives us insight to many such interesting characters in the world cricket, known to us. There are many English players of his era comes in the discussion so are some of the known international players across the continents. Dickie Bird also spend whole lot of pages to the unsung heroes of the cricket. The Groundsmen is one of such team. He covers various groundsmen across England, and shos his admiration to their work. Groundsmen are one such team who are always at the receiving end.
For the fans of cricket, this one interesting book. However, as an autobiography, one can not call this as a good work. It is easy reading, it does keep your interest alive with stories and incidents concerned with your heroes.

Before I end this, I will also give you one more incident narrated by Dickie Bird elsewhere ( not in this book, I guess in an article called 'from the pavilion end')..

"Bomber" Wells, a spin bowler and great character, played for Gloucestershire and Nottinghamshire. He used to bat at No.11 since one couldn't bat any lower. Of him, They used to paraphrase Compton's famous words describing and equally inept runner;

"When he shouts 'YES' for a run, it is merely the basis for further negotiations!"

Incidentally, Compton was no better. John Warr said, of Compton "He was the only person who would call you for a run and wish you luck at the same time." Anyway, when Wells played for Gloucs, he had an equally horrendous runner as the No.10. During a county match, horror of horrors.......both got injured. *Both* opted for runners when it was their turn to bat. Bomber played a ball on the off, called for a run, forgot he had a runner and ran himself. Ditto at the other end. In the melee, someone decided that a second run was on. Now we had *all four* running. Due to the confusion and constant shouts of "YES" "NO", eventually, *all* of them ran to the same end. Note - at this point in time, the entire ground is rolling on the floor laughing their behinds out. One of the fielders - brave lad - stops laughing for a minute, picks the ball and throws down the wicket at the other end. Umpire Alec Skelding looks very seriously at the four and calmly informs them "One of you b*****s is out. I don't know which. *You* decide and inform the bloody scorers!".

My Autobiography ( 1997 )

Harold Dennis Bird ( Dickie Bird) with Keith Lodge

Coronet Books

479 Pages


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