Fred Trueman, by Chris Waters

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The Independent Culture

Fred Trueman running in smoothly to bowl, right sleeve unfurling and mop of black hair flopping over his left brow, before delivering the ball swiftly – sometimes very swiftly indeed – with a classic side-on action was one of the indelible images of Fifties and Sixties cricket.

And his dismissive harrumph on Test Match Special, "I don't know what's going off out there", was one of the game's most imitated catchphrases in his 25-year stint from 1974-99. But this perceptive biography reveals that the bluff, confrontational public face concealed a far more insecure soul.

Trueman liked to represent his childhood as a bucolic idyll but the truth was that he grew up in poverty in bleak surroundings on the edge of a pit yard in South Yorkshire and his family were looked down upon by the other villagers.

Chris Waters argues convincingly that the social discrimination he suffered as a child and when he first played for Yorkshire and England scarred him, were the root cause of his earlier boorishness and indiscipline on and off the pitch, and the reason why in later years he distanced himself from his origins, preferring a gin and tonic to pints and becoming a fervent Tory.

Waters has done a good job in disentangling the man from the myths, many of which were eagerly promoted by Fiery Fred himself. As befits the cricket correspondent of the Yorkshire Post, he is also illuminating about the county's penchant for internecine warfare at both committee and dressing-room level, and how it soured Trueman, and of the snobbery which robbed him of many more appearances for England.

Memorably, the fast bowler still became the first man to 300 Test wickets, and no less a player than Garry Sobers names him as the best bowler he ever faced. Trueman would not have disagreed.

Published in hardback by Aurum, £20