David Lloyd: Start the car, tweet the Twitter and play the game

'Bumble' is buzzing with Twenty20 fervour but the traditions of the game, and the pub, are paramount
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The Independent Online

About half a century ago, long before he was Bumble, David Lloyd received the best advice he has ever had. "It came from me dad, who was a Methodist lay preacher," he said. "I wouldn't say he was a God-botherer but he was very religious and never had a drink. If me mother made a sherry trifle at Christmas she had to make one separate because he wouldn't touch it. Anyway, he just said, 'Be yourself, in everything you do, be yourself'."

And so he has. In a lifetime of cricket he has been nothing but himself. What a self it has been, too: warm, engaging, daft, outspoken, emotional. His career, famously, has embraced being player, umpire, coach and commentator-pundit, all done at the highest level. If he won only nine Test caps as a player, he would have won 109 as a commentator.

Oh, and tweeter in chief. He has more followers on the social networking site, Twitter, than England have South Africans in their team. It has given him an entirely new audience to hang on to his every word.

As with all he does, he has adopted this phenomenon with a zeal which appears to be wholly reciprocated. So that, for instance, he kept up a running update of scores during England's win in the World Twenty20 in Barbados last Sunday between, and probably during, his TV commentary stints.

Before the toss, the world was informed: "Groundsman says bit drier than normal not as much pace." Or during England's rampant chase: "Pietersen out, 118-2." By the following day he was chronicling his troubled journey home and by Thursday night, having got there, that "some bastard is pinching the cushions from the pub". All this is followed by 68,148 people and counting.

Bumble likes pubs, probably as much as he likes cricket, and he still adores that after all these years. He has two locals, one round the corner from home in Cheshire, one a train ride away in the heart of Manchester. He likes to arrive at around 5.30pm, have a chat and a pint and then push off home. Early doors, he calls it. "I am a massive protector of the British pub," he said. "Too many of them are going to the wall, but it's a place of conversation and a good sup. I don't do music and bandits, just conversation, a good sup, see you tomorrow."

Not much of the conversation revolves round cricket, for he is aware that you can have too much of a good thing. He and his pals in one of the boozers formed themselves into a quasi-regiment in which they call themselves military nicknames and are always on manoeuvres – Group Captain Clarke, the Brigadier, 34 Regular and his favourite, Private Macca of Bulgaria and his Failed Bulgarian Property Empire.

"They know I'm involved in cricket but they don't give me any hassle," he said. "They've not much idea what's going on at the best of times about anything. This bloke, Macca, he bought one or two properties in Bulgaria and left them with an agent to rent.

"For two years he never saw a penny so he went over on spec and finds there's people been living there for two years. He had to get them out, and then it needed refurbishing, of course. Then he met some bloke in a pub who said he could do the job, it was either five grand or 10 grand, and he said he could bring the stuff round, no sweat. He has never seen the bloke from that day to this."

This is all related with that effervescent glee that has become so familiar on the airwaves these past two decades. He was an irregular on Test Match Special for years (he is generous in his thanks to its former producer, Peter Baxter) and since he resigned as England coach in 1999 he has been the knockabout act on Sky, the comic to all those straight-men former England captains.

The new book he has out – Private Macca's tale is there in all its glory - is a paean to cricket and pubs and laddishness and gentle grumpiness. It takes its title – The World According To Bumble: Start The Car – from his best-loved catchphrase. It is an amiable ramble around the lanes of his life. But they all lead back to cricket eventually, as they always have.

There is a serious man of cricket here, the one who is David Lloyd and not Bumble. He was in his element during the World Twenty20 in the West Indies and despite an unfamiliar and occasionally perplexing production crew, he managed to avoid letting the joins show. The short game suits his style, but do not run away with the notion that he is totally bewitched. "I have been going to Twenty20 since 2003 and don't confuse it with cricket," he said. "Twenty20 is a shoot-out, sheer entertainment played with cricket equipment, and it's not that serious. You don't pull anybody to bits.

"But the fielding is out of sight and teams do get exposed, which is great fun. I do worry about Test cricket because if you look at the sub-continent the hub of the game is geared towards the Indian Premier League which, looking from the outside in, has got massive problems.

"You hear all sorts of stories about the administration, about the finance from players and the coaches. It's easy street. Coaches want to run it properly and do warm-ups, and a section of players say we don't do that and I think that has showed through in the World Twenty20. One, they weren't fit; two, they were fat, and they ain't going to survive. What really saddens me is the massive rumours about irregularities. The ACU [Anti-Corruption Unit] isn't involved in IPL and it's open to abuse."

His view on Twenty20, his belief that Test cricket remains not only the acme of the game but also that to which players aspire, is the serious David Lloyd coming through. He recognises that England played authentically good cricket in the Caribbean to grab their T20 glory and that the imminent Test series against Bangladesh may have its detractors.

"It's not a Test match, it's a mismatch but it fits in with the ICC two-year programme, which probably needs a bit of tweaking," he said. "There are all sorts of things you can do but they're not winning, although people would argue that New Zealand went 45 Test matches before they won, so... I have no answer to it, other than that the game needs strong administration and doesn't deserve or need to be bullied by certain countries because Test-match cricket is what the players want."

He has enjoyed all his roles in the game, though playing it can never be replaced. Perhaps that is why, when his home-town club of Accrington came calling, he was only too eager to help. He had not lost his touch, and last summer he hit the winning runs to clinch the Lancashire League title, "although I only got four". His favourite moment came earlier in the season when he made top score on a sticky dog, hit a bowler over the ropes and asked him what it was like to be hit for six by a pensioner.

After finishing as a professional player, Bumble presently became an umpire. He loved it but looks back now on it as a lost age. The umpire was the boss back then. Not now. Umpires, he believes, have to try to appease the players. "You wouldn't have dared stand out of line when Syd Buller and Charlie Elliott were umpiring," he said. "I really would like cricket to get back to total respect for umpires. There is too much growling. I'm an advocate of yellow and red cards in cricket. Then everybody on the grounds knows what's gone on if anybody has stepped out of line. It would be like Trident, such a deterrent that you'd never get any trouble."

One of the great growlers is Stuart Broad, on whom Bumble gazes with a combination of opprobrium and laughter. Young Stuart of the choir-boy face and gangster temper receives a mention in the book. "I've done a bit on the world's great ranters. Of course, Adolf Hitler was number one, then you move on to Alex Ferguson, Wayne Rooney and now Stuart, of course. He usually throws a rant when the umpire says not out when he's bowling or out when he's batting. He's coming along nicely, moving up the ratings of the world's great ranters."

Bumble never stops. His next role is to record a part in a play to be staged in Scarborough this summer about a chap called in from Yorkshire League cricket to play for the county in Twenty20 cricket. It came from meeting one of his pals, John Henshaw, over a pint, another reason for saving the British pub.

"I absolutely love the game," he said. "I think the game is fantastic. It's what you were brought up to do, it was what I wanted to do from the age of 15, and so you pinch yourself now at 63 that you're still involved. There are a lot of things that are wrong that need putting right but equally there are a lot of things that are right." Like Bumble.

David Lloyd will be commentating for Sky Sports during England's summer of cricket, starting with the First Test v Bangladesh at Lord's from 10am on Thursday, exclusively live on Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports HD 1

Life and times

Born: 18 March 1947, Accrington.

Nickname Known as 'Bumble' due to uncanny likeness to characters from 1970s TV show 'Bumblies'.

First-class career Lancashire 1965-83: 19,269 first-class runs at an average of 33.33; 237 wickets at 30.26. Also 7,761 one-day runs at 32.74 and 39 wickets at 22.89.

International career Nine Tests for England, averaged 42.46. Highest score 214 not out against India in 1974. Eight ODIs, average 40.71.

Post-playing career First-class umpire 1985-87, head coach of Lancashire 1993-96.

National service England coach 1996-99 included the infamous "we murdered 'em" quote on 1996-97 Zimbabwe tour.

Soundbites After being hit in the box by Jeff Thomson in 1974-75 Ashes series: "We wore little pink plastic boxes which were totally unsuitable. It cracked open and what I had inside fired through before the box snapped shut again. Even after 32 years, I lose my voice just thinking about it."

After his lawnmower was stolen "The person I'd like to meet is the geezer who pinched my lawnmower. I'd introduce him to an associate of mine, 'Mad George', and then we'd see how much gardening he could do after that."

Martin Hines