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With umpires in the limelight yet again I thought I would review my dust gathering copy of Dickie Birds autobiography. He wasn’t the best one around at the time, but certainly the most respected by the players and media, if just for the fact he was very humble and eccentric. Born in Barnsley, Yorkshire he quickly graduated to the Yorkshire second team alongside fellow gruff Yorkie Michael Parkinson.Where as one went on to be a pompous TV anchor, the other got the coveted roses cap and went on to play for his beloved county. His county cricket career was as patchy as his esteemed TV friend early on and decided that he would be better behind the stumps at the grand old age of 33. A friend of mine who is a bit mad, once jumped on his car and urinated over the bonnet, all because he had given Alan Lamb out LBW which lost us the Lords Final.He even flicks Dickie the Vs when the two collide on world cricket tours and events. But 99 percent of the people love him for his nervy mannerisms and total patronage to Queen and country, let alone his humble nature and loyalty to all. 1972was his first match in charge in the county championship. It evolved into full England honors three years later standing in a Test in 75. In his first international season he was at the center of a bomb scare during the inaugural World Cup, images of him on the protected square surrounded by a thousand black and white faces still brings a smile. So keen was he to do a good job in the game he loved, he once climbed over the Lords gate at 6am because no one was up and about on Test Match day. Now that’s dedication. Over the next twenty years he became the worlds most favorite cricket umpire with tales from players and fans alike taking advantage off the mans nervous insecurities. Lamb and Botham slipped a mobile phone in his pocket on the way out to bat. Botham told Dikie to take care off it as Lamby quickly phoned him as Ian was ru nning in at a B&H cup. One of the best ones is when during a Test, Dikie lost his cap to a cheeky West Indian fan as the crowd swallowed him up. The next day on the Waterloo bus, the conductor came up to Dickie not recognizing him.”Hey man he said, you know who’s cap this is man, Mr Dikie Bird man”. Theres the leaking pipe fiasco, the “good light”stops play tale and ofcourse tales from a far as the bumbling man gets attacked by Jellyfish and his gun metal fillings in India. He lists his favorite players from Hammond to Lillie, Botham to Trueman.I like the tale of his Yorkshire captain Brian Close who is so hard that the local Rottweilers have Closey tattooed on their shins. The ball was driven into his bald head as hard as any man could hit it, but he stood still as the new cherry ricocheted into another fielders hands 50 yards away!. 73 Tests later and failing eyesight, the old boy hung up his cap and called it a day in 1996.In this book he also tackles the games controversy in the same loyalty to his employers as his career in the game. Ball tampering and Pakistan are smoothed over as well as other infamous incidents. The book is a great read, even for non cricket fans who have at least heard of the little jumpy Northerner who is loyal to his God and Queen as much as the great game. It’s perfect for a read with the Ashes coming up and some long lazy day with a pint of something to sip on. It was also the top selling book of two years ago for three weeks near Christmas.
By the time Dickie Bird retired from international cricket in 1996, he had stood at over 66 Test matches and 150 internationals. In this autobiography Dickie gives a behind-the-scenes account of the game and those involved in it.