Thursday, February 10, 2011

Remembering Trevor Bailey

Trevor Bailey, who died this morning, went down in cricketing legend as the supreme defensive player and was also a skilled fast medium bowler. His playing career ended just to soon for me to remember it, but he was for many years an important figure on Test Match Special as, with Fred Trueman, he provided the expert comment between overs.

To explain their respective styles to readers who are too young to remember this era, Bailey was like Geoff Boycott at his best (witty, acerbic, generous to the best modern players) and Trueman was like Geoff Boycott at his worse (repetitive and convinced that no one today is as good as they were in his day or he was himself).

When they were forcibly retired at the same time, I felt strongly that Trueman had already been allowed to stay far too long and Bailey had been got rid off to soon.

Someone once likened his crisp style to Mr Jingle in Pickwick Papers. So much so that it was suggested in a letter to Test Match Special that he would have described an incident where one England slip fielder dropped the ball on to his boot and it was caught by the man next to him as follows:
"Good ball. Bad shot. Got the edge. Bad drop. Good pass. Nice catch. Back in the hutch. Thank you very much."
Bailey was also revered as a coach and thinker on the game, and his influence on the England team is still felt. His protege at Essex was Keith Fletcher, who was in turn a great influence on the careers of Graham Gooch, the current England batting coach, and Nasser Hussain, the captain under whom our recent revival began.

British Pathe has put together a Trevor Bailey archive


Max Atkinson said...

Trevor Bailey was also a thoroughly good chap as far as autograph hunters like me were concerned. When I was a kid in the 1950s, we used to go to the Scarborough cricket week, where all the top cricketers used to come to let their hair down at the end of the season.

At lunch and tea breaks, the players had to cross the field from the pavilion to a marquee, pursued by the likes of me begging them to sign our books. One thing we all knew that Bailey would never oblige during the day. But we didn't mind at all, because we also knew that, at the end of play, he would sit in his car (a Ford Consul, if I remember rightly) in the car park and keep on signing autographs for however long took for the queue to disappear.

This was in marked contrast with Brian Close's condescending attitude towards us. His was a signature that was notoriously difficult to get into your book. I spent at least three mornings following (and pleading with) him from his hotel to the ground. Eventually, he did gave in, but with rather bad grace. He stopped, looked angrily down at me and said "Oh, give us 'ere yer boooooook.'

I remember thinking - and this is really saying something for a Yorkshire lad at the time - that Close wasn't nearly as nice a the affable Trevor Bailey, even though the latter came from somewhere a long way down south called Essex.

The last time all this came flooding back to me was many years later when I took my sons (by then also equipped with autograph books) to watch Oxford University playing against Yorkshire at the Parks -the only 'first-class' ground in the country where Boycott had never made a century. This was one of the last chances he would have to do it, but he was out in his 90s - which drove him into in such a foul mood that he refused to have anything whatsoever to do any of the youngsters (or anyone else as far as I could see), let alone waste his time signing their autograph books.

At about the same time, perhaps even the same week, he did have plenty of time to sign his latest book for (grown-up) customers at Blackwells, where he did manage to break another record - for the longest queue any author had ever attracted, at least until then.

Richard T said...

As an Essex man, I remember seeing Barnacle Bailey at county matches in the 1950s, with Doug Insole as captain and, as you say, he was a model player and a decent man. The best memorial to him is the Essex side under Fletcher and Tonker Taylor. The only pity is that his influence is not felt in the modern game where the ability to dig in to save a match is sadly lacking; perhaps the need to entertain is too dominant.