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Bearders: My Life in Cricket by Bill Frindall

Release date: 04th June, 2006
Publisher: Orion Publishing

List Price: £18.99
Our Price: £11.38
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Bearders: My Life in Cricket
By Bill Frindall
Orion Publishing price: £11.38, saving 40% on rrp

In cricket, as in life, timing is everything. So when a young William Howard Frindall, having recently completed seven years service in the RAF, heard of the death of Arthur Wrigley, the scorer/statistician for Test Match Special, he immediately telephoned the BBC to discover who was in charge of cricket.

Frindall's initiative paid dividends and, following what must have been an impressive letter to Charles Max-Muller, head of BBC Outside Broadcasts, a career on radio, in public speaking and in cricket publishing that has lasted more than 40 years subsequently ensued. It was that simple.

Nevertheless, entering a commentary box containing such legendary figures as John Arlott and Brian 'Johnners' Johnston was a daunting experience for Frindall, but he soon settled in, becoming an integral part of the team with his statistical insights and scoring method - and occasional dry interjections - on a programme that became and remains a national institution.

Christened 'The Bearded Wonder' by Johnston, the foreshortened version of this soubriquet, 'Bearders', provides the title of Frindall's, at times, delightful autobiography. The life, cakes, wisecracks and schoolboy pranks of the various occupants of the TMS commentary box are told with the reverence one would expect from someone who is now its longest occupant, with the chapter on John Arlott, a man who Frindall saw as a surrogate father, particularly insightful.

Being a statistician, Frindall goes to great lengths to describe the minutiae of certain cricketing records and milestones, a significant number of which most readers will be fully aware. Yet whilst the chapter on his scoring system is enlightening, the one following a BBC Computer Test match between the best post-war England and Australian teams feels out of place, almost unnecessary.

This, however, is a minor cavil as by far the best bits of this book are those which provide details of Frindall's life away from TMS. His youth in idyllic stockbroker-belt Surrey, an aborted emigration to Canada and a relaxing time in the RAF, playing a lot of cricket but still ending up in the NATO war room in Fontainebleau, are written with the lightness of touch and the self-deprecation seen in the best autobiographies.

Once ensconced at TMS, his later tales of touring the sub-continent, Australia, New Zealand and various other parts of the world with his own team, The Maltamaniacs, consisting of a disparate band of celebrities, former cricketers and old friends, is a joy. More than most, Frindall understands that cricket is as much about the characters who play the game as the game itself.

Although no mean cricketer himself, it was especially amusing to discover that for many years after joining TMS he carried his kit in his car "just in case England were short", a habit he picked up from his youth scoring for Temple Bar.

It is obvious from the book's opening paragraphs to its closing lines that Bill Frindall loves the game of cricket and the people who play it. With the banishment of cricket from terrestrial television to Sky it is likely that the institution which is TMS will become an even more important part of the international game. Let us hope that its veteran scorer/statistician remains an integral part of that future for a long time to come.

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