When Dickie Bird tried to get his first match with Barnsley Cricket Club, he was just 15 years old. But when the batsman in the nets took one look at the skinny teenager and sent him on his way, Dickie Bird was nearly lost to cricket forever. Fortunately, a kindly man met the weeping youngster on his way back to the bus stop and took pity–and spent the rest of the evening bowling to him in the nets.
He did play for Barnsley and later–though intermittently–for his beloved Yorkshire. Fated to be the twelfth man, however, he left for Leicestershire from where, though he played regularly, he chose instead to go into umpiring. The rest, as they say, is history; but it is an interesting history of a miner’s son who became a worldwide celebrity and chose, after retiring from cricket, to tell his millions of adoring fan the whole tale.
Growing up in Barnsley, becoming a professional cricketer, then training as an umpire–all the steps along the way are lovingly recorded in My Autobiography. The first umpire to become a celebrity and all-round “character”, Dickie Bird never once forgot his fans. Signing autographs for children after gruelling days on the Test circuit, always having a word for waiting interviewers, forever friendly with the press–Dickie Bird always eschewed the trappings of fame. And fortune–twice he turned down lucrative offers to leave England and become a celebrity umpire abroad.
66 Test matches, three World Cup finals and 92 one-day Internationals after that fateful day at Barnsley Cricket Club, Dickie Bird retired from his sport with more than a few tears. He had spent more than 50 years controlling the enthusiasm of the world’s greatest players while “married to cricket”, and if there is one thing he puts across in his book, it is his passion for the game.
With an introduction by fellow Barnsley-man and cricketer Michael Parkinson, this book–now the bestselling British sports autobiography of all time–is written with Bird’s trademark bluntness. The enthralling story he tells will appeal not only to cricket lovers but to anyone interested in human nature in general.