Book Review - "My Autobiography" by Dickie Bird
The experience of reading My Autobiography by Dickie Bird might be like Dickie himself – 'endearing'.
His life story is already well documented. The son of a miner from a little town in Yorkshire, Harold Dennis Bird played county cricket for Yorkshire and Leicestershire, took up umpiring as a profession after retirement and went on to become one of the greatest and respected umpires the game has ever seen.
The book touched upon his playing career, his foray into coaching in the schools of South Africa and his experience in umpiring across the world.
What stands out in the book are – his love for his home town Barnsley, his love and respect for the game, his punctuality (he used to reach 4 hours before any appointment or on match day. Sometimes, he used to be there when stadium gates were yet to be opened), his quest to be best in whatever he did, and his relationship with the cricketers and those associated with cricket.
There are so many funny stories as well. For example, the one where he shouted “NO BALL” so loudly in a match, that the batsman in the adjacent ground tried to slog the ball and got bowled. Then, there are stories about him playing barber to Sunil Gavaskar during a match, pranks played on him by Dennis Lillee and Allan Lamb, and so on.
There are lot of good humored banter for his good friend and fellow Yorkshire-man Sir Geoff Boycott as well. At one point, he quipped “it was a long flight, took as much time as a Boycott century”. Time and again, he mentioned regarding how important for everyone to have fun while playing and watching the sport.
Dickie has also selected a World XI (Squad of 13): Barry Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Vivian Richards, Greg Chappell, Greame Pollock, Garfield Sobers, Alan Knott, Richard Hadlee, Michael Holding, Dennis Lillee, Lance Gibbs, Andy Roberts and Abdul Quadir.
He almost apologetically mentioned the names who missed out narrowly – Sir Geoffrey, Desmond Haynes, Gordon Greenidge, John Edrich, Graham Gooch, Neil Harvey, Brian Lara, Allan Border, David Gower, Willie Watson, Sachin Tendulkar, Ian Chappell, Steve Waugh, Mark Waugh, Clive Lloyd, Javed Miandad, Ian Botham, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Kapil Dev, Michael Proctor, Wasim Bari, Rodney Marsh, Bob Talylor, Jeffrey Dujon, Farokh Engineer, Ian Healy, Jack Russell, Shane Warne, Derek Underwood, Freddie Trueman, Malcom Marshall, Joel Garner, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Waquar Younis, John Snow, Bob Willis and so on.
His choice of best captains has been Raymond Illingworth, Mike Brearley, Ian Chappell and Richie Benaud.
While there can be debate on his World XI, there is absolutely no question on Dickie’s umpiring credentials. He stood for 66 Test matches and 90+ one-day matches, four World Cups and has unique record to officiate three World Cup finals. However, these are just stats - he is actually part of many a childhood and made cricket fans fall in love with game, as he himself did.