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Farokh Engineer reflects on his Red Rose career

Farokh Engineer reflects on his Red Rose career

Stark naked and with tobacco smoke billowing from a battered old pipe, Yorkshire's fearsome fast bowler Fred Trueman strode nonchalantly into the Lancashire dressing room ahead of another epic Roses joust at Headingley.

Farouk Engineer recalled: "I'd just signed for Lancashire and I knew it was going to be a terrific honour meeting the great Freddie Trueman.

"But I'll never forget that moment when the door swung open and Fred walked in wearing only his birthday suit, and chewing on that pipe.

"I was changing next to Brian Statham, who kindly introduced me. Fred was one of the stars of world cricket, a true legend.

"In India, we were brought up to worship players and I so wanted to talk to him. I was fascinated by this great player, and I couldn't contain my enthusiasm.

"I said: 'Mr Trueman, I have heard so much about you and it's a real pleasure meeting you, sir'.

"And his first words to me were 'don't you ******* creep to me, lad'.

"He then said to Statham: 'Brian, this guy might have scored one of the fastest and most spectacular Test hundreds for India, but when he goes out to bat, have a look to see if I'm bowling because if the telephone goes for Engineer, you can tell the caller to hang on, because he'll soon be back in the pavilion – nice meeting you son.'

"I just sat there and smiled, and when I went out to open the innings for Lancashire, there was Fred breathing fire at the other end.

"With a silly point and a silly mid-on, I expected a barrage of short-pitched deliveries.

"Instead I got a real lollipop of a bowl from Fred, and I hooked him for a flat six with a ball that thumped against the Headingley pavilion so hard that it rebounded back halfway across the pitch.

"After the game, we were in the Yorkshire committee room having a drink, and Fred asked me what I'd like.

"I requested a glass of beer and he went up to the bar and got me a pint of Tetley's. The Yorkshire players were in a state of shock, though.

"They swear they had never seen Fred fetch a drink before for a member of the opposition, especially for a Lancashire player.

"To this day we have remained great friends, but that morning at Headingley is one of my favourite Lancashire memories."

A natural athlete and swashbuckling batsman, Farokh was Lancashire's wicketkeeper, playing 175 matches for the county from 1968 to 1976, scoring 5,942 runs, holding 429 catches and claiming 35 stumpings.

Born in Bombay in 1938, he was an experienced Test match player when he joined Lancashire 30 years later, when, in the same season, the Old Trafford committee had nearly agreed terms with West Indian legend Gary Sobers.

Engineer's dashing displays and versatility with the bat, and his agility and dazzling skill behind the stumps, sparked a golden era at Old Trafford.

Lancashire were the undisputed one-day kings in the 1970s and Engineer, who became their popular talisman, wore the Red Rose cap with style and distinction.

When he made his debut, Lancashire had not won a major honour since 1950, but if ever a player was born for limited overs cricket it was Engineer.

Eight years later, having won the Gillette Cup four times in 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1975, and the John Player League twice in 1969 and 1970, Lancashire had raised the bar to a new height.

Farokh added: "They were incredible times, and Old Trafford was a marvellous place to be. People would come for miles to see us play.

"From the Old Trafford dressing room we could see Warwick Road railway station and before the game we would see packed trains emptying the passengers on the platform.

"We could hear the chanting and the excited chatter and laughter. Our popularity was immense, with all the players receiving regular fan mail.

"It was amazing, our lockers would be stuffed full of requests for autographs and invitations to parties.

"Everyone in England was talking about that great team, names like Clive Lloyd, Harry Pilling, Peter Lever and Ken Shuttleworth.

"That buzz lasted for years and we were the most famous one-day team in the land."

While Clive Lloyd and Farokh played a key role in that fabulous era, skipper Jack Bond welded that special Lancashire team spirit together. Engineer remembered:

"Jack was a marvellous captain, certainly the finest skipper I ever played under.

"We had a great understanding, just one look or glance behind the stumps and he immediately knew what I was thinking and we could make a decision over a field change without so much as a gesture or a whisper.

"I'll never forget his incredible catch to dismiss Asif Iqbal in the Gillette Cup final at Lord's in 1971.

"Bondy's overall contribution to Lancashire was immense. His man-management was top-class and he had it in him to motivate, encourage and inspire.

"There were no heavy-handed or draconian measures. Bondy treated each player differently, an individual.

"He knew we had our own nuances and styles, but he could always fathom the psychology of the players.

"I can honestly say that we never had a single cross word. I enjoyed the one-day cricket immensely, though – it filled a big gap, a big vacuum.

"We needed the football-type supporters, we needed a game that had a result at the end of the day. The John Player Sunday League (40 overs per side) was a revolution.

"Perhaps my favourite innings in that competition was against Glamorgan at Southport.

"There was 8,000 inside that little ground and hundreds more locked out. I scored 78 not out and I've never had so much fun.

"The innings was carefree, just a joy. I drove, hooked and snicked Lancashire to victory, and I just felt unbeatable that day.

"There was obviously great skill in grafting and working to save a game in either Test match or Championship cricket.

"That was like a game of chess; a mind game, but one-day cricket was tremendous fun.

"I'm sure I would have enjoyed the 20-20 competition."

A cricketer of immense character, Engineer made his Test debut in 1961, and he had already played in half of his 46 Test matches when he signed for Lancashire – including India's first Test victory over England in this country at The Oval.

Engineer's benefit year, in 1976, raised 26,500, then a Lancashire record, is now a Vice-President of the Club.

On a secret trip to India with the Lancashire team, many years after his retirement, he was welcomed with the reverence of a rajah.

"I went back to India one year and I didn't even have to show my passport at the airport.

"The guy on security saluted me and waved me through.

"It is nearly 30 years since I last played Test cricket for India, but the welcome was truly overwhelming.

"People were coming up to me on the street with sprays of flowers, wanting to have their children photographed with me and that made me so proud.

"When I tried to settle the bill at the hotel the manager just said it was free.

"It is incredible and unbelievable to be appreciated like that and I thank God for my beautiful family, my homeland and those truly wonderful years with the famous Lancashire."

 
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