IF ONLY today’s cricketers showed the perseverance and dexterity which became the hallmarks of Yorkshire cricketer Bob Appleyard who has passed away aged 90. That is the abiding memory of a remarkably economical and effective bowler, one of the finest ever to be capped by England, who overcame incredible odds in order to play the sport which made this proud son of Bradford.
Not only did he have to come to terms with the deaths of his close relatives who were killed in a gas attack – Appleyard’s father had been left badly scarred by the First World War and feared for his young family in another global conflict – but his own playing prospects were cut short by the Second World War and then the discovery that he had contracted tuberculosis.
Yet, even after surgeons removed part of a lung, Appleyard continued to bamboozle county and Test batsmen in the 1950s with his bewildering mix of medium-pace swing bowling or astute off-spin delivered with metronomic accuracy. He was undoubtedly blessed with hands of above-average strength which had been hardened by hammering steel sheets as an apprentice engineer.
The only person to take 200 wickets in his debut season in the County Championship, still cricket’s Holy Grail, the Bradfordian’s prowess was summised by the great Bill Bowes who noted so sagely: “I can’t teach this lad anything.”
Praise indeed and why Bob Appleyard will be remembered as one of the all-time greats of Yorkshire cricket and a tireless supporter of the gentleman’s game in his home city. Today’s players are not made like him.