Howzat?! The Tab meets Angus Fraser

LIAM CONLON talks to former England international cricketer Angus Fraser about the recent Ashes victory, the pressures of increasing media attention, and the most embarrassing moment of his career.

angus fraser Australia cricket England Sport

Over the last few weeks, the England cricket team have produced an historic victory – breaking countless personal and collective records and, of course, becoming the first England team to win an Ashes series Down Under since 1987.

Ahead of the fifth and final Test, Tab Sport caught up with former England international cricketer and fast bowler Angus Fraser. Fraser was also Middlesex County Cricket Captain until he was succeeded by current England Captain Andrew Strauss in 2002.

At 6’6″, Fraser towered into Jesus College bar, with a pint of ale in one hand and a smile that suggested it probably hadn’t been his first. Pleased with the success of the England team, Fraser said ‘this is the best England side in years, and the team has been on the best run of form in decades.’

The press in both England and Australia have been printing some sensationalist headlines of late. The front page of The Australian Herald last week branded their team a “joke” and a “disgrace”. Fraser was quick to add a note of  caution to the headlines of some English newspapers: ‘It’s important to remember that whilst this is a very strong England side, it is also the worst Australian side in a very long time.’

Fraser, playing for England in the ’90s, came up against Australian sides boasting some of the best players in the world, and said this was always on their minds on the way Down Under. ‘The most daunting thing about any Ashes series is playing against the likes of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist,’ he explained.

Alistair Cook, now England’s second highest run-scorer ever in an Ashes series, has been the pundit’s player of the series. Interestingly, he was made an offer to study at Fitzwilliam College, but turned it down to follow his cricket career, in a decision that is paying off.

Wonderboy Cook (left) celebrates his successful partnership with Captain-fantastic Strauss (right)

However, for Fraser, Strauss has been the most important player: ‘Strauss has led by example; compare his performance with the bat to Ponting’s and the difference is clear. You simply cannot underestimate how important a captain is in such pressurised situations, especially during an Ashes series in the Aussies’ backyard.

‘Playing an Ashes series Down Under is more physically and mentally demanding – the weather can get intensely hot, and the Australian media are just waiting for an opportunity to slate you.’

Fraser celebrates his eight-wicket haul against  the West Indies in 1994

Although it is inevitably difficult for any England cricketer in Fraser’s era to point to a single Ashes series as a high, he explained: ‘The moment that really stands out as a personal high was taking eight wickets in the first innings against a strong West Indies team in Barbados, 1994. As a team, it would have been the series victory against South Africa when they were heavy favourites and nobody had really given us a chance before the series.’

After a long description of the South African victory, he sat back in his seat to describe his worst moment, which as a team would be being bowled out for 46 runs by the West Indies in 1994.

For Liam, the most embarrassing moment of his entire career was in an Ashes test against Australia in Brisbane. ‘The Aussie fans were notorious for their jeering, particularly when we were fielding. With the heat and the constant abuse, I decided to give the fans behind me a bit of verbal back. Then two balls later, I dropped a catch from Ian Healy and received a torrent of abuse from hundreds of Aussies.’

For both cricket, as a game, and England’s place in it, the last 10 years have seen a transformation.  What did Fraser think? ‘The prominence of T20 is good if it makes cricket more accessible and encourages greater participation,’ he explained.

‘For the players, the game has changed massively – the main difference being the amount of money in the game from sponsorship and tournaments such as the IPL. Whilst this is maybe desirable, one thing I don’t envy is the increasing intrusion by the media into the personal lives of players, which is reaching a ridiculous level now.’