India in Australia 2014-15 January 14, 2015

Into the mind of the bowlologist

Damien Fleming explains a few of the concepts he cooked up, his fondness for hard-rock and dishes on who hid a Britney Spears CD in their bag
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Damien Fleming cooked up Avenue of Apprehension during a beach cricket series © Getty Images

What is the whole bowlologist concept?
You say as though it is a negative, with that bit of frown over there.

I know the serious side of it, but I mean stuff like Avenue of Apprehension…
We played this beach cricket series. Australia, New Zealand, England, West Indies. Really good fun. Great way to play with legends like Viv Richards and Thommo [Jeff Thomson] and Dennis Lillee and Richard Hadlee. I remember talking to Sir Richard one night. About Geoff Boycott's Corridor of Uncertainty. I can't remember what exactly, but Sir Richard wanted to ban that. Next day on ABC radio he said, "I am going to ban it, let's come up with some options." And so we came up with Avenue of Apprehension, Snick Street, and Hallway of Hesitation. But what I did was, I used other people's ideas and used them as mine. Mixture of me and people coming up with stuff on Twitter and stuff.

Were you always wacky?
We are in the entertainment business. Even Test cricket is entertainment. I want to make sure I am insightful and take the game seriously, but if there is a chance to have fun, do that. I was someone who could provide a bit of humour, I suppose. Sometimes intentional, sometimes unintentional. Just by being pretty sloppy. Boys reckoned I used to talk a lot of rubbish when I was playing, but guess who is in the media now. Bad luck, lads.

How did you turn out like this?
I roomed with Merv Hughes for six years. I left school and got picked two weeks later at the age of 18 years. Nothing prepares you for that. No wonder my personality is slightly off the kilt, because to room with Merv for six years and survive, one, I deserve a medal, and two, I am not going to come out normal. I blame it on Mervyn Hughes.

How was your first night with him?
It was in Queensland. Tony Dodemaide and Michael di Venuto wished me luck going up in the lift. I went, "What am I in for here?" Going in there, [Hughes asked], "What bed do you want? Double or single?" I said single. And he went, "Aww gee, you are good to room with." And then he ended up putting his arm around me and said, "Mate, you will be all right."

We didn't room together only one time in those six years, and we lost, so went back together. He taught me a lot about cricket. For all the fun and games, he is a very mentally tough cricketer. I learned the level that I needed to be at. You need those role models when starting out, and you need to be a role model.

Tell us more about rooming with him
We have got our own clubs. I have got a Test-hat-trick-for-Australia-on-debut club. Table for one each year. Merv and I form the club with Test hat-tricks and Test 70s club. So obviously Merv was the first. Me. We inducted Shane Warne last year. He never turns up, Warnie. Merv wanted to get Dennis Lillee, but he has got a 70 but no hat-trick. I threw in Glenn Mcgrath's name, but Merv mentioned he doesn't have a 70. It is a small club, but we catch up.

What's with Australian fast bowlers and scores in the 70s?
Well Rhino joined us. I rang Merv. No, Merv texts me saying, "hope Rhino gets a hat-trick. Hoping to induct him."

So just a club of two?
We are waiting. Warnie never bloody turns up, does he?

Was it difficult to be yourself while being in and out of the side?
I never got dropped a lot. I helped the selectors by getting injured. I am sure if I was uninjured I would have been dropped a lot more.

What did you tell Warnie and what did Warnie tell you after that drop?
I still haven't spoken to him after that. I am not happy with it.

Did you see the skit we did on Cricket Australia's website. Make sure you plug that in the article.

When I speak at corporate gigs, I build up the story a fair bit. I like to say I was on a second hat-trick, and I wasn't that nervous because I had taken test hat-tricks before. I had got bored, really. In all seriousness, when I released the ball, and you don't have enough time to think this, "Oh no it's wide, oh beauty Srinath has nicked it, you beauty it's going straight for Warnie, oh no Warnie has dropped it." I wasn't disappointed. We had beaten India to go one-up in the series, I took 5 for 30 so I am on the honours board, but the only thing I am disappointed about is, 5 for 30 is up there but how good would 6 for 29, including a hat-trick look? Just the 6 for 29 including the hat-trick on honours board. That's my regret. In a statistical way, it would have been nice. But I have a story to tell.

You could have started another club…
Two Test hat-tricks. Just for one. I could merge it with Australians-with-hat-tricks-on-Test-debut club.

The one that slipped from Shane Warne at slip left Damien Fleming with hands on hips © Getty Images

You fast bowlers seem to have a strong bond...
We call ourselves the fast-bowling cartel. Obviously Glenn McGrath is the president. But the rest of us, we didn't have a bowling coach when we were there. But the fast bowlers, we would talk about the opposition, we'd talk about what we were going to do and even to this day, you can just see we are talking over cricket. James Sutherland, an ex-fast bowler is the CEO of Cricket Australia, Tony Dodemaide [for] Cricket Victoria, Glenn McGrath's doing a lot of things, Kasper [Michael Kasprowicz] is on the board. I am in the media. Dizzy [Jason Gillespie] is Yorkshire coach. We have an Indian brand ambassador as well. Srinath is an ICC match referee.

But there is N Srinivasan there who has never bowled...
He's not part of the cartel.

But he controls everything...
At the moment, yes. But the fast-bowling cartel is sitting here, boys.

Did you share Dizzy's love of wrestling?
We actually - not that it should be allowed to be shown in public - but we got a bit bored on the 2001 series in India. In Delhi, I think. We mixed mini-golf with WWF. We called it Slam Punk Mania 2001. So we dressed up and we filmed it all. Just for the boys. But as you'd imagine, with the Indian people that were staying at the hotel, we ended up with a massive crowd thinking, 'what the hell is going on?'

What names did you have?
All I can say is, I was FFF. I'll say that, but I don't want to say the rest. Dizzy was Goofball Gillespie. And what was Kasper? He was the Hooded Avenger. He had a bit of a sock as an ally.

Have you read any wrestling books?
I've read Hulk Hogan. I borrowed it off Dizzy. He used to love him, Mankind and all those guys.

Were there cracks in the cartel when it came to music?
Dizzy and Kasper are very close because we are big hard-rock fans as well. That's one thing I liked about India. India liked their rock. So you knew you can always buy rock CDs in India.

Heavy metal?
I can go pretty heavy. Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax. I go as heavy as that. That would be the limit for probably Kasper and Dizzy. But you know AC/DC, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice In Chains. I am more a big rock fan.

The only disagreement we had in the Australian dressing room was what went on the rockbox. We had the hard-rock guys like Kasper, Dizzy and me. And the big little head-banger David Boon. Loved his Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin. Cause he is a legend, I gave him a Motley Crew CD, and we get a few plays out of it. Because no one wanted to take Boony on. But when he retired, I had no one. So they chucked them out.

Then we had the pretty-boy bands. Like Warnie, he likes ABBA and Aqua, and Ricky Martin. Ricky Martin? Warnie. Binga Brett Lee and Blewy [Greg Blewett]. The worst thing is they all knew the dance moves to Backstreet Boys and all that. And we are going, "Jeez." It was the near the end of Michael Slater's career that I found a Britney Spears CD in his bag, and I am not lying. And I was like, 'Mickey, you're out, mate. You can't open the batting for Australia.'

But they weren't the worst. The worst were the country and western fans. Guys who liked Kenny Rogers and Johnny Denver, and an Australian guy called John Williamson. Like Steve Waugh, the captain.

And that's where you saw the guys who wanted to please their captain. Like Justin Langer and Hayden and Gilchrist. They would act like they actually liked that music just to get the captain handy. So that was the only dissension in there. I think that shortened my career. I had serious arguments with Steve Waugh, which we still have. There's still a bit of friction. We play a little bit of golf together, me and Steve. And we've been partners, and we haven't been winning. I reckon that our music dissension doesn't help us gel as a team.

Did you ever play Megadeth in the dressing room?
Yeah, yeah yeah. We'd get set periods where we would get to put it on. Particularly, Warnie hates my music. His brother Jason loves my music. So he would be like, "You're like my brother." And he hates it. For every Megadeth song or Metallica song from Ride the Lightning, you hear I'm a Barbie Girl. And you're like, "Are you serious?" Ricky Martin, the Macarena, what you doing? And you're dancing to it? Seriously how about you get a few more runs? Then we would get Holy Wars on. Then we'd get Metallica on.

Did bad music bring around bad results?
I had bowled pretty well in this ODI series in 2001. I had got a few 2 or 3 for 30s. We got slogged a bit. And I don't even know where it was. We are about to go out and bowl. Warnie has Easy Lover on. Phil Collins. That's the atheist of rock 'n' roll. I said to John Buchanan. "John, you expect me to go out and be a fiery fast bowler, bounce Tendulkar and Ganguly, and rip into them with Easy Lover in my ear?" Go out there, of course I get 0 for 60 off 10 [0 for 53 off eight]. Walk in, see John Buchanan, and all I say, "Are you happy?" And walk away. That was my last ODI in India.

What did Buchanan like?
Buey was pretty happy if the team was happy. He would float everywhere. He didn't mind a bit of banter. He didn't mind a little bit of friction within the dressing rooms .He thrived on them a bit. He would have meetings and pose questions. Mark Waugh would be asleep. The rest of us would listen. I reckon he was pretty easy.

Who knows, he might have been writing his own tunes?
He might have been. He was a bit loopy, Buey. Pink Floyd might have been up his alley. He was a little out there, John.

What does bowlology recommend?
This is in the bowlology handbook, fast bowlers have got to listen to hard rock. If you are going to bowl fast, you have just got to rock. I used to have a pump-up tape and a mellow tape. Just if I was getting a little bit over. But mellow for me was AC/DC or Pearl Jam.

What about the mullets?
I did have one early. I had one halfway down the back. Kasper never. He didn't have the head-cut for a mullet. Glenn didn't either. Glenn had that Dumb Dumber Christmas look for a while there.

You would have heard Parables Of Glenn McGrath's Haircut?
No, but Glenn was, like Merv, a pest in the dressing room. He is always throwing forks and knives. He is a real wildlife person. Whereas I was more witty comments. I was always there as a bit of wingman if someone wants to go out for a bit of a beer. I liked the social side of things. And not getting famous enough so you can't go out and enjoy things.

It's all part of being in a team, the camaraderie. Something I really enjoyed. The fun we had away from the game. But also we were very fortunate that there was still the fun side to it in the mid-'90s. Where we still celebrate pretty hard. Because we won quite often. Only towards the end that we started to get more professional and paid more. That era from '93-ish to early 2000s we started to get paid well, but we could still have a real life outside the game.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Advait on January 16, 2015, 0:07 GMT

    Bowlologist one of the greats! Love him on After the Bounce too, wont find me saying a bad word about a Hawthorn fan!

  • sports_freakz on January 14, 2015, 15:09 GMT

    Hilarious. Guy's got a real sense of humor and delivery. Will always remember him for his outswing and the last over in world cup semifinal(s).

    Also, it does seem like fast bowlers should be Metal dudes...hope Mitch with that handlebar isnt listening to one direction or stuff like that.

  • Android on January 14, 2015, 12:56 GMT

    straya mate. what a character

  • Dummy4 on January 14, 2015, 11:50 GMT

    A legend for me.. always felt his career was cut off due to injuries..

  • Alex on January 14, 2015, 11:37 GMT

    Am enjoying Fleming's gentle ribbing of David Lloyd on the Big Bash at this moment - warming to the man, he's very funny. Also enjoying Tim Ludeman's impressions... the Big Bash commentary has strayed into repetition quite often (and please, no more Buntings (?) Warehouse replays) but Fleming's been the best man behind the mic and when they get Flintoff on as well it's pure gold. The light hearted approach works well with T20 because there are moments of unintentional on-field comedy as well. In fact, I think every team ought to have one unreconstructed dreadful fielder, like Phil Tufnell or Courtney Walsh in the good old days, purely for comic effect. Monty Panesar, you know.

  • Prasanna on January 14, 2015, 10:58 GMT

    Klusener hits the first 2 deliveries for 4s, the next one , Lehmann misses a run-out by a whisker, the next one, Klusener taps one and runs for his life but Donald anchors on, Junior picks and throws, Fleming rolls it on to Gilly .. and the rest as they say is History. We never lost a WC game for the next 2 WCs !! Proud moments for us !!

  • Prasanna on January 14, 2015, 10:54 GMT

    5 wickets against india in the WC 96 game and the last overs of WC 96 and 99 SFs. Courtney Walsh , Lance Klusener, Allan Donald and the whole of SA would never forget those !!

  • Joshua on January 14, 2015, 8:38 GMT

    Sometimes the more you know about a person the less you like them. Seriously Slats, Britney? Just kidding, great article.

  • ajith on January 14, 2015, 7:44 GMT

    Straight talking, witty and superb bowler. If anything, after this interview, I appreciate him even more.

  • rob on January 14, 2015, 7:01 GMT

    Mini golf meets wrestling you say. Interesting. .. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in that dressing room. Mark Waugh asleep, Warnie arguing with everything the coach was saying, McGrath rolling golf balls at peoples ankles. Merv Hughes throwing forks into the ceiling ... the mind boggles.

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