C Randall: DeFreitas passion still burns bright (5 Sep 1998)

5 September 1998

DeFreitas passion still burns bright

By Charles Randall

PHILLIP DeFreitas's passion for cricket has not been compromised by maturity. At 32, he can look back on two World Cup finals for England and he has experienced three county showpieces at Lord's before today's NatWest Trophy final, but the desire remains.

Nobody in Derbyshire's side will be more committed to the cause. He meets his old county for the first time in a final, former team-mates whose winning habit gave his career a lift until a third change of employer in 1994 became inevitable, mainly for family reasons.

He said: "The game's given me a lot in my life. Without cricket Phillip DeFreitas doesn't exist."

He might well be remembered as a player more misunderstood than any other if his press cuttings are to be believed, and it is true that, after his Test debut at the age of 20, expectations of him became unrealistically high.

Nowadays those expectations are probably too low because, despite advancing years, he has remained a consistent and effective opening bowler at Derby with an aptitude for run-making, and his England comeback against Australia in the one-day series happened as recently as last year.

The Willesden boy, an immigrant from Dominica who arrived at Lord's for his first MCC ground-staff trial carrying his kit in a Marks and Spencer bag, went on to play 44 Tests and 103 one-dayers for England. Yet he has had to endure injuries, disagreements and frustration, and it is almost a surprise that he still loves the game as much as he does.

DeFreitas has often said he lacked guidance as a young person when he achieved success. He used to have a reputation for sulkiness - he smiles more often these days - and his working relationship with Michael Atherton as England's captain was occasionally prickly.

There was a time when he would have got involved in issues such as Dean Jones's sudden departure from Derbyshire during last season. Instead he ended up as caretaker captain.

"I didn't really get involved in the politics," DeFreitas said. "Whatever the club decides, I go along with it. Cricket's my life and whatever job I'm told to do, I'll do it for whatever's best for Derbyshire.

"When I stop playing I would like to stay involved in the game, bringing on youngsters on the coaching side. I think I have something to offer because I experienced so much at an early age. I needed more guidance than was given to me, so I know what it's like for youngsters."

DeFreitas spent four years at Leicestershire, but a practical joke against an under-the-weather Jonathan Agnew resulted in DeFreitas's cricket bag - by now more substantial than a carrier bag - being dumped over the balcony at Grace Road. The ensuing publicity underlined that all was not well.

He became disillusioned at Lancashire and left four years ago, saying his cricket was "going nowhere" and that his family were too far from their relatives. "I gave up a benefit to go to Derbyshire, but I gained happiness," he said.

DeFreitas made headlines again in a fire rescue when he dragged an elderly neighbour from a smoke-filled home. Today, though, the focus is on cricket, and DeFreitas is relishing the responsibility on the big stage at Lord's. Here he is perhaps most at ease.

Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)