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‘The interests of society are our first priority’ – an interview with Angus Fraser

over 3 years ago | Interviews

For Angus Fraser, Middlesex’s managing director cricket, inventiveness has been key over the last few weeks. Prior to the lockdown, plans were even being drawn up as to how players could train while maintaining social distancing.

“For a while we were contemplating nets with a group of four, with a coach,” explains Fraser. “Only the bowler can touch the ball, the batsman hits the ball back to the bowler after he’s left it or hit the net. None of us get within two or three metres of one another. In cricket you can lend yourself to that.

“We’ve got a gym at Radlett which is well stocked. We can have two at a time and they stay in there with the kit and then wipe it down after that and rotate. We’d almost put a programme together and then that programme’s changed because of the lockdown situation.”

But as easy as it may be to get frustrated with the ongoing situation, with changes from one day to the next, Fraser is still looking to put a positive spin on things. From the view of management, this is just another challenge that offers some room for innovation. Similar to other industries across the nation, Zoom conference calls have become a useful tool, not simply for business, but to just get the playing group back in front of one another.

“It’s challenging, but it’s good challenge because it’s making us think,” explains Fraser. “A lot of things we’ve put in place have had a big black line put through them a couple of days later by decisions the government have made. We’ve had to think and try new ways of doing things, working within the guidelines.

“We’re using Zoom a lot. Someone like myself, who’s a bit of a dinosaur, has become quite adept at Zoom and conferencing. Part of it is just fun to try and break up the day and stop the players from sitting on a sofa, feeling sorry for themselves and getting into a bit of a hole. We’re trying to do as much as we can to engage with the players. I’ll check in with a player once every week, and coaches will have small group meetings of seven and rotate around so they speak to everybody.”

On the fitness front, players are using the Strava fitness app for when they go on a run, with their times fed back to the strength and conditioning department. But beyond the importance of physical health, mental health is also a key priority for staff that spend months on end playing, travelling and living with one another.

“It’s like a big family, a cricket club,” explains Fraser. “To be sat at home not doing what you love doing, that’s why we’re being as proactive as we can, making sure everyone’s in good shape. Different things stress people out in different ways. There’ll be some feeling anxious, some with family members they might be worried about, so everyone’s in a slightly different position, and the best thing we can do is to encourage lads to come together as a group. The emotional side is important and I think it’s easily forgotten as well because it is difficult.”

A virtual pub quiz is bound to brighten the mood too. “We’ve said between 8 and 10 on a Friday, you can grab a couple of something you enjoy to drink and we’ll have a bit of a quiz, with consequences should you get your questions wrong. We’re just trying to think on our feet and create things, working under the remit that we’re gonna get some things horribly wrong, and it’s going to look stupid and foolish, but we’d rather make mistakes than do sod all.”

Optimism remains key for Fraser as the game goes through “survival mode”. While uncertainty plagues every next move, when the time does come to getting play back on, Fraser believes that action will be taken swiftly. “People who work in cricket are industrious and would rather do something than be sat around. A couple of grounds in Merchant Taylors’ School and Radlett CC are willing to help us as and when they’re allowed to. We’ve got people in place and have the conversations to move as and when.”

Yet, in times like these, the game of cricket must be put on the back burner. “The interests of society as a whole are our first priority,” says Fraser, “then the emotional, physical welfare of the players, and then cricket performance.”

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