Cricketer Graeme Fowler: “My Box Snapped Right Down the Middle”

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Who was the best opponent you played against?

I’d have to pick the West Indies fast bowlers. Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, Michael Holding, they were all very fearsome. I remember the end of that series in 1984, and feeling an enormous sense of relief that I’d got through it in one piece. Apart from having my box smashed. A ball from Garner did that. The plastic snapped right down the middle then closed back around my b*llocks like a bite from Rottweiler.

Which of your team mates did you admire the most?

I loved playing with Beefy. When he was on song, he did things other people couldn’t do. I learnt a lot off him, too. In Adelaide, I was really nervous before going out to bat, and I said, “I’m just a little lad from Accy, what can I do against these Australians?” Beefy picked me up and threw me against the wall of the dressing room. “Well, how do you think I started?” he yelled. That calmed me down at once.

Sounds a bit physical…

It was his way. He once held me in a headlock for 20 minutes in a pub because I refused to drink a glass of whisky he’d bought me. Well, why would I? I don’t drink whisky. In the end, he poured it on my head as a compromise.

Who was the best coach you had?

That would be David Lloyd. Bumble would give me tips when we were batting together for Lancashire, so I’d have instant feedback from 22 yards away after every shot. He comes across as a joker, but there is so much knowledge behind that humour.

You were known as “Foxy”. Who do you think had the best nickname in cricket?

Vic Marks was known as “Skid”, for obvious reasons. But my favourite was Paul Romaines, from Gloucestershire, who was known as “Human”.

What did you learn from your parents?

Being at school in the ’60s, I lost count of the number of times teachers slapped me across the face or smacked my arse with a leather strap. I got the same treatment at home. My mother would say things I found stupid, like, “Why are you listening to that music, you can’t hear a word they’re saying?” and I’d point out that she liked Italian opera without speaking a word of the language. It was all very confrontational, because I never backed away from a row. That resilience helped me later on when I became a sportsman. Knock me down, I’ll get back up again.

You are very candid about suffering from depression. Who helped you the most?

My wife thought I was just being nasty to her when it started, but as she learnt, she knew it was just me stuck in a terrible, dark hole. A thing that really helped us was inventing a scale from 1-20 to let the family know how I was feeling on any given day. My two eldest daughters would ask me what number I was, and if it was below 10, they’d let me be on my own.

How could cricket be improved?

There should be a Test league set up, with everyone playing each other in one home match and one away one. The games could all be part of the normal series that happen, so only the first Ashes Test would count towards the league, for instance. This would make all the matches around the world matter, because suddenly how India do against Pakistan could affect England’s standing in the table. You’d be interested in all of the teams, not just yours.

Who is the best commentator on cricket?

I’d have to choose Richie Benaud, Christopher Martin-Jenkins and Henry Blofeld. I worked with Blowers on Test Match Special, and it was wonderful to hear him paint a picture with words. Mind you, he does use a bit of artistic licence. He’ll talk about seeing a butterfly settling on the wicket or a number 12 bus coming down the road, and I’m sitting next to him thinking, “I can’t see any bloody bus!” The best bit was when he saw some smoke coming up from a park near Trent Bridge and spoke about happy people enjoying a barbecue in the sunshine. I was laughing, because I knew it was the local crematorium…

Absolutely Foxed by Graeme Fowler is published by Simon & Schuster, £18.99. Buy on Amazon


Grub Smith contributed interviews and features to the print edition of Coach, which ran from 2015 to 2016.