From taking a hat-trick on Test debut to winning the world cup, and being a part of one of the best cricketing teams of the modern era, THE BOWLOLOGIST: DAMIEN FLEMING
we are privillaged to chat with THE BOWLOLOGIST Damien fleming.
Mate it’s a pleasure having you here, tell us how did you get into cricket?
Iwas pretty lucky. I had a neighbour who was really keen to play cricket and I went down with him to the local cricket club. Springvale South the Bloods trying out one night got home late.
Mum wasn’t happy so that was it, but then I snuck down about a month later and, Started playing in the under 12.
I was there for six years, two years in the U12s, U14s U16s.
In my last year, I was captaining the U16 and playing in the first team with men and in that year I played under 16 Cricket for South Melbourne which is a famous club here in Melbourne, so I played the two weeks in the under 16’s.
But just before that South Melbourne played me in in the third 11 and I did okay and they wanted me to finish the season with them because I was captaining under 16s.
The next season, I had some shoulder problems early on, and I played as a batsman in the thirds and then made my debut in the ones at 16 for the last two games.
The next year we went from bottom to the second position we were captained by Graham Yallop, who captained Australia as well.
I took the most wickets in district cricket and 18, I found myself in the victoria team and it sort of went on from there, rooming with Merv Hughes on the first trip and ended up rooming with him for the next six years.
My Idol was Dennis Lillee, so I just wanted to be Dennis in the backyard. I went to watch Dennis Lillee break the test record for the most wickets at MCG boxing day in 1981, and if he wasn’t my hero before then he certainly was afterwards.
So Dennis was a huge inspiration for me.
You were a member of Cricket Australia’s golden generation, how was it like being part of that team?
It was just amazing really, you know, walking into the dressing room for the first time Alan Border, Captain grumpy as captain, I was scared of AB he was an idol of mine so I called him Mr Border while everyone called him corny names such as Pugsley and all that sort of stuff.
And some of the older players were brilliant, David Boone, Steve Waugh and Ian Healy, coach Bob Simpson was a fantastic coach. So, you know, the leadership around the team was amazing and there was a lot of positive energy.
A lot of them saying, “you are here because you’re good enough” and of course you’ve got your self-doubts, you just you want to play with the first game, but you obviously you want to play a few games.
It was just a step up in intensity in training standards at the field, in bowling to Slater, Taylor, the Waughs and those type of players, certainly improved. me.
Bob Simpson was a great coach, he picked up some points straight away particularly in fielding, myself and Michael Bevin debuted around the same time and, I remember doing a lot of extra fielding with him there.
The West Indies were still probably the number one team in the world around that time but we were building, McDermott and Warne in the team. McGrath was debuting about the same time as I.he took over from McDermott and then we started to get better and better and better.
After losing two of your first three games in the 1999 World Cup, what changed in the team’s mindset that enabled you to go on and lift the World Cup?
that’s a good question in the 1999 World Cup we got into that ugly situation, losing two of your first three games where you really need to win every game and rely on results.
After the third game, we did have a crisis meeting actually, and it was Tom Moody who wasn’t Captain or vice-captain, but I remember he started the meeting by just saying we need to erase the zone of doubt, and Steve Waugh and Geoff Marsh who were the two leaders of team Geoff was the coach and Steve Captain.
We had a pretty open meeting to be fair, and I remember Michael Bevan who was our most is intense player saying that we probably put too much pressure on ourselves, which was interesting coming from the intense Michael Bevan.
Myself and Adam Dale were the two swing bowlers, Adam got dropped through those games we were having a beer in the bar and had a discussion about our bowling plans So we had a bit of a say there.
Before the tournament Geoff Marsh and Steve Waugh imposed a drinking ban on the Australian cricket team, so can you imagine that went down like a lead balloon, blokes were very uncomfortable about that.
it actually had some serious connotations, we’ve just got to the biggest tournament of our lives and and and we’re panicking, if this was something we were committed to no drinking six months out as a group that would be fine, though this decision was reversed and we could have a couple of beers it was amazing once it was pretty clear.
We made a few subtle changes to the team like when McGrath was bowling first change it was myself and Adam Dale who were opening so McGrath went back to open the bowling with me and he started big time he had an unbelievable game against the West Indies, he’s an amazing player lots like Sir Richard Hadlee.
He had battled a bit early on this tournament and we’re playing the West Indies and he said, “oh I battled I feel good now.I’m going to get five for and I’m going to knock over Brian Lara”
and I remember thinking cheese. I couldn’t say that what if I got none for 60 or being embarrassing next game.
I think McGrath got five for 14, the next day he knocked over Lara, and that’s why he’s such a freak.
We got a lot of momentum after that, and we were winning and winning well,
Steve Waugh probably played the best one-day hundred I’ve ever seen 120 against South Africa in the last Super 6 game, that got us to the semi-finals in the last over.
In the Semi-Finals, we played South Africa two days later, South Africa was the number one rated team in the world, well-drilled and skilled they were all over us early on.
Steve Waugh and Micheal Bevan got some runs we felt like we’re a little bit short we needed early wickets, which we didn’t get Gibbs and Gary Kirsten, batted and they were none for 50 after 10 overs and the ball gets thrown to Shane Warne and the bigger the occasion and the more under pump we were the more Shane Warne wanted the ball in his hand and and and he knocked them, Ivory, bowled a couple of Gatting like deliveries knocking over Gibbs, Kirsten then Cronje that really turned the game until the last over.
I was bowling at 9 to win bowling to lance klusner probably the most feared batsman in world cricket at that stage, it was tough bowling at the death in England Duke balls no reverse swing the retained their hardness small grounds pretty flat pitches, it was an absolute nightmare and then he proceeds to the first two balls for fours to make it a tie with only four balls left.
We came up with the plan to come around the wicket, just outside off stump
we came with the plan the night before the game so it wasn’t as if we got time to practice it a few days out and I was uncomfortable with that plan and, it was a tie and I said to Steve Waugh, I want to come over the wicket and it was just a real tick for Steve Waugh’s captaincy, he was a very democratic leader, he loved backing his players who backed themselves and and and in the end it was a, A World Cup-winning decision.
I came back over the wicket there was a near run out on the third ball and then running for the fourth ball yorker. I was using that angle over the wicket and I just remember lance klusner running but Alan Donald’s in his crease the other end Mark Waugh fields it throws it to me and I under-armed the ball to Adam Gilchrist which took about half an hour to get down to him, And pure euphoria, you know, when you win something like that you are in a World Cup final it was amazing and the welcome itself.
we actually peaked on the day of the final which was our goal all along and played our best game to win the world cup.
You are one of the few bowlers who have taken a hat-trick on debut, how was that feeling and how was your feeling before the game?
1994 vs Pakistan pretty flat pitches over there, I think I was taken there as a one day player, but it was pretty amazing feeling to achieve that feat.