Cricket / Man in the Middle: Fitness fanatic happy to learn the game's hard graft

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The Independent Online
WHEN David Hughes vacated the skipper's room at Old Trafford and became deputy to the cricket manager Alan Ormrod, an early problem was to fill the gap left by Wasim Akram taking up duties with Pakistan this summer.

'We had this lad from South Africa, Steven Jack, lined up. But he got an ankle injury and at best he wasn't going to be available for a while. I saw Danny Morrison in the World Cup, at Sydney, and it all started from there. He's a smashing lad - works hard, looks after himself, keeps himself fit. He's been bowling well without a lot of luck, and then a week ago he got six wickets for us.'

This return, 6 for 48 in a soggy, drawn match against Kent, was confirmation of Morrison's strike value. He has relished his introduction to county cricket, and at Chelmsford to prove his enthusiasm for fitness he was back on the exercycle as soon as colleagues Graeme Fowler and Michael Atherton went out to bat in what turned out to he an extraordinary NatWest tie.

'The thought of playing over here was definitely in the back of my mind. I'd already had some correspondence with Leicester, but in the end the committee decided to go for Winston Benjamin again. I can't argue with that. So I was grateful for the opportunity when the Lancashire offer came along.'

As a youngster Morrison played a little league cricket in Hertfordshire, and of course has toured here with New Zealand. But now that he is on the circuit day by day he is noticing the effects of the decrees two years back, that both pitches and the seam on the ball should be flatter.

'And the bouncer rule has changed as well,' he notes with mock ruefulness. 'It's hard graft for a seam bowler now, I can tell you. Good for the discipline - you have to find that groove just outside off stump and really work at it. And you have to be able to swing the ball, particularly on such a good batting strip as Old Trafford. The seam won't do it for you.

'That's part of the reason Wasim is such a good player. He's a bit of a freak - he's got this very fast arm, like Malcolm Marshall. So he's very hard to pick up, because suddenly he's on top of you, and he's moving it as well. Yes, a hard act to follow.'

Looking ahead, Morrison sees a future for himself in sport. 'I've done some work with an organisation combating drug and alcohol abuse in sport and also where I come from in Auckland they're reorganising cricket into a different set-up, and there should be coaching work to be done there. Unfortunately we just don't play enough - most guys have to save up their leave and holiday pay for the season, but they still need an indulgent employer.'

Meanwhile, Morrison the fitness freak claims to be feeling his age. 'Time kicks on - I'll be 27 next year. But New Zealand are touring in '94 - I'd like to be able to stay in the side. Of course Wasim comes back next season - if there was a chance of more county cricket I'd be happy; or maybe some league cricket. But there's plenty more things to do. It's not the end of the world. In the meantime, I'm just doing my best for the club and making sure I enjoy it.'

(Photograph omitted)