Harvey plays down the freak show

Gloucestershire all-rounder's yorker, slower ball and catching will stretch Northamptonshire in today's NatWest quarter-final

He may have been given the nickname "Freak", because of the phenomenal catches he takes, but "The Undertaker" would have been a more apposite sobriquet for Gloucestershire's overseas all-rounder Ian Harvey.

He may have been given the nickname "Freak", because of the phenomenal catches he takes, but "The Undertaker" would have been a more apposite sobriquet for Gloucestershire's overseas all-rounder Ian Harvey.

"He is probably the No 1 exponent in the world of the art of bowling at the death in one- day cricket," said the Gloucestershire first-team coach, John Bracewell, ashis players limbered up for today's NatWest Trophyquarter-final tie against Northamptonshire at theCounty Ground in Bristol.

Harvey does not strike one as the typical Aussie, all brash and brawn. Indeed he cut a largely anonymous figure when he eventually joined his colleagues for practice under leaden skies. The only thing that set him apart was the woolly hat he sported to keep himself warm against the unseasonal chill of temperatures in the mid-teens.

If there was any reluctance to get on with the session it was easily explained by the man's engaging honesty. "I am quite lazy on the training front," he confessed candidly. "When I know what has to be done I get on and do it, but no more than is necessary. But I have to hold up my hand and admit that I am not the most motivated person to go out and do all the training."

He refers specifically to the fitness side of things, believing that in this country so much cricket is played that it obviates the need for overdoing exercise in between matches.

But when it comes to honing his skills, that is a very different matter. Harvey is no rabbit when it comes down to perfecting the art of preventing runs towards the end of a one-day innings while simultaneously picking up wickets. He does so courtesy of yorkers and a superbly disguised slower ball. But they did not just happen. As is invariably the case with all great exponents of anything, behind the seeming ease of execution lie countless practice deliveries. "I do work on my skills," said Harvey, "especially the yorkers and the slower balls. These are the things I work on before a one- day game."

He also puts in some hard graft on his fielding. "I am not too bad in the field," he modestly acknowledged but also insisted that there is always something more to learn.

Modest or not, he has taken some astounding, impossible- looking catches - in the long and short form of the game - which have bordered on the superhuman, not to say the supernormal, hence that nickname Freak, coined by Shane Warne, his Victorian team-mate.

"I have to admit that a lot of it comes naturally," he added. "But back in Australia everyone works on their fielding either before or after training. You will always see one or two players doing that little bit extra on their fielding outside the scheduled session. That is because competition for places is so tight that you need to have that extra edge."

Harvey has grown into his role. When he first arrived in Bristol little was known about him. Who Harvey? was the question on most cricketers' lips. After Gloucestershire's Cup treble of the Benson and Hedges Super Cup and NatWest Trophy last year and this season's revamped Benson and Hedges Cup, the first question these days is: "Is Harvey playing?" followed by, "How many overs has he left?"

He has certainly made his mark on English cricket. "I think my game has improved," he said. "Playing for Gloucestershire has definitely helped me. When I went home last year I had probably the best season I have ever had for Victoria and I was lucky enough to get back into the Australia one-day squad."

Yet it was only curiosity which got him involved in cricket in the first place. "I played tennis until I was 16, then, because my three brothers played cricket, I thought I would give it a go for a year, see how it went." It took off. He began as a wicketkeeper, first for Victoria Under-17, then the Under-19s.

"When I got into the State team they asked me to give up keeping wicket and concentrate on my batting and I moved up the order to No 3 and No 4. But I got so bored in the field that I pestered them to let me have a bowl."

And the rest, as they say, is Gloucestershire cricket history. This year, as well as picking up crucial wickets and taking outstanding catches, Harvey has been making significant scores in the one-day game. Already this season there have been three half-centuries.

But the beauty of this astute signing is that he does not dominate the team performance. The other 10 are not eclipsed, not consigned to his shadow. He does what he is paid to - and more - but the others have to do their bit for the common cause as well. Gloucestershire are not a one-man team. This is no regression to the "Proctershire" days. Harvey is no Courtney Walsh behind whom the rest of the team can hide. As great as his contribution is, success depends on a team collective.

"I enjoy being part of a winning side, playing with blokes who want to succeed," he said. "Everyone's attitude is fantastic. I do not think that me being here or John Bracewell being coach is that significant. It is just that the guys have realised that they can do it. And I think we can get better.

"We know if we go out there and everyone plays to their potential then I do not think there is a side that can beat us."

Northamptonshire are about to put that to the test today. Roll up for the Freak Show and its supporting cast.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect