Stephen Brenkley: Honesty, loyalty and hard work - qualities that Angus Fraser expects – and England need

Selector takes dim view of those who do not put team first
  • @stephenbrenkley

Gus Fraser will be a thoughtful, intelligent, bold selector of the England cricket team. Occasionally he will also be cantankerous, stubborn and obtuse.

He may compromise but it will have to be for the right reasons; he may, too, be persuaded of the other blokes' arguments but that does not mean he has backed down.

Between stints as a professional cricketer, which lasted 18 years, and as a director of cricket at Middlesex, which he has been doing for six years, Gus was cricket correspondent of this newspaper. Throughout that time, as his counterpart on The Independent on Sunday, I sat next to him in press boxes all over the world.

He was unfailingly generous in sharing his vast knowledge, especially of bowlers, and single-minded in reaching a view on a match or a player. He disparaged indolence, he praised hard work, he recognised that flair was important but the ethic of the team mattered above all.

In short, he brought to his toils as a reporter precisely the qualities he possessed as a considerable fast bowler for Middlesex and England, and will now bring to his role as a selector. Like his bowling, the reporting did not come easily to him but through a painstaking diligence he made it work.

Often he was the last person out of the press box as he sought the elusive bon mot but his verdict was born of a keen eye and careful assessment. He is a sound judge of cricketers, not only because he can see the virtues of their technique or their method but because he can assess their personalities. He will look for honesty, loyalty and assiduousness. He will not mind an argument but he will not want backsliders.

Fraser has no time for the cult of celebrity, or the notion that anybody could be bigger than the team. He sticks his neck out. His opinion of the recent shemozzle involving Kevin Pietersen can probably be guessed at.

During a panel discussion last year at a Lord's Taverners event to applaud the achievements of Andrew Strauss, recently retired from the England captaincy, Fraser and I were both asked what we made of the most recent Pietersen dispute in which he had texted South African players about Strauss and subsequently been dropped from the team.

Gus was unequivocal in his response. Sure, Strauss was a friend of his but he had no doubt Pietersen's behaviour had crossed a line that meant he should have been dropped for good. He was not speaking for effect to an audience that was a little surprised at his forthrightness, he was speaking about a set of standards and a way in which the cricketing life should be lived.

The selectors – there is presumably one more yet to be appointed to replace Andy Flower as team director – should know they are not in for an easy ride. Gus's views can be entrenched and like us all, selectors or not, if he likes a cricketer he stays liked.

The discussions should be something. He can be a tetchy old sod at the best of times and those who remember him kicking the ground at the end of his run-up when things were not going according to plan can expect him to do it metaphorically in the selection room.

For the years when he was a reporter it was frequently suggested that Gus would make a good selector. Passion for the game and an understanding of what is required to succeed at the top level will be his chief attributes. English cricket has not done much right lately but in appointing Gus Fraser as a selector it has atoned a little.

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