Fraser wound up for West Indies

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The Independent Online
When England's squad to tour the West Indies was announced, there was a knowing chuckle in some sections of the media at the inclusion of Angus Fraser's name. But whereas the recall of certain players would have elicited a sneer or a disgusted of Tunbridge Wells harrumph, Fraser's inclusion was met with the kind of appreciative gurgles given only to those whose sweat and honest toil retain a purity every bit as appealing as the most exquisite thoroughbred.

It is 18 months since Fraser last trudged off a field wearing an England sweater. He is a passionate man and he has missed the powerful drama of Test cricket to such an extent, that he deliberately convinced himself that he would not be going anywhere other than his local supermarket this winter.

"If I'm honest," he said yesterday, "it's been a horrible few days. With all the speculation in the press I've been on tenterhooks. I really prepared myself not to go, so it's a great and pleasant surprise to be picked.

"The West Indies is my favourite place to tour. The way they play their cricket and the electricity and racket the spectators generate make it unforgettable from a playing point of view. But you can also get away from the cricket to secluded beaches and relax as well."

Funnily enough, the selectors probably did not bother to take his enthusiasm for most things Caribbean into consideration (he doesn't like Reggae). With his excellent Test record over there - 27 wickets at 22 runs apiece - they did not have to. But while it is true that he is not as nippy as he once was, he is - compared with the majority of seam bowlers in the land - an island of economy in a vast sea of profligacy.

He realises that with Darren Gough, Dean Headley and Andy Caddick, the trio in possession, he will probably not begin the tour in the Test team. Mind you, he scotches the implication made by David Graveney that he is some kind of senior pro, there to show 22-year-old Ashley Cowan the ropes.

"As far as I'm concerned, I'm not there for a holiday and I'll be looking to impress from the word go and improve on my Test match tally," he said. "I might be in a minority, but I still rate myself as a good bowler capable of succeeding at Test level."

He also points out, not immodestly, that while Glenn McGrath may be a yard or so sharper, they basically operate to the same nagging principles of line and length.

He is a popular player and an even better tourist. Stooped and grumpy with a cricket ball in his hand, his fast, dry and deliciously barbed wit enlivens even the most morose dressing-room.

Indeed when his Middlesex team-mate Phil Tufnell heard of his inclusion, he phoned the big man up and sang: "Oh we're going to Barbados, in the sunny Caribbean sea." Let's face it, anything that can drive a cat to song, has got to have special qualities even if they are only size 13 feet.

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