Ashes Frontline - Review & Steve Harmison Interview

I met Steve Harmison on a typical spring morning. The sun was out but it was bitterly cold. Steve is a friendly and unassuming man. He has released a new book off the back of the Ashes titled ‘Ashes Frontline’. The book is in a diary style and catalogues the daily entries of himself and Justin Langer throughout the series.

Marcus Trescothick was initially intended to take part in the book but his early return meant that Steve was asked to take over the reigns. “Obviously it was sad that Marcus had to go home, I didn’t even know he was doing the book until I was approached about it after he had gone” comments Harmison. “I was happy to do it but I made sure that my fee was given over to the Bubble Foundation.” The Bubble Foundation is a charity which supports children suffering from the rare immune disorder Ipex Syndrome, which one of Steve’s extended family suffers from. (www.bubblefoundation.org.uk)

The book is maybe not the read that the publishers had anticipated after such a terrific Ashes series in 2005. For England fans it is a painful return to a tour that never really started for the team. For the general cricket fan it is an interesting insight into the mindset of two key players and how they saw the Ashes from the middle and the dressing room. “we spent half an hour to an hour with a journalist after each day and basically went through are thoughts and views on the days play.” Harmison is honest and straightforward with his views throughout the book; “I felt in great form leading up the first test. I was confident and happy with my build up. I was disappointed to be taken out of the attack so early on in the first day of the first test and certainly felt that I had much more in the tank” urges Harmison. “I felt I got better and better through the tour and by the end I was bowling very well.” Which begged the question regarding the preparation for the series; “In my opinion it was spot on, there was hardly any time for us to get in any more cricket than we did.”

It was Harmison who made the headlines in the Ashes for his inability to hit the same heights that he had done in the past. With the Caribbean World Cup in full swing it was interesting to draw the comparisons between the Ashes and his form in the 2004 tour of the West Indies where he was without doubt the best fast bowler in the world at the time.
“the wickets in the Caribbean look very slow at the moment which surprised me, in 2004 I they were very quick. For the World Cup it’s all about the medium pacers, in my opinion, if they can stick to a good line then they will take wickets.”

Of course it wasn’t just ‘that ball’ which opened the Ashes series that put Harmison in the spot light again. His decision to retire from One Day cricket was also a surprise. “I had told Duncan (Fletcher) at the airport that I wasn’t going to play One Day cricket for England anymore” states Harmison. “I retired for the good of playing Test cricket for England because I felt my form was slipping.”

Harmison has close, and well documented, relationship with Andrew Flintoff. What were his thoughts on Freddie’s tumultuous last few months? “Freddie is a guy who will do anything for anyone. People ask him to do something and he will bend over backwards to do it for them. Sometimes that can be his downfall” says Harmison sincerely. “Look at all the coverage he has had while out in the Caribbean, it has been totally blown out of all proportion in my opinion. There is not a drinking culture in the England team and there never has been. Lots of people, lots of teams, go out for a drink.”

Coming off a poor series in Australia Steve has also handed the initiative over to the young bowlers such as Anderson, Mahmood and Plunkett. They will be the guys with games under their belts and Steve will have to show good early form to force his way back into the Test team for the first series. “That’s my goal, to be opening the bowling at Lords,” ensures Harmison. “I’m going to have to start well for Durham and get in the wickets, it is really important for my game that I walk onto that field happy, that’s what I will be concentrating on.”

Supporters have known for some time now that Steve Harmison has to be content in his personal life in order to bowl the way that we know he can. But he will now have to prove to cricket fans across the world that he is not a spent force but one that is stirring into action after a winter in hibernation.

Tom Cowle
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