Matthew Fisher interview: How Yorkshire CCC form earned me England Lions call-up
Fisher has had problems with his back, shoulder, side, stomach, toes, hamstring, you name it since arriving on the scene as a 15-year-old in 2013 when he became the youngest post-war county cricketer.
Indeed, it would almost be easier to identify those areas of the body that Fisher has not hurt during a career that has been interrupted by the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune.
But the one thing that has never been affected is Fisher’s ticker, his strength of character, his sheer determination – qualities that render his Lions call-up all the more rewarding for the man himself and for the many who will be wishing him well on his adventure Down Under.
“It’s been tough, but the people around you definitely help,” says Fisher, who will be joined on tour by the Yorkshire batsman Harry Brook – a late replacement for Dom Sibley – and by the former Yorkshire opener Alex Lees, now with Durham.
“Having good family, that’s certainly helped, and then there’s everyone at the club as well – people like Martyn Moxon (Yorkshire’s director of cricket), who’s always backed me, and who knows that there’s going to be injuries in the life of a young bowler; the club has always given me such great support.
“In the past three or four years, there haven’t actually been that many bowling injuries – more unlucky blows, as it were, but I suppose that where I do give myself credit, and where I am proud of myself, is how I’ve come back from the injuries and managed to keep going.
“I’ve just tried to be as professional as I can, asking questions of the physios and S&Cs (strength and conditioning staff) throughout the rehab process, in an effort to come back stronger and hopefully better,” he said.
Fisher’s professionalism is an object lesson.
“Off the field I don’t drink that much, that type of thing, and I don’t want to leave any stone unturned when it comes to my cricket,” he adds.
“I think if you have that attitude and you’re not quite good enough to fulfil what you want to achieve, then you just have to hold your hands up and say that you’ve given it everything, and I’d never want to think that I could have done this, or I could have done that, or I could have been a bit more professional, or I could have worked harder in the gym.
“It’s been frustrating at times, but hopefully I’m through it all now and it’s just about turning my potential and stuff into consistent games and performances, which is what I’m going to try and do.
“Fingers crossed, there’ll be another 10-15 years of consistent cricket ahead of me.”
Another factor no doubt explains Fisher’s inner steel.
The loss of his father, Phil, to cancer in 2012, aged 53, before Matthew had made his history-making Yorkshire debut in a one-day match at Scarborough, put life into tragic perspective, and there has always been an impressive maturity about the young Fisher, who will turn 24 during the tour, no doubt born of such challenging experiences.
As with Jonny Bairstow, who has often raised his bat to the heavens in memory of his late father, David, Fisher knows well the emotion that can suddenly overtake at times of success. It was evident at Scarborough last month when he took career-best figures of 5-41 against Somerset, a magnificent performance that set-up a two-day victory.
“At Scarborough, when I’d got four wickets, I really wanted to get that fifth one so that I could raise the ball up to him,” says Fisher, who was coached by his father as a youngster.
“That’s where the emotion really sets in, and that evening it was just nice to reflect that I have been through some pretty tough times but also that you can get through them. Losing dad when I was 14; that probably does increase someone’s strength of character. He was definitely a massive influence on my career.”
Fisher’s five-for against Somerset, which he backed up with four wickets in the second innings, followed a five-wicket match haul in the previous County Championship game against Hampshire in Southampton, where Yorkshire came within one wicket of another fine win.
Factor in steady displays in the last two games of the season, against Warwickshire at Emerald Headingley and Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, and Fisher derived significant confidence and encouragement from the fact that he was simply able to get through four back-to-back Championship matches without any negative effect on his body.
It was a big tick in the box for player and club, and it gave England the confidence to select him in the 14-man Lions squad when the easier and perhaps safer option might have been to look elsewhere.
“The last four games for me were a massive confidence booster,” says Fisher, who has taken 61 first-class wickets at 27.04. “My season really started in September, and I feel that this tour will enable me to carry things on and just work on the things that I want to work on, as opposed to waiting six months for the start of next season.
“I’m just really grateful to be on the tour because there’s definitely bowlers around the country who have got more in terms of results in the year than me, really good bowlers, and I’m grateful that they (the selectors) see the potential in me from the last four games that I played.
“I feel if I can bowl like I did at Scarborough (against Somerset), and the way that I did at Durham the previous year (Fisher produced an excellent performance in the Bob Willis Trophy match at Chester-le-Street, taking four second innings wickets), then hopefully I can learn and improve and potentially play the next level up.”
That next level, of course, is international cricket, a target that many have tipped Fisher to reach. He could even reach it on this tour should a combination of excellent personal form and, say, injuries or perhaps even Covid in the main squad open up a slot, but Fisher is wisely not dwelling on that outside possibility and determined simply to savour the experience.
The Lions squad met for the first time last week, with various fitness tests being undertaken at Loughborough, with Fisher now happily recovered from a particularly frustrating injury that gave him discomfort in the left abdominal area.
A straighter approach to the crease, whereas previously he ran in at an angle, has taken load off the region and he now finds it easier to get his back hip through his action and his feet quickly off the pitch, away from the danger zone, without compressing his left side in the process.
Now he cannot wait for the six-week tour that starts on November 4, and which features a three-day and a four-day intra-squad game with the Ashes group, plus a four-day match against Australia A.
“Being around the players I’m going to be around, I’m just really looking forward to being able to chat to them and to learn from them,” says Fisher, whose second taste of Lions cricket this will be after he made six appearances in 2018 before injury hit, as well as his second visit to Australia after a spell with Adelaide Cricket Club in 2016.
“I was chatting to (coach) Jon Lewis (at Loughborough), and he said that it will literally be as though you’re all team-mates, so we’ll be training with the Ashes squad as well, which will be fantastic.
“Obviously it would be great to speak to the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, who I’ve looked up to ever since I wanted to be a cricketer, and I want to try and get as much information out of the tour as I can and not to have any regrets.
“They’ve bowled so much in different conditions that not asking questions, or not tapping into that knowledge, would be pretty stupid really, so hopefully I’ll be able to pick their brains.”
The maestros, no doubt, will be happy to oblige.