Home > Features > Moments in history >

Damien Fleming – Could have been one of Australia’s best but for injuries

Damien Fleming – Could have been one of Australia’s best but for injuries

If had there not been frequent interruptions, Damien Fleming could have been one of Australia’s finest © Getty images

Damien Fleming, born April 24, 1970, was one of Australia’s finest swing bowlers, who never fully realised his potential owing to frequent injuries and other world-class bowlers in the side. He had his moments, taking a hat-trick in his first Test before guiding his side to the finals in the 1996 and 1999 World Cups. Karthik Parimal looks back at the seamer’s punctuated career.

During Australia’s period of ascendancy, many first-rate cricketers — who could have easily featured in the starting eleven of most line-ups —were made to wait on the sidelines. It gave a glimpse of the extraordinary standards set. It was one of the reasons that Damien Fleming, described by many an expert as one of the finest swing bowlers to grace the international stage, played far fewer games than what his potential suggested at the outset. The other nemesis that hindered his progress was the injuries. Had those avoided visiting him that often, there is little doubt that Fleming could have been one of Australia’s finest servants in the fast bowling department of the modern era.

Steve Waugh considered him one of the best exponents of the art of swing bowling alongside Terry Alderman. “Flem has shoes the size of Ronald McDonald, a warped sense of musical taster that extends from heavy metal and grunge to his ultimate idols, Kiss, a wise-cracking sense of humour, and a gift for producing wicket-taking deliveries. Besides Shane [Warne], he was the guy in our team most likely to conjure up an unplayable delivery when least expected. Injuries and, to a lesser extent, an oscillating temperament prevented Flem fulfilling his enormous potential,” writes Waugh in his autobiography Out of My Comfort Zone.

An outstanding trait of his was to get the ball to curve away from the batsmen, stance notwithstanding, at the last moment. This weapon in his armoury exposed loopholes in the techniques of many a batsman. It was for this reason that the West Indies team of the late 1990s disliked facing him; they preferred Glenn McGrath’s nagging line to Fleming’s perplexing swingers. His style of bowling appeared tailor-made for seaming English wickets, but, surprisingly, he never played a single Test there. In a career that spanned over six years for just 20 Tests, many firsts were never realised.

Dream debut

Australia toured Pakistan in the September of 1994, and although the batting department was fairly established, a few bowlers were yet to make a mark. Young blood had been infused. Glenn McGrath’s outing at Karachi, during the first Test, can be termed decent, but he made way for a lean Fleming in the next at Rawalpindi. It was the latter’s first experience in whites, and it was one that he’d cherish forever. In a high-scoring game, which eventually ended in a turgid draw, Fleming became the first from his region to grab a Test hat-trick on debut, claiming the wickets of Aamer Malik, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Saleem Malik.

He was the third bowler to register a hat-trick on debut, the other two being England’s Maurice Allom in 1930 and New Zealand off-spinner Peter Petherick in 1976. For the next Test at Lahore, he was replaced by Craig McDermott, owing to an injury that forced him out of action. It was the first of a long list of obstacles that’d haunt him throughout the duration of his career.

Fleming was on the verge of another hat-trick, this time against India at Adelaide in the Australian summer of 1999-2000, but Shane Warne grassed a simple opportunity that prevented it from happening.

Like most lower-order batsmen, Fleming never underestimated his own abilities with the willow. This was evident during his unbeaten knock of 71 against England, his highest score in Tests, at Brisbane in 1998-99.

Although such scores were few and far between, he never refrained from swinging the bat, which on some occasions proved to be comic.

The lucky charm

In the semi-finals of the 1996 and 1999 World Cups, it was Fleming who removed the possibility of elimination on both counts, helping Australia reach the finals by bowling the ultimate overs. In the 1999 edition, during which Lance Klusener and Allan Donald botched up a straightforward chance, Fleming was successful in completing the assigned task of saving nine runs from six balls. (In 1996, he rattled Courtney Walsh’s timber to extract a five-run win)

Retirement

After donning the yellow jersey for 88 times in the overs-limit format, Fleming called it a day, with 134 wickets under his belt. In the Tests too, his record was noteworthy, for he had 75 scalps from 38 innings at an average of 25.89. There was no hullabaloo surrounding his retirement, but none could argue with the fact that had there not been frequent interruptions, he could have been one of Australia’s finest. In Wisden, Chris Ryan summarised Fleming’s career aptly when he wrote, “He has only just turned 33. He is younger than Glenn McGrath, steadier than Brett Lee, more potent than Andy Bichel. You wonder if the Australian public realise just what they have lost.”

Fleming, though, has stayed connected with the game, joining the Commonwealth Bank Cricket Academy coaching staff in 2003 and offering services as a bowling coach thereafter.

(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal )

India tour of England 2014

Sep 2, 2014 (15:00 IST)   at Birmingham

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Sep 2, 2014 (13:00 IST)   at Harare

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Sep 4, 2014 (13:00 IST)   at Harare

India tour of England 2014

Sep 5, 2014 (15:00 IST)   at Leeds

Bangladesh Tour of West Indies, 2014

Sep 5, 2014 (19:30 IST)   at Kingstown, St Vincent

More

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Aug 31, 2014  at Harare

Zimbabwe won by 3 wkts

Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Aug 30, 2014  at Dambulla

SL won by 7 wkts (D/L method)

India tour of England 2014

Aug 30, 2014  at Nottingham

India won by 6 wkts

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Aug 29, 2014  at Harare

South Africa won by 61 runs

Zimbabwe Triangular Series, 2014

Aug 27, 2014  at Harare

South Africa won by 7 wkts

Photos

Australia vs Zimbabwe, ODI tri-series at Harare

Videos

Misbah disppointed with Pakistan's performance

Australia’s losses to minnows in limited-overs cricket

India tour of England 2014: Who is Jason Roy?

Zimbabwe’s 12 most memorable victories in international cricket

Zimbabwe vs Australia, 4th ODI: Highlights

Elton Chigumbura-Prosper Utseya partnership takes Zimbabwe to historic win over Australia

Australia Australia and South Africa in Zimbabwe 2014 Australia vs Zimbabwe England England vs India England vs India 2014 India India tour of England 2014 India vs England India vs England 2014 Pakistan South Africa Zimbabwe Zimbabwe Triangular Series 2014 Zimbabwe vs Australia

Sourav Ganguly: England have mental block playing spinners

BCCI official: Tough for board to host Annual General Meeting this month

Javed Miandad, Abdul Qadir question mindset of Pakistan players

Aditya Verma: Happy with Supreme Court’s decision not to reinstate N Srinivasan as BCCI president

Misbah-ul-Haq shouldn’t lead Pakistan any more, feel former players

Myth busting – Ranji, CB Fry, Sussex and the fertile mind of Neville Cardus

Duncan Fletcher’s heroics and Zimbabwe’s first win over Australia

Archie MacLaren’s amateurs fell Warwick Armstrong’s mighty Australians in one of cricket’s greatest fairytales

David Bairstow: A champion claimed by depression

Should Michael Clarke cut down on playing time ahead of ICC World Cup 2015?

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

668 Posts | 6 Fans

Yuvraj Singh's ton against MCC

Revealed: Celebs you might see in Salman Khan’s Bigg Boss 8

Sourav Ganguly: England have mental block playing spinners

9 blood cancer signs and symptoms you should know

India, Japan to elevate strategic partnership

Motorola Moto G successor will also be called Moto G, leaked photo from Flipkart warehouse suggests

NGOs pursue education for all

BCCI official: Tough for board to host Annual General Meeting this month

Prime Minister Narendra Modi credits Japan with modernising India

Shah Rukh Khan to start shooting for Fan and Raees next year!

Sony SmartWatch 3 and SmartBand Talk leaked ahead of September 4 launch

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here