AS the cricket season dawns, some of the KZN10 first XI squads already playing friendlies, the 59th annual Oppenheimer Michaelmas Cricket Week hosted by Maritzburg College just 30 days away, KZN10.com spoke to Michaelhouse all-rounder Fraser Jones, who represented South Africa at the U19 World Cup in New Zealand.
Fraser, the U19 Cricket World Cup in New Zealand?
“Thanks for interviewing me, Sir. Being chosen to represent my country with the SA U19 World Cup team, played in New Zealand in January this year, is the highlight of my cricket career so far. It exposed me to a new level of cricket.
“I took away loads of sporting and life lessons. In my final game, I was honoured to be made man of the match after taking five wickets against Bangladesh.”
Fraser’s efforts with the ball upfront played a role in reducing Bangladesh to 33 for five on South Africa’s way to an eight-wicket victory with 69 balls to spare. His final analysis was five wickets for 33 off 8 overs.
That SA U19 selection was another step in a steady progression that began for Fraser at primary school in Johannesburg.
A place in the Gauteng U13 team was followed by selection for the KZN U15, U17 and U19 teams, as well as for the Dolphins in the U19 Cubs Week, and for South Africa at U17 and U19 level.
Fraser was also Dolphins 12th man in a Sunfoil Series match and is in the Tugela Sharks team in the current Dolphins T20 Premier League.
If all goes well, with his last term of cricket at Michaelhouse looming, and the Coca-Cola Khaya Majola U19 Week in Cape Town in December, there is more cricket to come from Fraser in the final quarter of the year.
Fraser, KZN10.com wishes you all the best in that regard. So where did it start?
“I started playing cricket from the time I could hold a bat.
“At the age of 6, I started playing cricket at The Ridge School in Johannesburg. In my primary years, it was most definitely my dad who taught me the most about cricket. I also taught my sisters how to bowl to me in the nets.
“In the beginning of my cricketing journey, I was just a top-order batsman who never really bowled, so batting was the main focus then.”
It’s great to see that in high school Fraser has added wicket-taking ability to his cricketing armoury but apart from his skills as an opening bowler, for which he is probably better-known, he is also a talented batsman.
Sound technique, times the ball sweetly, an array of shots and the ability to pace an innings.
So does Fraser see himself as a bowling all-rounder or does he feel, be it batting or bowling, that he offers the same value?
“I see myself as a genuine all-rounder. I back my batting and believe that I offer the same value with both my batting and bowling.”
With ball in hand, Fraser is certainly a strike weapon in his role as the Michaelhouse first XI opening bowler. If a threatening partnership needs to be broken or wickets are needed in a hurry, his captain Mike Brownlee could well glance Fraser’s way.
“If called on, I enjoy taking on the responsibility for the team, it brings out the best in me. My team-mates have always made it a lot easier by backing my bowling and encouraging me – even at times when I could not break partnerships.”
As many a frontline fast bowler will tell you, some with tears of frustration in their eyes, the backing of wicketkeeper, close catchers and outfielders are critical in returning the bowling figures that output and skills have merited.
If things don’t go well in the field, it must be tough, given the energy and skill-set that has been poured into the paceman’s efforts?
“Yes, it is really important to have the double-backing effect between the bowler and his fielders, as it gives confidence to run in and only focus on bowling.”
Fraser made his Michaelhouse first XI debut in grade 10 and estimates he has around 40 games in the school’s premier team under his belt.
And, unsurprisingly, some of his favourite cricketing memories stem from the longstanding association between Michaelhouse and Hilton College.
“Led by our captain Sean Gilson, our first-term victory over Hilton at home last year (2017) is one I remember, because it was just a good, all-round game, great team spirit. I always look forward to the Hilton-Michaelhouse game as the rivalry and tradition behind it makes the occasion unforgettable.”
While at Michaelhouse, Fraser has been fortunate to benefit from the experience of knowledgeable cricket men.
“At the beginning of my time at Michaelhouse, Mr (Johnny) Crawford was very influential. He guided me in cricket and was always available if I needed support and a good chat.”
Indeed, Johnny Crawford, first at Alex (Alexandra High School) in its cricketing prime, and latterly at Michaelhouse, has given – and still does – countless hours to developing young cricketers.
“During Mr (Dale) Benkenstein’s time at Michaelhouse, he helped take my game to another level. He always had my back, even to justify why my time on the field was worth missing time in the classroom.”
A Michaelhouse Old Boy, Dale is making a huge impression in his current role as Hilton College first XI coach.
With every cricketer, as in life, the highs come with the lows – and as much as Fraser’s cricket journey has brought much joy, there has been one particularly tough experience. Success and disappointment are two sides of the same coin.
Fraser’s SA selection for this year’s U19 Cricket World Cup was a case of recognition and an opportunity on the world stage. Opting to forego the rugby season, where a Michaelhouse first XV jersey was as close to definite as these things can be, in preparation for the SA U19 cricket tour to England in July, and then missing the cut, was indeed that difficult moment.
“I was seriously disappointed that I was not selected for the squad for the UK tour.”
So did Fraser try, as tough as it is, to use that disappointment as a motivator?
“Yes, looking back, it has helped me focus on other important aspects of life.
“I missed the first few weeks of my matric year over the World Cup tour, so I got time to catch up on my work, and spend time with friends, which I had missed. Representing an international side meant sacrificing time and passion for my other sports.
“After missing the entire season of rugby, I got to run on in the red and white stripes of the Michaelhouse first team for the final game, the big derby at Hilton.”
If one was to choose the one match to play in, that 200th first XV match between Hilton and Michaelhouse was indeed the one – and Fraser acquitted himself well. Who knows what might have been, had he played the whole season.
“It was hard not playing the rugby season. I love rugby and perhaps, had I been selected for representative teams, it could have been a good path for me. The way that it played out, cricket is where I have been most recognised.
“After the SA U19 cricket tour selection wasn’t in my favour, it saddened me that I had missed out on the rugby season and time on the field with my team-mates in my final year at Michaelhouse.
“Looking back, it’s something that I will never forget but can only learn from, sacrificing for other things that might have benefited me in the long run.
“I would like to think that the disappointment I experienced gave me a chance to enjoy my limited time left at school, so what I have taken away from the experience is that out of bad can come good.”
Has the support of family and friends been a boost in the good times and the bad?
“I am so grateful for the family and friends that I have. They have all been on my roller-coaster ride with me, in cricket and every aspect of my life.
“My sisters (one older and one younger) have spent so much time away from their lives, to be on the side of the field for me.
“My dad has been my biggest critic and my greatest fan, and my mum my backbone.
“I am so blessed to have the aunts, uncles and grandparents that I do, they have travelled across the country to be with me.”
Fraser, you’re now in your last few months at Michaelhouse, your dad is a Michaelhouse Old Boy, what has the school taught you, what have you learned that has fashioned you into the person you are?
“Michaelhouse has taught me how to be a man. It has offered me unforgettable life experiences, friends and memories. It has encouraged me to try and establish the person that I hope to become.”
Next year is not that far off, your post-school future lies before you, do you have any plans or options at this stage?
“After my time at the World Cup, there are paths that have opened up to me. My decision is still to be finalised, but my primary focus is to study at the university of my choice.”
Thanks for your time, Fraser. KZN10.com wishes you everything of the best.