Home » ‘Everything’s happening so quickly’ – Fraser-McGurk on his rapid rise to stardom

‘Everything’s happening so quickly’ – Fraser-McGurk on his rapid rise to stardom

Last month, at a golf course in Jaipur, Jake Fraser-McGurk spent an entire morning session clicking photographs of fans with David Warner at every hole. It was his first taste of seeing superstardom from close quarters.

Those fans may have not realised then that the one clicking their pictures with Warner is a future Test superstar. At least Ricky Ponting thinks so. And he said it long before Fraser-McGurk was on the Delhi Capitals roster.

In October last year, Fraser-McGurk shattered AB de Villiers’ record for the fastest List A century. He got there off 29 balls in a game for South Australia against Tasmania at Karen Rolton Oval in Adelaide. He smashed 10 fours and 13 sixes to finish on 125 off 38 balls.

Fraser-McGurk smashed five sixes, to different areas, with different shots. But the fundamentals were similar. A solid base, a clean swing and tremendous bat speed, the very elements that had Glenn Maxwell bash out an appreciative tweet when Fraser-McGurk slammed seven sixes in his 23-ball 55 for Melbourne Renegades against Brisbane Heat last December.

“His potential doesn’t have a ceiling,” Maxwell wrote.

The spotlight has firmly been on him ever since, but it wasn’t this way twelve months ago.

“I didn’t even have a state contract,” Fraser-McGurk tells ESPNcricinfo. He’d broken through as a 16-year-old prodigy at Victoria in 2019, hitting a half-century on first-class and List-A debut, but lack of consistency had pushed him down the pecking order.

Ahead of the 2022-23 season, Fraser-McGurk moved to South Australia to start afresh. From being frustrated and full of self-doubt, he went on to become a fearsome ball-striker who added layers of consistency to his game.

“I wasn’t going anywhere, I felt like I was falling behind a bit,” he says of his time with Victoria. “The rookie contract they offered me was a massive downgrade, I wouldn’t find myself even in the second team. That’s when I decided to pursue opportunities elsewhere and luckily South Australia came knocking. I couldn’t have said yes any quicker.”

That wasn’t the only ‘yes’ Fraser-McGurk has had to say in recent times. In February, he nearly fell off his seat as he turned his phone on upon landing in Hobart for a Sheffield Shield game. The reason: “Punter’s message,” he says with excitement.

“He asked me if I’d like to come over to play for Delhi as a replacement! I said ‘yes’ quickly. It was a nerve-wracking few days. My manager had a lot of stress in getting the paperwork sorted for my visa.”

Fraser-McGurk had gone unsold at the auction but had played for Dubai Capitals – run by the same IPL owners – in the ILT20. He had been earmarked then as a potential replacement. It was only when he received that message from Ponting did it sink in that he’d be playing in the IPL.

In February, Fraser-McGurk’s whirlwind rise to stardom saw him usher in another chapter when he made his Australia debut during the ODIs against West Indies, which he celebrated with a bruising 18-ball 41. It came on the back of a breakout BBL season, where he hit 257 runs in eight innings at a strike rate of 158.64 for Renegades.

“Everything’s happened so quickly,” Fraser-McGurk says. “I haven’t really had the time to reflect on it. It’s been an amazing journey so far this year, but cricket is a funny game. It can go back and forth, but as long as I’m learning and making my opportunities count, I can’t see anything bad happening.”

In 2019, Fraser-McGurk was part of a development squad sent by Cricket Australia to train at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai. He’d enjoyed going out and about, soaking in the “madness for cricket” and the uniqueness the place offered with its heat, humidity and cuisine.

“Last night, I was hitting sixes with [Rishabh] Pant. We were having a bit of a competition with each other. He obviously won, but it’s just incredible how I can learn so much off him, and the others at 22. I couldn’t have dreamt of it long ago.”

Fraser-McGurk misses some of that freedom at the IPL, where there’s so much more than just cricket. There are endorsements, sponsor commitments, photo shoots, meet and greets – an ecosystem far different to the one he’s seen back home. Our chat too is on the sidelines of a photo shoot for which Fraser-McGurk has been woken up.

“I’ve never looked at cricket as work, some kind of a chore,” he says.

During his formative years, cricket was a massive part of his childhood. It helped that his parents were both sportspeople.

“From when I was 10, maybe, cricket was always a massive part of me,” he says. “Mum was a netball player; dad was a semi-professional tennis player. He also played cricket in the summers. In fact, we played for the same club.

“When I was 11 or 12, we both played in the same team. He opened the bowling, I kept wickets. I remember he picked up a five-for and I hit a fifty in the same game. Cricket was always fun. We’d finish matches, hop over to McDonalds for a burger. It was fun.”

As he grew up, he’d spend hours imitating Michael Clarke’s step-out shots, the trademark chip down the track to flick and drive spinners against the turn.

“I loved the way he played, the fluency, the shots, the way he’d work the ball around,” Fraser-McGurk says. “I watched Clarke for his fluency, Davey for his power and talent.

“Being a young guy, growing up and watching him take the bowlers on, it probably helped me in the way I play now. What he’s done for cricket and personally for me, it’s amazing. I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with Davey in the IPL. I’m always having meals with him, playing golf with him, we’re always together.”

The story of their friendship goes back a few years, long before he became a batting sensation.

“I was running drinks during an ODI between Australia and England at the Adelaide Oval. I was one of the subs and I went in to give him drinks with my best friend Mackenzie Harvey. He was past a 100 or something and he said to Heady [Travis Head] – ‘it’s not often you get to bat with me when I’m on 100, make it count, mate’.

“And I don’t know why but I started laughing. Davey cracked up as well and that day he came up to me and chatted quite a bit. And I wasn’t even like a squad member, just a sub called in to do drinks duties. From then on, he’s always looked out for me. He has time for everyone.”

“We were at a nature reserve looking at all these different animals,” he says with a laugh as he remembers the incident. “We got to a place where everyone was feeding monkeys. I got too close to the cage and the monkey I was feeding ate all the food that was on my palm.

“I was looking at him through the cage and then suddenly he scratched me in the eye and cut my bottom eye lid. I had to get various treatments which were safer in Melbourne, so I had to fly home.”

By then, Australia were out of the running for the Under-19 World Cup. Fraser-McGurk had been run out in the quarter-final against India without facing a ball. As he made the long walk back, he wondered if that was the last time he’d be on an international stage.

Apparently not.

Fraser-McGurk has a child-like enthusiasm that comes through in his replies. He has a self-deprecating humour that also sets him apart. There’s also this glint in his eye at the prospect of training and learning from some of the world’s best.

“It’s amazing to see them go to work in real life,” he says of working with the likes of Rishabh Pant and Ponting. “I’d seen it on social media. To see how they are in real life is different. It’s an amazing culture, how cricket brings everyone together in India.

“Last night, I was hitting sixes with Pant. We were having a bit of a competition with each other. He obviously won, but it’s just incredible how I can learn so much off him, and the others at 22. I couldn’t have dreamt of it long ago.”

There’s also a maturity to Fraser-McGurk that perhaps stems from his own brush with failure.

“I don’t think about the future,” he says. “Even if I’m not playing, my mantra is what I can do to help the team. It’s important to have that team-first attitude and not worry too much about what the future holds. The rest will take care of itself.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo