English seamstress Matthew Fisher has revealed how he looked to Australia for inspiration as he built a more muscular body during his recent rehabilitation.
The Yorkshireman made his Test debut in Barbados last March, scoring a wicket in his second international cricket delivery, only to suffer a stress fracture to his lower back in his first county game this summer.
This led to another injury layoff for the 25-year-old, who has seen more than his share of treatment tables over the years but has worked his way up to make a comeback in the final game of the season.
He will speed things up when he heads to Sri Lanka with the England Lions this week, where he will make his debut in a newly toned physique – a change he has been looking for in part as a response to his fitness issues.
“Looking in the mirror, I thought, ‘I don’t look as solid as some of the players I’ve seen this winter and maybe that’s something to look at,'” he said.
“It’s not just about gaining weight, I wanted to gain muscles that will help me be stronger … so that I can withstand bowling. I went from 86 kilos to 91, but my skin folds are very similar, so it’s muscles. I feel much stronger now. I think I look more like a man than a boy.
And Fisher isn’t afraid to admit he’s focused on England’s biggest rivals in his new template.
“After that first game, when I got injured, I said to our strength and conditioning coach, ‘I want you to make me look like an Australian speed bowler,'” he recalls.
“They all seem solid. (Pat) Cummins, (Josh) Hazlewood, (Mitch) Starc… they all look strong. So I thought, “try to make me look like them.” I ate a lot for the first three months. Eating plenty is good for your back as it is good for healing.
“Sometimes in our sport we think too much about skin folds, a lot of guys worry if they’re thin enough, but that was the point where my goal was to gain muscle mass. Throughout the summer, Yorkshire coaches and some players said, ‘Hell, you look massive.’
Fisher’s promotion to the test team alongside Lancashire’s Saqib Mahmood – who also suffered a stress fracture – came after James Anderson and Stuart Broad were unexpectedly beaten in the Caribbean.
The decorated duo returned in the summer, playing their part as the new leadership team of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum reinvigorated a struggling team with nine wins in 10 matches.
Returning to a winning unit during the year of Ashes is no easy task, but Fisher allows himself to do it.
“That’s my biggest driving force because you never want to have just one hat,” he said.
“In the back of my mind, I have the certainty that I know I can go back there. I have time. I’m only 25. If I stay in shape, I know what I can do and I know that I will achieve what I want if I stay in shape.
“There have been indoor sessions where I visualized bowling with (Australia opener) David Warner, so I’m definitely keeping that in mind. But as far as that being my goal this summer, it’s not like it’s on my wall or anything. If that happens, it will happen.”