Each summer, as the Channel 9 cricket theme song lures us to our screens like sailors to sirens, we are reminded what is the greatest achievement in this land: to play in the Australian cricket team.
We cheer, praise and lionise these few men to the point of apotheosis, but little thought is given to how they got there. So how exactly does one become one of these lucky few? Is it hard work? Tenacity? Talent?
Partially, yes. But in reality, there are a series of attributes – an algorithm, if you will – that will get you ahead of the pack in your desperate quest to become a professional cricketer.
In short, make sure you have all, or at least several, of the following qualities before you waste years of your life chasing the dream:
Be born with ridiculous genetics. Having any form of illness is an obvious ‘no-no’ but you’ll need a specific body composition to be noticed from the crowd.
Having a great rig can get you into a lot of places, nightclubs included, but it is also going to make you more inclined to be selected for certain tours where “shirts vs skins” in the warm up will have you first-picked in any line-up.
Hand-eye coordination is absolutely key. You can’t train hand-eye coordination. It’s one of those things where you either have it or you don’t, so be born with high levels of that.
A close family relation with a decent playing career will also stand you in good stead. If your entire family is uncoordinated, you’re just not going to cut it at this level. You can’t tell me that Steve and Mark Waugh’s dad wasn’t a ping-pong champion or something equally ‘wristy’.
The family plays a very important role in developing you into a successful cricketer. Financially speaking, you want to be somewhere below ‘comfortable’ and just above the poverty line.
Cricket is an expensive game; the kit alone will cost you a fortune, but the petrol prices and general on-road costs of your family car will be astronomical as you drive all across the state from the age of 10 in the hope of one day getting that Baggy Green. Put simply, being broke is not an option for a future international cricketer.
Equally, if you’re from an affluent family, chances are that one of your parents has enjoyed a successful career, and therefore will likely frown upon any activity that pretty much hinges on a combination of luck and good health, so don’t be from a family with money.
Having a brother, preferably younger, who possesses a decent level of coordination but is easily manipulate, will help fast-track your development. We all want to be batsmen, so make sure your brother is an OK bowler so you can dominate him and score at least 1,000 backyard centuries.
Your parents can also play an important role here. Your parents want to resent each other just enough (probably from driving you all across town every weekend) that your dad won’t mind getting out of the house to give you a few throw-downs every now and again.
You definitely don’t want to be from a broken home, though, because there’s no way you’re getting throw downs from a single father who would prefer to be on Tinder than working on your cover drive.
This should go without saying, but don’t go to a private school. Statistically, this pretty much writes you off.
Despite spending millions of dollars in school fees on world class facilities, these schools don’t want you to become an athlete. These schools want you to become respected members of the community – and that’s obviously not your goal here.
Private schools are going to encourage you to be intelligent and educated to the point where a good job with a stable income may become a viable option. The key takeaway here? Don’t even think about assessing your options for your future. To this end, university is extremely frowned upon. Books are not your friend; late cuts and flicks off the pads are.
You want to be spending a minimum of 30 hours a week hitting cricket balls and subsequently becoming a one-dimensional human being. In this day and age of professional athleticism, you need to be putting all your eggs in the ‘cricket basket’ before you leave school, so don’t bother learning about the world.
Don’t be interested in travel/friendships/relationships/earning good money, etc
All of these things will hold you back. If you do end up playing Test cricket, you could earn a lot in a five year window (if you’re suitable for a vitamin commercial). Being interested in things other than the weight of cricket bats or how to attract an unpaid sponsorship, will distract you from irrelevant things in life like history, politics, sociology and love.
This isn’t always a given, but can get yourself on a tour to the West Indies just by being a good bloke and good to circuit with. This can be hard if you’ve been hitting cricket balls for your entire life, though.
Don’t be attracted to a sensible woman or woman with a career
Women, to their credit, will rightly point out that the chances of you playing for Australia are slim to none, and it would be wise for you to go back and do a night course at TAFE and make some sensible decisions regarding your credit history.
Any woman urging you to settle down will deny you the opportunity to play one obscure test match in the sub-continent that gives you a taste for higher honours, a feeling you will then chase for another decade, thereby crippling your post-cricket career as you seek an internship in your late 30s.
Be really lucky. Timing is everything
Hit back-to-back hundreds after the stalwart with 80 test caps next to his name scores a pair and becomes unfashionable and you’re in. It doesn’t matter if you averaged 15 in the Shield season prior.
Once you get yourself into the starting eleven, there is an even more complex algorithm – perhaps for another day.
By Ian Higgins