WHEN I was a lad, I played Test cricket for Australia. I think most of us did.
I represented the country playing in the backyard from the time I was nine. I had a cement slab resting on an angle against the barbecue and I used to bowl a golf ball into it and take spectacular catches off my own bowling.
In my mind, I would quickly rise through the ranks of grade cricket into the State side before being a surprise selection for Australia. I would typically take a wicket with my first ball before finishing with 5 for 34. That was my childhood fantasy.
Last week, in Sri Lanka, a young cricketer with a Canberra connection got to live that dream.
Nathan Lyon’s meteoric rise to international cricketing stardom is a triumph for Andrew Dawson and the ACT Cricket high-performance program.
Nathan came to Canberra from Young as a teenager in 2006. At the time, his brother Brendan was in the capital trying out for the U19s ACT program. Brendan made mention of his little brother who was keen to have a crack at the U17 team.
Andrew Dawson remembers the first time he cast an eye over young Lyon, who at that time, a batsman who could bowl a bit.
“There was a fair degree of talent there and we were keen to get him in the program,” Dawson told me.
“He’d just finished Year 12 and he wasn’t sure what to do next. An apprenticeship came up with the groundstaff at Manuka Oval and Nathan convinced us he was the man for the job.”
He took to the high-performance program like a duck to water and, before too long, he was a leading figure among the playing ranks. He captained the ACT U19 team in a successful series in Hobart and continued to play for the Comets and local club Western Districts.
The mentoring from the likes of Dawson, Comets players Mark Higgs and Ben Oakley and Matt and Allan McGann from Western Districts well and truly prepared him for his surprise recruitment by the SA Cricket Association a year ago.
Lyon moved to Adelaide to ply his trade at the Adelaide Oval both as a player and a groundsman. He was a sensation in the T20 form of the game before his surprise selection for the Sri Lankan tour. History shows that Lyon took a wicket with his first ball and finished his first innings as a test bowler with the Warnesque figures of 5/34.
His story is remarkable. The man himself isn’t. He’s a talented cricketer, but the thing that strikes you when you first meet Australia’s newest Test cricketer is his laid back, well-grounded, country boy nature.
“I thought he’d be nervous when he went out to bat in his first test,” reflected Andrew Dawson, “but he had this big grin on his face when we strode out to the middle.”
Whatever the cricketing future holds for Nathan Lyon, you can guarantee that a lot of Canberrans will be watching every ball and celebrating every triumph.