“We absolutely love playing at Manuka. I think I have played there three times and had two good innings,” Thunder ‘s Big-Bash batsman Ollie Davies tells sport columnist SIMON ANDERSON.
MANUKA Oval did plenty of heavy lifting to keep the Big Bash going over the past couple of seasons.
When covid struck, the competition was on a knife’s edge as borders shut.
The ACT was seen as a solution for Cricket Australia, with a “bubble” established in Canberra at the back end of 2020, and Manuka Oval hosting more than a dozen matches across the last two seasons.
The Thunder’s connection to the capital will continue this year, with the club bringing more of their home matches back to Canberra for the upcoming BBL and WBBL seasons.
The men’s team will play two matches at Manuka Oval including the first match of the season on December 13 against the Melbourne Stars, while the Thunder’s women will host the Melbourne Renegades at the same venue on November 15.
“Canberra showed that it is more than capable of hosting first-class cricket, and plenty of it, when the city pretty much rescued the Big Bash a couple of years ago,” the head of Sydney Thunder Andrew Gilchrist told “CityNews”.
“For us, it is our home away from home. We play some of our best cricket in the ACT and I know the teams are excited to get back down there.”
Having spent so much time in Canberra over the past few seasons, batsman Ollie Davies and his teammates feel like locals in the nation’s capital.
“We absolutely love playing at Manuka. I think I have played there three times and had two good innings,” Davies told “CityNews”.
“I love batting there, it has nice short square boundaries.
“The atmosphere is also great. We always get a good, full crowd every single time we play there and I know the boys love heading down and playing because we get great support from the locals.”
Davies is a success story from the Big Bash. The competition raised the ire of cricket purists when it was first established in 2011.
The fluro-coloured team kit, loud music and fireworks were a world away from the Test and Sheffield Shield formats that some within the game described as becoming “male, pale and stale”.
Davies was 11 when that first competition was played and, like many other young cricket fans, had his favourite player: WA batsman Shaun Marsh.
Despite growing up in Curl Curl on Sydney’s northern beaches, Davies had a Perth Scorchers hat and shirt because it was his idol’s team. He remembers going for a surf at the local beach during the school holidays, but rushing home to make sure he could tune in to watch players such as Marsh on the TV every night.
Nine years on, a 20-year-old Davies would debut for the Thunder against the Scorchers in Canberra.
He played against Shaun’s brother Mitch that night and set Manuka Oval alight with an exciting innings, showing off his power hitting to help his team to a win.
A photo of Davies and his idol meeting at a match in Sydney years earlier went viral around the time of his debut.
Now it is Davies on the TV with young cricket fans across the nation looking up to him.
“It is pretty surreal,” said Davies of being someone the next generation of cricketers can aspire to be like.
“For me, as a young kid, if someone, like Shaun Marsh in my case, came over and signed an autograph for me that was going to make my year.
“I have made a deal with myself that after every game or training session, if there are people wanting autographs I am going to make sure that I go around and sign every single one just because doing that could make someone’s day and make them want to play cricket and enjoy the game.
“Having that opportunity to hopefully be someone’s idol is surreal but a really good feeling as well.”
This season has seen the addition of a BBL draft for the first time, meaning Canberra fans will have the chance to watch some of the world’s best cricketers ply their trade in person.
While the Thunder boss says he will leave selections in the draft to his list manager Tim Cruickshank and head coach Trevor Bayliss, he has mentioned some names that could potentially feature in lime green at Manuka Oval this year.
“We are going to see who nominates for the draft and we do have some ideas internally where we think we might use overseas players,” said Gilchrist.
“We have obviously had one of the biggest names in cricket, South Africa’s Faf du Plessis nominated and we are hopefully going to see some more names filter through in the next couple of weeks from Cricket Australia.”
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