Good things come to those who wait. Michael Klinger has waited, waited, and waited some more. He has scored over 10,000 runs at first-class level. He has scored 51 hundreds across a professional career that began in the previous century. He has toiled across three states in Australia. He has bludgeoned runs for Gloucestershire in England. He has hit ball after ball, day after day. And my word, he has waited.
It is announced in October of last year that Australia will play a T20 international against Sri Lanka in Adelaide, a day before their first Test in India on February 23. A squad of reserves will have to be selected for the T20 series, depleted of greater talent some five thousand miles away, preparing for a Test against India, the best side in the world.
To say there is uproar at this moment of scheduling madness would be an understatement. But amidst the raising of eyebrows, perhaps there is a batsman in Western Australia with a smile on his face.
It is the 28th January 2017. It is the Big Bash Final. The Sydney Sixers bat first and amass a below-par score of 141. It is the Perth Scorchers’ game to lose. Klinger walks out to open the batting. He has won this tournament before. In fact, he has domestic titles to his name in both Australia and England. He has seen it all before. He has had a solid tournament so far, but surely, surely, there must be the thought in his mind. Will it be enough? Will it be enough for that cap, the Australian cap he has chased for his whole life?
15.4 overs and an hour later, Klinger stands and waits for the next delivery. The contest has been over for some while now but requires the finishing touch of Klinger. The Scorchers require 4 from 26 balls. Johan Botha of the Sixers tosses up an off-break. Klinger eyes light up as he senses that this is the opportunity. He waits. The ball hovers above his eye-line. He waits. The ball then begins its rapid descent. Now. He comes down the track. Bang. The ball kisses the bat, waves goodbye and flies into the night sky. Klinger doesn’t need to see where the ball is heading. He knows at the moment of contact that he has won the final for his side. Standing at the other end is the Englishman Ian Bell, a man with nearly 300 international appearances to his name. However, the spotlights shines far brighter on Klinger. He finishes the tournament and final with an unbeaten 71 of 49 deliveries, with five fours, and five sixes. It is young Jhye Richardson who picks up the man-of-the-match award for his 3-30 in the first innings, but this is Klinger’s moment.
Australian cricket selections can often be a world of confusion and bemusement. For the ongoing ODI series in New Zealand, an injury to captain Steve Smith sees a need for a replacement batsman. The selectors call for Sam Heazlett. Sam who? Sam Heazlett, a twenty-one-year-old from Queensland yet to play a List A game for his state. Of course this is a young batsman with great potential, having thrived in a winter A series for the National Performance squad against both South Africa A and India A. Nevertheless, the bafflement still persists. Is potential more important than performance? This is a question Klinger must surely have asked himself as the days, months and years went by, and the hair turned grey. Would it matter how many runs he put up on the board, if another young batsman with a half-decent cover-drive came up out of nowhere?
On February 17, Michael Klinger will walk out to bat. He will walk out and mark his guard for the umpteenth time of a long, long career. He won’t be doing it for the Perth Scorchers however. Nor will he be representing Western Australia in a Sheffield Shield match. He will mark his guard at the crease and lift his head up to face a delivery from a bowler in the blue of Sri Lanka. Klinger will be playing for his country. He has waited and waited. He has waited enough. Now let’s all hope that there are good things to come.