Updated: December 21, 2020, 8:07:21 am
Shortly after Josh Hazlewood won a famous win against India at the Adelaide Oval, picking the most economical numbers for an Australian five-wicket train en route, his father gave him a congratulatory text. “Well done, my son. It’s almost as good as my 5 for 4 when I played Nemingha in 1985, ”they said. Trevor, his father told the local newspaper The Leader that he could hear his son crackling from a distance.
In his teens, Trevor was the local tea room who broke his arms and smashed his toes before playing golf and then turning to the steelmaking business. In an interview with Fox Sports TV, he admits that he wasn’t the leading figure in his son’s cricket development. “I was busier when Josh was young and he probably picked it from his older brother, Aaron. But I always encouraged them, ”he said.
But Hazlewood credits him for a different reason. “A lot of talent that I have came from my father and I’m the same size and height,” he once said on a podcast with Cricketaustralia.com.au. Trevor is shorter by a few inches, but wider and more stable.
The back yard of the Hazlewood household in Bendemeer, 300 kilometers north of Sydney and home to 300 residents, was so big that Aaron and Josh had almost a whole cricket pitch to themselves. There weren’t too many children in the neighborhood.
The Bendemeer High School they studied at had only 30 children. The brothers spent endless afternoons playing cricket. There were few distractions. One of them was Gray Fergie Tractor Muster, a local fair.
The city put on some sort of show with tractor shows, bush poetry, shear demonstrations, markets and food stalls, and the fair drew people from all over the place. But other than that, it was just cricket and school. When Aaron was a teenager, he joined the Old Boys Cricket Club in Tamworth, about 30 miles from Bendemeer. And soon his younger brother would come along.
But Hazlewood had clearly outgrown his brother. Some of Aaron’s teammates wondered who was the oldest of the two. One of her club mates, Ben Middlebrook, recalls an incident in the newspaper: “Josh was maybe around 12 or 13 when we played a class match and Josh just blew the other team away. After the game, a referee asked me why we were playing with 20-25 year old players. I told him he was only 13 years old. He was shocked. “
Not only was he physically built, but also had the pace and maturity that were beyond his age. “He was too good for us. And he was a good batsman too, scoring a few hundred. He would always go somewhere, ”he says.
At first it was Aaron who turned heads with his all-round sparkle, and Boy Scouts came from Sydney to track him down. But his father had more and more confidence in the abilities of his younger son. So he said to his friends: “I have a better one with me.” He turned so many heads that some of his dad’s friends placed a 50/1 bet on winning the baggy green before he turned 30. He made his test debut at the age of 23. Just a fortnight before his 30th birthday, Hazlewood was already in 52 tests, in which he had shaped the fate of many games with his flawless lengths and precise lines.
Hazlewood says he was shaped by his rural upbringing. “I think my upbringing was great and it played a big part in who I am and what I am. It’s a lot of hard work out there and I probably got those traits from there. And of course always try to stay on the ground and help each other, ”he said on this podcast. That’s why he’s perhaps the least ostentatious Australian bowler out there. He rarely loses his temper, hardly slides or stares.
Bendemeer loves him back too. There is a yellow billboard at the city gate: “Welcome to Bendemeer – the hometown of Hazlewood.” Everywhere in the country where he plays, a dedicated group of fans attended the game with a banner that read, “From Bendemeer: The Hometown from Hazlewood ”. One of his classmates even went to the UK with a banner for the World Cup. They also gave it a rather lively nickname: “Bendemeer Bullet”.
Whenever he’s in town, he shows up for the Old Boys Club. “All of Tamworth would be dumped into the ground just to watch him,” says Middlebrook.
It also brings out the best in its brother. The last time he played a game – just as a batsman when he was recovering from an injury – his brother grabbed nine wickets and rattled out a quick 80. “Just to show that I’m good too, brother.” He later told a local channel. Her father Trevor would pleasantly deny, however: “Almost as good as my 5-4 when I played Nemingha in 1985.”
“The next Glenn McGrath”. Josh Hazlewood probably heard this comparison when he was young. The parallels are irresistible. Like Hazlewood, McGrath was a compatriot from Narromine, about 300 kilometers from Sydney.
He’s also a McGrath-type bowler, fast enough at 85 mph but not a tearaway, with enough bounce to confuse the best batsmen. The soul of their bowling is the flawless line and length. The chaste Indian batsmen would give painful testimonies. It’s what Hazlewood’s childhood coach John Muller saw in him in the mid-1980s.
“Well, that’s what I thought of him when I first saw him. Maybe it was his size and his build. He was pretty nifty and I had to polish him up a bit, especially his action, ”he tells the newspaper.
He realized that his release point could be higher. To do this, he had to bring his bowling arm closer to his body and the run-up had to be slower. “I always told him not to rush, build up gradually and then let go of the ball before it got through. A bit like McGrath, well, I try to teach a lot of kids this action. But Josh learned it pretty quickly, ”he recalls.
The former left-hand drive also instilled in him the virtues of hard work and dedication. “I always told him that only hard work got him places and he listened. He was very committed to his craft and still is, ”he recalls. The McGrath comparison always flatters him.
“It is flattering when you read your name in the same sentence as McGrath and be compared to him. That means you are fine. Although I try not to read too much, ”he once said at a press conference. Even McGrath sees a touch of McGrath in himself and even gives him the tip to break his test record for Australia. “Heaven is the limit for him,” he once said. Müller also agrees.
David Tarbotton, statistician at the New South Wales Institute of Sports, is one of Australia’s most renowned scouts. About 18 years ago, while searching through the numbers for the combined U-13 and U-14 high school championships, he came across a notable number.
A 12-year-old boy had thrown the spear at a distance of 53.11 m. It was a state school record. Tarbotton sensed a potential Olympic gold medalist. “If he were well cared for, it could have been. His early promise suggested he might become an Olympic champion. ‘I’m not sure why we couldn’t bring him here,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
But Hazlewood admits he never took throwing seriously. “I was 12 when I first threw it. I went through the levels in school and on State CHS. I ended up with the Citizens and got some gold medals there. It was great fun, I only did it for something I could do in the winter, and I loved the competition, ”he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Batsmen wish Hazlewood was more content to throw the iron ball than to be the spearhead.
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