Horsham Saints' destructive opening bat Ben Sawyer is back in the action, after a couple of seasons away from the game.
MATT CURRILL spoke to Ben about the sport he loves, setbacks, and the importance of local cricket.
Well, first, Ben, how do you get into cricket and end up in Horsham?
I started playing cricket in Swan Hill and then progressed through Milo cricket and everything like that. I played for St Mary's Tyntynder, then ended up in Horsham for work, and now I'm playing for the Horsham Saints.
It's interesting because I've gone from doing that (Milo cricket) when was I eight or nine and now I'm teaching the kids down at Horsham Saints. My two boys are doing it now too. It's been a full circle really.
What was the cricket like in Swan Hill?
It's basically the same standard as it is in Horsham. Every club has got a couple of really good players. It's a similar type of thing.
Are you mostly on turf pitches over there?
All the A Grade and most of the B Grade is played on turf pitches because they've got no issues with water, thanks to the Murray River. Some of the lower grades are played on concrete, but it's pretty much all on turf.
Have you played any innings that stand out as favourites?
One day against Noradjuha-Toolondo, I got hit in the head while I was batting. I had a helmet on, luckily. I suppose it would have given me a concussion, but I didn't realise it. The helmet was pushed back into my head, and it ended up giving me two aneurysms.
I think I was hit in the helmet when I was on 12, and I ended up making about 118 that day. After I got hit in the head, I just woke up and started teeing off.
That's probably my best one because then I took two (wickets), and a pretty good catch. I ran about 30 metres on the boundary and caught the ball in two fingers in my left hand. Our captain had bowled this rank full toss that got slapped out to the boundary.
Apart from getting hit on the head, it would probably be my best day of cricket.
I ended up having surgery to have those aneurysms removed too.
So what happened after that game?
After the game I went to the pub, had dinner and went home. Two weeks later, after the swelling went down from where I got hit, these lumps were still there.
It was about that same time that Phillip Hughes died, so I thought I'd better go to the doctor and make sure I was alright.
He sent me for a scan and rang the surgeon. The surgeon said 'I'm in Horsham tomorrow doing surgery, I'll clear a space'. It had to come out immediately.
I'm not sure if dasher is the right word, but you're a bit of a free-flowing batter and quite attacking.
I've never had any technical ability at all. It's always been a see ball, hit ball type of thing. There's never been any long, well-played types of innings or anything like that. When I say that, I have made hundreds, but they've haven't been a long, drawn-out bat for three quarters of a day thing.
I'm not like Davo (Gary Davidson). He's just so technically good and relaxed. He never gets overawed by any situation. If you could bat half as well as him, you'd be pretty happy.
How did you end up being a 'see ball, hit ball' type of batter? Did it just happen?
I don't move my feet enough, so I was never going to be technically correct. My hands follow the ball.
As a young kid, when I was 12 was when Adam Gilchrist started opening the batting in one-day cricket. You'd see what he was doing, and you'd want to do the same thing.
Was Gilchrist the one you looked up to and copied in the backyard?
Nah, I was more of a Michael Bevan fan. I remember watching the 1995/96 New Year's Eve game against the West Indies when he hit a four off the last ball. I sat there and watched that whole game, basically without moving.
I was just a Michael Bevan fan after that. He was a grafter and all that, so a bit opposite to what I am, that's for sure.
What do you think is the funniest thing you've seen on the cricket field?
This bloke isn't here anymore, but everyone will remember him. It was Nick Duxon's first game as A Grade captain for us (Horsham Saints). He was talking it up about how he was going to make all these runs and everything like that.
We were playing against Jung, and I had gotten out, so he's gone out to bat next. By the time I turned around and watched his first ball, all three of his stumps were out of the ground.
After he talked it up, the first ball he faced as A Grade captain David Puls had knocked all three stumps out of the ground. We all absolutely pissed ourselves laughing. Four or five years later, we still bring it up.
As a principal sponsor of Horsham Cricket Association, with PRP, what do you think is the importance of a local country cricket competition?
I just love cricket, and I want cricket to be around still when my boys are old enough to be playing. I want to be able to play with my boys at some point. I never got to play cricket with my dad; he had well and truly stopped playing by that time. I want the opportunity to be able to play cricket with my boys and cricket, and local sport just doesn't run on people, it needs money as well.
There were three years there where I just didn't have the chance to play cricket because of work commitments and having young kids. Sponsorship was my way of giving something to cricket to keep it going. I couldn't be there physically, so sponsoring (HCA) was my way of keeping cricket healthy, basically.
What was that return to cricket like after a couple of seasons off?
It wasn't too bad. I played a couple of C Grade games at the back end of last season. Gracey (Matt Grace) said they were short and asked if I could fill in, which was good fun. It's been ok so far this year, for the three games I've played. There was an innings against the Jung Tigers that was alright, and against Rup-Minyip wasn't bad, but hopefully, I can work my way into it a bit more.
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