Real job beckons for Bracken
The messages to Nathan Bracken telling him it's time to get a real job have been light-hearted, but he knows his mates are right. Bracken lost his Cricket Australia contract on Wednesday and will spend the winter without the security and status of the precious item he has owned for most of the past decade.
At 32, having overcome some serious knee operations, he is effectively a state player despite being ranked as high as No.2 last year in the ICC's one-day list. Bracken was surprised by the decision, figuring his limited-overs talents would be relied on heavily in the next 12 months, but he has been over-run by a group of younger, fitter and faster bowlers.
He is not angry when he speaks about his omission and at times sounds like he is already in retirement, but he is definitely not stepping down. Just stepping back after five Tests and 116 ODIs, and beginning to think about what life might be like away from his bowling mark.
It doesn't mean he's taking the news well. "It's very disappointing to lose it," he told Cricinfo. "As David Hussey said in the paper, he enjoys proving people wrong. I'm in a position where I've done that before and it feels pretty good. I want to prove that me being ranked No.1 in the world [in 2008] was no fluke, to show that I can get back there."
The cross from Andrew Hilditch and his selectors "changes things dramatically" for Bracken, who was planning to be at full fitness for the tour of the British Isles in June. He points out he was the one-day player of the year at the 2009 Allan Border Medal, but is realistic enough to know that if he heads to England during the winter it will be for the county Twenty20 competition.
"I thought this year, with the amount of one-day cricket and the World Cup in India, that would really improve my chances of getting a contract," he said. "The World Cup years are usually more in favour of the one-day players, but it didn't quite go through as I thought it might."
He has already turned down a T20 contract with Northamptonshire for the winter because it clashed with Australia's itinerary and his management is now scouting for other opportunities on and off the field. Having started a communications degree before his international career blossomed, he would enjoy a role in the media.
Ideally he'd love to be a sideline reporter or a behind-the-scenes man who details the extensive preparation of high-profile players. "Missing a Cricket Australia contract gives me these sorts of opportunities," he said. Support has come quickly from his followers on Twitter and Facebook and 47% of voters in a poll on Cricinfo's Australia home page believe he didn't deserve to lose his deal.
Bracken isn't sure what happens next in New South Wales' contract process but he does know about the IPL auction later in the year. Injuries and Australian commitments ruled him out of the first two tournaments and his contract for this event was bought out by Bangalore during his knee rehabilitation. He is well-suited to a role as a Twenty20 bowler for hire, giving away less than seven runs an over and achieving a strike-rate of 19.8 during 19 internationals.
While he was away from the Australian team Ryan Harris, Clint McKay and Doug Bollinger grew in popularity and won contracts along with Brett Lee and Shaun Tait. At New South Wales there is impressive younger talent in Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Trent Copeland. The environment has changed and Bracken is aware of it.
"I've been lucky to be on a CA contract for the last eight or nine years and it's been very good to be on them," he said. "Missing out is never a great state to be in ... It's a chance to get back and re-set goals. It's a time to sit back and have a look at a few things."
He is determined to be ready for New South Wales' first game in October and the overall aim remains. "I want my contract back, plain and simple."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo