Maddinson learns from idol Langer
Nic Maddinson hopes that some words of wisdom from his childhood idol Justin Langer can help him star during the Australia A tour of Zimbabwe. At 19, Maddinson is the youngest member of the squad, which departs on Saturday for a series of one-day and four-day games, but he's already achieved plenty in his short career.
There have been two cricket trips to India and one to New Zealand, where he helped Australia win the Under-19 World Cup, and last summer he became the youngest New South Wales player to make a century on first-class debut. He completed the feat at 18 years and 294 days, and by the end of the season he had a second hundred to his name.
His arrival on the scene was reminiscent of Phillip Hughes, who three years ago became the youngest man to make a century in a Sheffield Shield final. But whereas Hughes has an unconventional style, Maddinson plays with a more classical technique, similar to his close friend and housemate Usman Khawaja.
Perhaps Maddinson can now add some Langer-style mental toughness to his elegant game - not that he has struggled for concentration at the crease so far in his career. Langer is Australia's assistant coach and has been working with the Australia A players during their camp in Brisbane, and Maddinson said it was a thrill to pick the brains of one of his heroes.
"The partnership that him and Hayden had, as a young left-hander it was something that I looked up to," Maddinson told ESPNcricinfo. "A few years ago when I got the opportunity to start opening, he was definitely an idol. I've had the opportunity the last month to do some work with him up at the Academy. It's been excellent and something I'll take in to the tour.
"I've talked to him about the approach to batting and how he goes about things, a few of his experiences. Talking away from cricket and different tours and what goes on. It was excellent for me to see him because he was my idol. It was great to learn from him about cricket in Australia and how he came through the system and went on in his career."
One characteristic Maddinson shares with Langer is the desire to bat for long periods of time. When he was called into the New South Wales Shield side last season, he jumped at the chance to open with his club team-mate Phil Jaques, and went on to compile 113 during 206 minutes at the crease with Jaques and Khawaja there to support him.
"I just love having the ability to bat all day and go at your own pace," he said. "That was where I got the opportunity to open, which is what I like to do. Having Hughes and Warner and Jaques and Katich and Watson around, when I got the opportunity to open I just wanted to do well and prove that I could do it at that level."
During the past month in Brisbane, Maddinson has also impressed Tim Paine, the Australia A captain. Paine hadn't met the young opener before, but was immediately struck by Maddinson's level-headed nature, and what he described as "a quiet, unflappable demeanour".
"He's your typical left-hander," Paine said. "He looks pretty elegant when he hits the ball. He hits the ball very late and watches it very closely. I think he's going to be a pretty handy player to have in our top three. It looks like his position where he'll be batting on this tour is going to be No.3. He just looks like a quality player already at a young age."
It's been a rapid rise for Maddinson, who moved to Sydney from Nowra on the south coast of New South Wales, where his father is a plumber and his mother a hairdresser. If he performs well in Zimbabwe, higher honours could await in the near future, but equally he knows that with the glut of openers in New South Wales, simply establishing himself in the state side next summer is enough of a goal.
"It was a massive surprise to be picked for Australia A," he said. "I was really honoured to be named in the 25 and looked around the squad at other guys who have played a lot of state cricket and are doing really well, so I thought I wasn't going to get the opportunity to play.
"My main goal for the year is cementing my spot and contributing and hopefully being able to win the Shield at the end of the year for New South Wales. Simon Katich is going to be back full-time this year. It's going to be hard work. If I get the opportunity to open I'd love to do that again."
One thing that Maddinson can count on is being given opportunities. And if he grabs them, he'll be one step closer to following Langer into Test cricket.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo