Young gun Handscomb looks to bat long
The choice between cricket and football is a common dilemma for young sportsmen. Peter Handscomb had a different decision to make. A talented junior tennis player who was seeded in tournaments that also featured Bernard Tomic, Handscomb had to decide whether to pursue a career on the court or on the pitch.
"There was a point in time where I did have to make that decision," Handscomb told ESPNcricinfo. "But it didn't turn out to be that hard. I could see that cricket was more of a chance, especially because tennis is such an expensive game to get in to. Travelling the world would have been quite hard."
And now the rewards for choosing cricket have started to arrive. It has been a big month for Handscomb, 20. A fortnight ago, he made his first-class debut for Victoria and compiled a patient, mature 71, and he followed that last week with a magnificent double-century in a second XI match against New South Wales.
Now, he's retained his spot for the Sheffield Shield outing against the Blues, despite the return of David Hussey and Aaron Finch from international duties. That alone is a win for Handscomb, who earned his first rookie contract with Victoria this year but expected to spend the summer watching the Bushrangers from the sidelines.
"I just want to hold my spot for as long as I can," Handscomb said. "I didn't expect to play a game let alone start the season in the team, so anything from here on in is really a bonus. But my goals have changed and I want to stay in for as long as I can."
To stay in as long as he can is Handscomb's goal not only in the team environment, but in every innings he plays. An opener with the successful St Kilda club in Melbourne's grade competition, Handscomb has learnt the art of batting long from his club captain Graeme Rummans, and the work paid off when he made 233 in last week's second XI game.
"I spoke to Rummo about getting my head right and the mental side of it," Handscomb said. "It's about not really being satisfied with making 70s or 80s, or if you get to a hundred, not being satisfied with just a hundred."
It helped that Handscomb spent the winter playing club cricket in England, where he was also picked for the Leicestershire Second XI and promptly made 117 opening the innings in his first game. But despite holding a British passport - he was born in Australia to English parents - Handscomb's loyalties are firmly with Australia.
And after playing for Australia's Under-19s two years ago, Handscomb's opportunity at state level finally arrived this month, after he scored a century in a 'probables versus possibles' state squad match before the start of the season. When he stepped up on an early-season Gabba pitch Handscomb, who concedes he is "definitely no big fence-clearer", had to rein in his strokeplay even further.
"I'd spoken to Shippy [coach Greg Shipperd] beforehand and we'd chatted about how to play on that pitch, what shots to play and what ones not to," he said. "It just turned out that a few of my shots I had to really rein in. It was a conscious effort really to survive and stay in."
He did just that. Now his next task is to stay in the Victorian side when the captain Cameron White returns. Whatever happens, Handscomb is pleased to have made a promising start to his career.
"Cricket is one of those games where it won't take much to go the other way," he said. "Hopefully I can keep it going as long as I can."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo