Sydney Thunder batting for change
Most Australian cricketers spend their winter months playing overseas, training at home or doing a little of both. England, India, Sri Lanka and even Bangladesh have become quite common staging posts in the Twenty20 age. Not many, though, can have ventured as far as rural Mongolia, on a search for life direction as much as an improved cover drive.
This was the destination and resolution of Ryan Carters earlier in 2013, as he pondered a future in New South Wales after electing to move up from Victoria. Originally from Canberra, Carters is already well travelled at the age of 23. But in Mongolia he was seeking a certain peace and clarity about what to do next, apart from cricket and study.
After three weeks of kayaking and hiking, well away from the accoutrements of 21st century life, Carters reached a conclusion of sorts. Yes, he would go on in cricket and study, building up his credentials with the Blues and as a student of economics, politics and social structures at the University of Sydney, but there would be something else to his pursuits too.
"You're away from mobiles phones, everything, and it gives you the chance to think pretty clearly about what matters as opposed to what doesn't," Carters told ESPNcricinfo. "I decided I wanted to use my cricket career as much as I could to help other people off the field.
"Other cricket-playing nations love the game just as much as we do but don't share the privileges that we have ... so I really wanted to do a few things to help level the playing field, not just in cricket but in life."
Early fruits of Carters' search will ripen this month as he commences a Big Bash League campaign with the Sydney Thunder. Having struck up a partnership with the LBW Trust and its chairman Darshak Mehta, Carters has arranged a charitable initiative called Batting For Change, aimed at raising funds for the construction of a new tertiary wing to the Heartland Academy in Bafal, a suburb of Nepal's capital Kathmandu.
The academy's focus is on providing Nepalese students with an education they can use practically at home, with the new wing to offer degree qualifications in the streams of management for small business and tourism, and of science for the propagation of learning around agricultural technology.
Plans call for the building of three classrooms on the campus, each to house 25 students. The cost of each classroom is $10,000, including all extras. Carters' goal is to raise $30,0000 from Batting for Change during the BBL.
Batting For Change's concept is simple enough - members of the public can pledge a certain amount of money, which they will donate to the school every time a Thunder player hits a six during the BBL. In T20's world of rampant commercialism, DLF Maximums, Bunnings Replays and KFC everything else, the idea of raising money for a community quite numerous in their expatriate support of the Thunder is a noble one.
Adam Gilchrist is one of several ambassadors for the project, and agreed that T20's popularity is due to be used for more charitable ends than the lining of broadcasting and administrative pockets. "As a general rule I think a more consistent form of giving and raising awareness of areas that can do with help is something cricket can aspire to," Gilchrist said. "This is a terrific opportunity to contribute to that and Ryan as a very articulate young man is very keen to use the opportunities he has through cricket."
There will be a notable Nepalese presence at the Thunder's home games in Sydney's west, and a team of players from the Himalayan nation took part in the Thunder Nation Cup, a community tournament the club ran in the lead-up to the BBL as a way of including the diverse groups to be found around Sydney with cricket as their unifying force. Carters said the club's efforts to get in touch with those communities around them, after a poor first two seasons in the BBL, were "massive".
The Thunder's support of the concept will extend to the screening of Batting For Change cartoon spots on the big screens at Sydney's Olympic Stadium, while the short boundaries glimpsed on BBL opening night at the MCG may provide an indication that plenty of sixes are to be had.
Carters has not yet journeyed to Nepal himself, its people and mountains providing much attraction for his inquisitive mind. It is no great leap of imagination to picture him using the next winter to trek there, in search of further meaning and direction for his cricketing life.
To find out more about Batting For Change or to pledge money to the program, visit www.lbwtrust.com.au/battingforchange
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here