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August 29, 2009
Dirk Nannes' most difficult decisions are not limited to his country of allegiance, but also include whether to give up skiing while he's still playing cricket. Nannes turned out in his first one-day international for Australia on Friday after upgrading his status from a World Twenty20 hero with Netherlands, who conquered England at Lord's in June.
Earlier in his high-energy life he was a freestyle skier whose speciality was moguls and he raced for Australia in World Cup events, competing last on the FIS circuit in 1999. The sport hasn't left him, and his dream holiday is heli-skiing with friends in Alaska. He knows that trip will have to wait until he stops bowling and he also realises he has to be less extreme on his visits to the snow.
But Nannes, 33, hasn't given up totally and was teaching his four-year-old boy Max how to glide down a mountain shortly before he was called into Australia's Twenty20 squad to face England over the next week. "I put a cheeky little run in here and there," he said. "I took [Max] off jumps ... maybe not me. Keep that on the down-low."
He's a happy adventurer who can't believe his journey. And for someone who has spent so much time in the mountains a few turns is not a threat. "It's good fun," he said. "I'm fortunate, I guess, in that it's probably safer for me to be on skis than to walk on snow, so I don't see it as a real risk."
On the field he wants to hang around for as long his body lets him. "If I'm fit I'll bowl well and when I'm bowling well I'm pretty confident that I can do really well," he said. "That's really all that my goal is, and if that means I'm playing for another three or four years, great. If it means I'm playing for one year, great. It's been a pretty good ride and I'm having a good time doing it."
He came to the game late because of his skiing and made his first-class debut in 2006. Since then he has attracted attention in Australia, where he is the leading wicket-taker in the domestic Twenty20 competition with 24 at 13.08. In India he kept Glenn McGrath out of the Delhi IPL XI, and he played two Twenty20s for Netherlands, including the Lord's win, before Andrew Hilditch and his selectors finally realised his worth. That call resulted in a swift switch to his native Australia, a move allowed because Netherlands are classed as an associate country.
To continue his cross-continent travels, his first game in green and gold came against Scotland in Edinburgh. "It's a bit freaky isn't it? I guess I've been lucky and bowled pretty well a couple of times. It's been a pretty exciting journey, coming from not having much of a cricket background to coming out here, a pretty massive day for me."
Nannes sprinted in with a strong breeze and finished with 1 for 20 off seven overs. Most of the runs came from Fraser Watts, who hit two fours in Nannes' opening over and then unleashed with a straight six in his third. Next ball Watts played on.
"He shouldn't have hit me for six, should he?" Nannes was smiling, something he does a lot. "I did that in the World Cup as well ... so maybe that's a message, don't hit me for six."
If he plays at Old Trafford on Sunday he will hope for less wind, but he's not certain of a start. "I think I'll be better for the run," he said. "I didn't bowl fantastically but the figures say I did okay." In the Twenty20 format his numbers are good enough to rank with any player and "when I'm bowling well, I'm good enough to be picked in most sides in the world".
David Hussey, his team-mate from Victoria, was still beaming at Nannes' performances at the end of the game. "I was rapt that he got off the mark when he batted [he scored 1], he's probably not the best batter going around," he said. "And when he got his first wicket I was pumped for him."
Nannes doesn't expect to be in demand for tips on England's Twenty20 style over the next few days, despite his success against them already. "I think their mindset's going to be a lot different to when they played us at the World Cup," he said. "I think they went in a little bit conservative, I don't think they're going to be able to do that in a game like this."
It won't be long before he refers to Australia as "us" instead of Netherlands. He said representing the two countries carried very different emotions. "The Holland one was a World Cup so that was a pretty big full house at Lord's," he said. "This one here, playing in Edinburgh, a beautiful spot, it's my first game playing for Australia, where I've been brought up. It's a pretty big deal."
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