October 12, 2009

Online and length

By day Brett Geeves is a Tasmania fast bowler. By night he's Australian cricket's top blogger

The media release hasn't arrived yet but don't fear, Brett Geeves' blog is continuing this summer. While Geeves has become such a good fast bowler for Tasmania over the past two years that he has been picked in Australia's limited-overs squads, his cult following has come from laugh-out-loud posts on his state's website.

Brett's Blogs were so popular last season they were lifted on to Cricket Australia's homepage, standing out because the honest passages weren't rewritten into convoluted corporate speak. The organisation even allowed a post which painted Michael Brown, Cricket Australia's deputy, as the A-Team's Mr T.

Geeves' state team-mates are the ones most open to attack from his laptop and Tim Macdonald, the No. 11 who twice got out last year when Geeves was on 99, cops it the most. Geeves swears the Tigers squad, which gives him permission to target them online, love the blog as much as the South Africans who stopped him when he was touring there with the national team.

"It has come from nowhere," he said. "The Tasmanian Cricket Association asked for a little Tas cricket blog to keep members up to date and it's kind of turned into me drossing about anything but cricket. It's been good fun, I have a ball writing it, I'm someone who laughs at my own jokes and end up laughing a lot." He does cover cricket, but is also into NBA and golf, telling how he texted everyone he knew when he had his first sub-par round while on holiday in Fiji.

Talking with him for the first time is strange initially because he has already revealed so much about himself, and it feels like being a groupie. At the pre-season camp in Queensland earlier this month he was attracting the sun with a sleeveless t-shirt and trying to think more about cricket than writing. Which was sensible, as their opening Sheffield Shield game of 2009-10 starts against South Australia in Adelaide on Tuesday.

Thoughtful and witty, he uses a cliché only once in 15 minutes and admits to it. He doesn't want to nominate his wicket aims for the summer and instead will take things "game by game". Not once does he mention the word "execute" or the phrase "execute your skills", the numbing mantra spilling from every other player and coach in the Australian cricket cult.

He thinks a million dollars a year is too much for a cricketer to earn when real workers, such as doctors and midwives, don't get close to that, but he would like it if most state cricketers didn't have to push so hard during their negotiations to receive an extra house payment or two. Life has become a bit easier for Geeves over the past year with his international promotions and he no longer has to worry about being bad at his job.

After his first appointment as an assistant manager at a netball centre aged 18, he signed up as a mail man and within the first week had crashed his transport into a letterbox and a tree. "Half the van went missing and I got sacked," he said. Next he was a bottle-shop attendant and in cricket season he moved the television from the back room to the front counter so everyone could watch. "I got sacked for that as well," he said. "It was awkward because my cricket wasn't going that well and I was in a bit of a bind as to where I was going - bowling junk and couldn't hold a job."

He is a well-qualified fast man with excellent, self-deprecating stories. And he can laugh through most of his painful moments. However, last summer he cried when he got out, something most children have done early in their careers. Geeves is meant to be a mean quick, but while his team-mates were cracking up, he was breaking down at his second 99 in the same Shield season. Macdonald's dismissal was to blame again.

"The first time it happened at the MCG, we ended up in the rooms having a beer and a laugh about it, and it turned into a pretty good night," he said. "The second time, I honestly cried. It was awful. It's a bizarre feeling. It shouldn't happen twice. After a while it was funny; initially I was just so shocked to think I couldn't quite get the hundred.

"Now I'm actually happy because it's a far better story this way. It's also made Timmy Mac and my relationship better. I know that he didn't do it deliberately, and if he did he's got a pretty sick sense of humour - and I don't mind that either." He'll be aiming for a boundary if he ever gets close again.

The two near-misses pushed him to the top of Tasmania's batting averages with 38.11 - not bad for a No. 8 or 9 - but bowling has been his main focus since he turned up for state under-17 trials as a hopeful run-scorer. He made the team at his second try, was handed the new ball and listed at 11.

In the past two Shield seasons he has taken 37 wickets each time to lead the Tigers, and built on his threats by adding an inswinger. Now 27, he is young by bowling standards, having been restricted to 35 first-class games by injuries early in his career, and ready to grow into a formidable operator.

"This year for me is proving myself as a consistent performer, I've had some pretty good years," he said. "I now know I can perform at first-class level and I've had a somewhat brief experience of international cricket and enjoyed what it was about. I don't think I let myself down in the opportunities I had." He has played two ODIs and a Twenty20, taken five wickets and broken a foot while batting. "It was good fun and I hope it comes around again," he said of the experience, not the fractured bone.

Opportunities are opening in Australia's line-ups and Geeves is comfortable on standby. "There are so many guys who are there or thereabouts. Hilfy [Tasmania's Ben Hilfenhaus] has gone really well and they picked Doug Bollinger to replace Nathan Bracken at the Champions Trophy, so from that I could be one or two off, I really don't know." Check out his blog when he is given an answer.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo