November 23, 2009

'I never expected to play Test cricket'

In a little over three years, Brendan Nash has gone from being an Australia substitute fielder to playing a Test against them. He speaks about switching sides, and how much things have changed for him

Brendan Nash will line up at the Gabba on Thursday, on his old home ground, but this time he will be playing for West Indies instead of Queensland. He left Australia, the country of his birth, to reacquaint himself with his family links in Jamaica in 2007 and has emerged as a reliable middle-order batsman for the Test team, playing nine games and scoring his first century against England in March. Over the next month he knows he will face challenges on and off the field, including some testing spells from Mitchell Johnson, his old house-mate.

You've been on the Gabba during a Test before as a substitute fielder for Australia. What are your memories from that 2005-06 encounter?
I dropped a catch so it wasn't that great - it was Denesh Ramdin. As it's turned out, something deep down inside of me probably told me to drop that catch. It was obviously a different time of my life.

It must be amazing to think how much has changed in four years?
It is. At that stage I wasn't in the Queensland team, so it has gone from not playing first-class cricket to being lucky enough to play Tests and ODIs.

You played in the drawn tour game last week against your old side. What was the reception like?
So far the reception has been quite good. I heard the odd little comment in the crowd but it wasn't too bad. It's just surprising. It shows I had some true fans when I was here and I hopefully did a job that they appreciated.

The Team Nash support group will be at the Gabba. How many will be there watching you?
I have hopefully 30 or 40 friends and family coming. Hopefully there will be a few more that I don't know about. It's great to hear.

What about the rest of the crowd? Do you think they will support you as well?
I doubt it, no, to be honest. I can understand it. I'm competing against Australia so I can understand them remembering my days as an Australian and feeling very proud.

Do you think you're a better cricketer than when you were at Queensland?
I do feel that. In your late 20s and early 30s a lot of batsmen find their best form and I think that's what I have been going through, and hopefully I can continue it.

From a distance, people might think you had an easy ride into the Test team, but it was actually pretty tough.
It has been. There was a lot more to it. First of all I had to be accepted, which was the main thing, from the Jamaican people. They are a very proud cricketing nation, so to be invited to trials within the first few months I was there was quite a big step, and that's probably what made it more difficult. People didn't quite understand why I was getting offered these trial matches for Jamaica when some guys had been playing for five or six years at local level and not getting a go.

I performed pretty much straight away and I had probably had one shot at it. If I didn't perform in the first few trial matches then I wouldn't be here today, no doubt about that. I wouldn't be playing for Jamaica. I was playing a cutthroat game-by-game situation. Settling into Jamaica was a little bit easier, having the heritage there. Once everyone understood what I was there for and why I was there, it was a lot easier.

And now you're getting the rewards?
Exactly. It wasn't that much different when I was back here playing at Queensland. You might have got two games. If you didn't perform there was another guy knocking on the door. I've always had that pressure.

"Since I've been involved it feels like West Indies are taking baby steps, but we're moving in the right direction. There's no more standing still"

How do you feel you've developed as a Test player in your nine games?
When I first came in I wasn't expecting to play so many. I was just taking each one as it came because it's really a blessing. I never expected to play Test cricket and maybe, to some degree, that's helped me.

What are you looking forward to most in this series?
Every time you play a Test you are always looking forward to it. Given the opportunity to be in the XI, I want to do the best I can to help the team out, to keep coming on the strides that we have been making. Since I've been involved it feels like we're taking baby steps, but we're moving in the right direction. There's no more standing still.

Mitchell Johnson used to be a flatmate in a house you owned. Did you play a lot in the backyard?
There was no backyard but there was a bit of driveway cricket. There was a steep driveway. [Queensland's Nathan Rimmington, who got him out in the tour game] was there as well. It was more those guys playing. I was always working. Those guys were having a great time during the day and out partying. I might get a bat when I came home.

Do you chat to Mitchell much?
I haven't really spoken to him a lot, he's quite busy, so the odd email and text message. He's come on in leaps and bounds since I last played against him and has got a lot of confidence. He's one of the main bowlers, and with Brett Lee out now, he's No. 1.

Does being part of this team feel like the place that you've always been going towards? I think so. Maybe the experience in me, being a little bit older, everything has fitted in nicely. I do have a calm feeling inside of me and something that felt like it was always there, and it's coming out now.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

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