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He had reasons to take a break and expect sympathy, but Australian batsman Peter Forrest chose to make an important career move and just get on with it
March 19, 2012
Were the emergence of Peter Forrest to be captured in a single moment, it would be difficult to ignore the first of two straight sixes he punched down the ground on his ODI debut. Lining up the slow left-arm of Ravindra Jadeja, Forrest sallied forth to a delivery inviting the drive and with one sweet swing carried over the sightscreen at Adelaide Oval. Not only a strike of compelling power and timing, it was also a statement of the confidence instilled since Forrest's winter move from New South Wales to Queensland.
Watching on television, Forrest's former Blues team-mates found the shot particularly symbolic, for they doubted he would have played it while wearing the colours of his home state. As he reflected on an international baptism that has now bloomed to include a West Indies tour and a Test squad call-up, Forrest more or less agreed.
"The hard thing I found in one-day cricket, particularly for NSW, was I was always encouraged to go out and play with freedom and all this sort of stuff, but the reality was that if I didn't get any runs I'd get dropped straight away," Forrest told ESPNcricinfo. "So it was hard to play with freedom when you know you're going to be out next game if you stuff up. I played a little more conservatively because I knew I couldn't really afford to take a risk. If I did and missed out then I'd be dropped. I found that quite hard.
"I think when I first came in I wasn't too worried about it. But I think when I figured out how things worked, that there were no second chances there, if you missed out two games in a row there was always another young kid who was going well who could replace you. So that's probably why I played the way I did in NSW."
The fight for a permanent place in the NSW team was not a struggle Forrest ever seemed likely to win. So when Queensland approached him towards the end of last summer he was soon packing up himself and his fiancée Rachel in preparation for the move north. Once there, Forrest found a Queensland team growing in confidence under the steady hand of the new coach Darren Lehmann, and a selection panel willing to give him an extended run in the team. It helped also that the Gabba seemed a far less intimidating place to call home than it had been to visit with the Blues - the ground's reputation as an aid to fast bowlers made Forrest's handsome early-season scoring too attractive for John Inverarity's selection panel to ignore.
"I think before I signed my contract I'd only played twice at the Gabba and was averaging 12 or something," Forrest said. "I'd heard all the NSW war stories about when they went up there and had to face Kasprowicz and Bichel and all those guys - the top-order bats hated going up there. So I was a little bit nervous, but I did have in the back of my mind that if I score runs there I can score runs anywhere. I felt that my technique was pretty good. I'm not scared of the Gabba anymore. I love playing there now, it's a home ground and I know how to bat there now.
"I think I've improved a fair bit. I always knew I could play the shorter forms of the game. I just needed probably some fine-tuning and someone to teach me about how to play in different situations. I had a few minor technical things fixed up, but it is more the confidence of knowing that my coach and the selectors and everyone back me and say 'you're going to play all the time'. Now I know I only have to worry about watching the ball and hitting it and playing.
"There were times at NSW where I knew that regardless of how I went I was going to be out the next week, and from that point of view it was fairly frustrating." He believes his improvement as a cricketer has come, "only through playing consistent first-class cricket." Of Lehmann's influence, Forrest says, "Boof's been fantastic with not only me but a lot of the younger guys as well. I reckon you learn the most by playing against quality opposition. For me to do that this year is one of the key factors in why I've gone so well."
|"Boof's been fantastic with not only me but a lot of the younger guys as well. I reckon you learn the most by playing against quality opposition. For me to do that this year is one of the key factors in why I've gone so well" Forrest on Lehmann's influence|
Forrest has taken his rise with good humour and perspective, demonstrating an evenness of temperament that has been forged through a good deal of adversity. Apart from the tough school of NSW, there have been plenty of other obstacles: an Australia A trip to India was hijacked by an inflamed appendix, forcing its removal on the subcontinent. Another overseas journey to play in England was cancelled before it started by the diagnosis of a foot stress fracture. But these setbacks look minor indeed next to the fact that Forrest lost both his mum and dad by the age of 23. Forrest was 18 and about to sit his high school exams when his mother Vanda succumbed to breast cancer. He was in mid-cricket season when dad Ian suffered a fatal heart attack.
"It was only a week after dad passed away that I was off down in Tasmania playing a Shield game. Rach didn't come down there and my manager didn't go down, my aunty Janine was there but even still there were times when you'd sit around the hotel and be 'I don't want to be here'," Forrest said. "I remember that game pretty clearly, Hughesy ran me out for a duck and then I got three caught down the leg side in the second innings, so I was thinking 'this can't get much worse'...
"I know that I'm more in touch now and understand things a bit better after going through that. I realise that in professional sport you don't make excuses and you just get on with it, whereas I was stuck in the middle when I played on after dad passed away, particularly. I didn't want to play, that was the human side of me, but the professional sportsman was saying 'you don't make excuses, you go to training.' But now [when] I look back I should've had the rest of that year off and just gone and got myself right. I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me or anything like that, there are people far worse off than me. It's not a very nice experience but it has taught me a bit about life."
Others have helped Forrest in the years since: his childhood friends and fellow Australian representatives Steve O'Keefe and John Hastings, former NSW and Australia A batsman Corey Richards, who did not quite make it to the Australian dressing room, and who, at 36, had figured out why.
Forrest sought Richards' help towards the end of his time at the SCG, and by the time he moved to Brisbane had assessed and addressed numerous flaws. "I think I identified last year at NSW that I needed to work on my game, there were holes in my game that were getting exposed in first-class cricket," Forrest said. "I didn't know too much about his past other than I knew he was a talent at NSW and played for Australia A but hadn't gone on to play for Australia. I thought he must know his stuff. I did a few sessions with him and he was really good and we clicked.
Richards worked, "pretty closely" with him and Forrest says, "He's very honest with his assessment of things, he says he had three major stuff-ups, [one] was spraying the coach and this and that, and he went through everything [in his own career], and I could learn from him as well. But I think he played very similarly to me as well."
In Queensland, Lehmann has been similarly enlightening for Forrest, building up confidence with decisions like that to hand him the captaincy of the Brisbane Heat in the Twenty20 Big Bash League, while also encouraging a balanced approach to the game's peaks and troughs.
"He's been very good with me in that he's kept it very simple, and he's just backed me and filled me with confidence to play the way that I play," Forrest said. "He's taught me a few different things about the game, like how to play in certain situations that he's taught all the other guys as well. We're all on the same page. But I suppose it's just more the confidence to go out and just play how I play, and if that doesn't work out then so be it.
Lehmann, he says, "still treats cricket like a game. Although he realises it's our livelihood he tries to keep it as simple as possible and keeps an even keel the whole time. When you have a good day you celebrate but you don't go over the top, and on your bad days it's not the end of the world."
More than most cricketers, Forrest knows the meaning behind such sentiments, having coped with far more than most 20-something Australian cricketers who have reached the national team. "It's worked out all right," he said. "I've gone through a few things but it's no different to a whole heap of other people who've had different setbacks as well. I'm definitely not a sob story, I don't want people to feel sorry for me, it's working out nicely at the moment, but I know how quickly the game can change around. So I enjoy it while it lasts and hopefully it lasts for a long time."
The Caribbean is a long way from that lonely hotel room in Hobart, and the bold debut six was a long way from some of the more inhibited strokes Forrest once produced for NSW. For a long time, Forrest had a little too much time on his hands. Now he is blissfully busy. "It's great. I'm loving every minute of it. I was talking to my family the other day and said I was very busy, but that's exactly why I moved, so I would be busy. I'd much rather be doing this than stuck playing grade cricket like I was last year."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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