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From a Thunder innings to Guyana captain: the unlikely story of Chris Green

Chris Green has become an expert with the ball in the Powerplay Getty Images

You'll probably know the story about the legspinner from Afghanistan who made his international debut at 17 and became the world's best T20 bowler while he was still a teenager. You might also know about the boy from Nepal who was spotted by Michael Clarke in Hong Kong. Rashid Khan and Sandeep Lamichhane are the human representations of the democratisation that has come from T20's globalising effect on cricket; the Big Bash is yet another chance for the pair to shine.

But do you know the one about the Durban-born spinner with a British passport, captained Guyana in the Caribbean Premier League final and hopes he is on the cusp of Australia selection despite never having played a first-class game?

If you've watched Sydney Thunder in the last few years, chances are you'll have seen Chris Green play. Not that you'll necessarily have noticed him: Green has scored 149 runs and taken 22 wickets in his 27 games for them, while finding his niche in an unglamorous role.

"Bowling in the Powerplay is something that I started doing in the Big Bash in the last two seasons, bowling those tough overs," Green tells ESPNcricinfo. "I enjoy the challenge. I guess that's the way the game's changing - when it started, everyone thought T20 would be the death of spinners and wouldn't suit them. But now teams are more willing to pick spinners and bowl them more. At the Thunder, we've played three spinners and two quicks at times in the past couple of years."

Green's flat, fired-through offspin is anything but eye-catching; when he opened the bowling in last season's Big Bash curtain-raiser, one punter tweeted: "Always look forward to the first over of the Test summer, watching the best quicks run in and bowl the first ball. The BBL equivalent is Chris Green bowling part-time offspin. Give me Test cricket any day."

But it is no exaggeration to say that Green is up there with the best in that role. Since the start of the 2015-16 BBL, his economy in overs one to six is just 6.39, leaving him the second-tightest spinner in that period, sandwiched between Rashid and Sunil Narine. He impressed in the same role in the T10 tournament in Sharjah, which his Northern Warriors side won. His method holds little mystery, relying on subtle variation, changes of pace, and a deceptive dip thanks to his unusual height.

"My goal from the outset is always to stay a step ahead of the batter," he says. "As a right-arm offspinner against a right-handed batter, you're up against it before you even bowl a ball just because of their mentality. So I always try to use that to my advantage - the tendency is for the batter to be a bit overzealous. You just play on their mindset, their ego, try to do the best you can in building pressure."

While Green's is not a rags-to-riches tale like Rashid or Lamichhane, his career shares the characteristic that its trajectory would have been almost unimaginable ten years ago. For all the resentment that the old-school fan might hold about his seemingly innocuous bowling, his glistening smile and slick hair, his perfectly curated Instagram feed, and his jet-setter lifestyle, Green's ability with the new ball, in the field, and his potential as a finisher has helped him forge a reputation on the back of T20 performances alone.

Green's first full BBL season was the Thunder's victorious 2015-16 campaign, and the challenge of being thrust onto the biggest stage for a man whose professional experience had been limited to three Matador Cup games was lessened thanks to his veteran team-mates.

"I was so privileged to be playing alongside some of the greatest players and leaders ever - Jacques Kallis, Mike Hussey, Shane Watson," he says, "so to use them, lean on them as my mentors while I was playing with them was amazing for me. I still keep in contact with them - I was chatting a lot to Mike Hussey this winter, just talking him through how I was going, what my thoughts were, and picking his brain as much as possible.

"The BBL has opened up a new pathway. It's presented me with amazing opportunities. It's a great experience, it's a lot of fun, and you're thrust into that 'adapt-or-die' scenario on the field with both bat and ball. It's such a great learning environment."

While the aphorism that living out of a hotel room in a foreign city can make the life of a T20 gun-for-hire a lonely one holds some truth, for the younger players on the franchise scene, the chance to train and talk cricket with the greats is an enticing one. So despite never making it onto the pitch in his spells at Lahore Qalandars and Quetta Gladiators, Green credits much of his early development to sharing hotels and dressing rooms with his heroes.

"I count myself so lucky to have spent two seasons in the Pakistan Super League," he says, "even though I haven't played a game in it. I've been rubbing shoulders with the best in the business, both in the teams I signed for, and in the opposition teams too. It's the nature of the modern game - that culture of knowledge-sharing is very open between players. I got to sit at breakfast with Kumar Sangakkara, Brendon McCullum, and Kevin Pietersen, and absorb as much information as possible."

And while bowling is Green's strongest suit, it was an innings of 49 off 27 balls in the Sydney derby that secured him his contract with Guyana. One of the bowlers on the receiving end that day was the Sixers' Johan Botha, and when Cameron Delport withdrew from Botha's squad, he gave Green - who had spent the winter in the UK playing for Surrey's 2nd XI and Sunbury, via a stint in the Norwegian Premier League - a call.

"He'd seen what I can do with the ball over the past few years, and then saw my potential with the bat first-hand. It helps to impress first-hand, and that's the nature of the game at the moment. You're one game away or one innings or spell away where a coach or an owner is watching and says 'hey, I really like what this guy can do'.

"I was over the moon to get the opportunity to show off what I could do outside of the Big Bash and outside of Australia on another big stage, and the added excitement of captaining the last four games into the final was an amazing opportunity and experience for me.

"It wasn't expected or planned - the management made a decision to drop Rayad Emrit, and I woke up the morning of a game and they sat me down and said 'you're our captain tonight and for the rest of the tournament'. It could have turned our form on its head and been detrimental, but it worked in our favour in the end. Unfortunately, things didn't go our way in the final, but it was a great experience. I learnt an immense amount about myself and about my game."

Green hopes to get more of a regular chance with the bat this season, after facing barely four balls per game in his Thunder career thus far, but is unequivocal when asked what his long-term goal might be.

"To play for Australia, definitely. At the moment, my game is more suited to T20, and that's the path that a few players are on: that's where I'm most likely to get picked before Test cricket. David Warner opened that idea up; that you can play T20 first, do really well there, go to one-day cricket, get some opportunities, and more onto the Test arena as you start to understand your game really well. I'd love to be able to put my hand up for selection for the T20 World Cup [in 2020], and achieve that boyhood dream."