From risk consulting to a Lord's debut: Peter Hatzoglou takes Warne's advice into Hundred chance

Self-described "accidental cricketer" is Sunil Narine's replacement at Oval Invincibles

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Hatzoglou won the 2021-22 BBL with Perth Scorchers  •  Getty Images

Hatzoglou won the 2021-22 BBL with Perth Scorchers  •  Getty Images

Peter Hatzoglou is sitting opposite me in a cafe in Kennington when he gets his phone out to show me his Instagram DMs. He opens up his chat history with the late Shane Warne and scrolls back to July 2021, when in the middle of a Melbourne lockdown, he first sent Warne a message.
"Hey Warnie (sorry I'm not exactly sure what to call you)," it started. "Just reaching out to chat about legspin..."
"I didn't have a state contract," Hatzoglou says. "I felt like I didn't have any people to bounce ideas off. I knew he was in Melbourne at the time so I just reached out to him, thinking, 'what's the worst that can happen?'"
Much to his surprise, Warne responded. They started to exchange messages and when Hatzoglou backed up his breakthrough Big Bash League season with Melbourne Renegades by winning the title with Perth Scorchers, Warne floated the possibility that, if he spent the Australian winter playing in the UK, the 23-year-old might be in line for a contract with his London Spirit side in the Hundred.
At the time, Hatzoglou was juggling his playing commitments with a job as a risk management consultant at KPMG in Adelaide. After returning to the office as a Big Bash winner, he discussed his plans with two of the firm's partners, and made the decision to head to the UK.
Shortly after Warne passed away in March, Hatzoglou explained the situation to Andrew Papageorgiou, a fund manager in Melbourne he had worked with. "He told me, 'Pete, mate, they don't do state funerals for accountants'," Hatzoglou says, "and I was just like, 'right, I've got to get over there'."
Hatzoglou booked his flights and headed for Sawston and Babraham Cricket Club in Cambridge, who he has since helped to the top of the East Anglian Premier League as the competition's leading wicket-taker. In between his club commitments, he arranged a number of stints with counties as a net bowler hoping to garner attention, but nobody took a punt on him in the Blast.
Trevor Bayliss, Spirit's new coach, never followed up on his predecessor's interest in Hatzoglou, but just as he had given up on his hope of a contract, Oval Invincibles reached out to offer him a short-term deal as a replacement player, with Sunil Narine leaving for the CPL after Tuesday's defeat to Birmingham Phoenix.
Now, he is in line for a debut at Lord's on Saturday night, playing against Warne's old team. "It's come full circle," he says. "When he passed away, people spoke about how much time he had for others and that's 100% true in my case. He didn't owe me anything - I was just some young punk who came onto the T20 scene - but he gave me more time than I could have ever asked for.
"He was so supportive of me on the comms, which was so heart-warming for me. Whenever I'm feeling down, I've got a five-minute clip saved on my phone, in the favourites section, from a game against Brisbane Heat which I watch. He was commentating, and Mark Howard passed it over to Warnie to talk through my whole over. Shane Warne saying good things about you? That is pretty cool."
For Hatzoglou, playing in his first overseas league as a professional cricketer - and replacing one of the world's best white-ball spinners in the process - is a sign of how far he has come. Three years ago, he spent the English summer playing for Ashton-on-Mersey in Cheshire's fourth tier, but he has seized the opportunity that the Renegades gave him when he signed a replacement contract in 2020-21.
"I was initially only going to be there for a week," he says, "but I've always been determined not to be a passenger, whichever cricket team I've been in. I'm 23 and it'd be easy for me to hide behind my age, but I've never thought like that. It's been a crazy ride: in many ways, I feel like I'm the accidental cricketer."
Hatzoglou has an idiosyncratic action, bowling a combination of topspinners, sliders and googlies. He compares himself to Ravi Bishnoi, the India wristspinner, but bowls from a high release point (he is 6ft 4in) and at high pace, often above 62mph/100kph, which he "happened to stumble across" while playing club cricket for Sunshine Heights.
"I used to try and bowl like Warne - classical legspin, wide release, spin the ball big - which I did all the way through the juniors," he says. "I was a run-of-the-mill club cricketer. I had a coach named Luke Simpson - like, my village cricket coach - and he was like, 'Peter, bowl with a bit more energy'.
"My interpretation of that was run in faster, bowl a bit quicker. From that came what I bowl now. It's refreshing to come over here and have that element of surprise again, where most batters haven't faced me before."
His development has taken place outside of the usual pathway for Australian players and he is starting to follow Tim David and Chris Green's lead by forging a career as a T20 freelancer. "My skillset is well-suited to T20 cricket and there aren't too many players who have that level of exaggeration," Hatzoglou says. "I sprint in, essentially, and I'm so much better when guys are trying to go after me.
"I really tried to play state cricket and play all formats and in many ways I still have that ambition, but I couldn't even get a rookie contract with South Australia and the potential opportunities in T20 cricket are far outweighing what's been presented to me in the longer forms."
Hatzoglou describes himself as a "professional cricketer and CFA [chartered financial analyst] candidate" on his LinkedIn page, and will sit his exams in November shortly before flying to Abu Dhabi to play in the T10. "Having that safety net has helped me play with so much more freedom," he says.
He expected to spend his 20s wearing a suit in an office. Instead, he will be kitted out in Invincibles teal this weekend, making his Hundred debut at a sold-out Lord's and looking to stamp his mark on the competition. "I've only been on the circuit for what, less than two years? The way I see it, there's so much upside. I still feel so raw, and I'm still learning so much. I'm just excited to see where it goes."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98