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A Real Keeper – Peter Nevill

By Dan Hutton on November 30, 2016 in People

Photo: Grant Brooks

Photo: Grant Brooks

Where are you originally from?
I grew up in Melbourne, and then moved up to Sydney eight and a half years ago. I’ve got a playing contract with Cricket New South Wales. I first moved up to join with Eastern Suburbs Cricket Club. Back then I jumped in a spare room for a month or so with a member of the club who lived in Darling Point, which was a lovely start, and then I zig-zagged my way from Woollahra to Kensington and now to Randwick.

What do you love about the Eastern Suburbs?
What’s not to love? You can’t go past the beaches. I’ve been lucky enough to do a fair bit of travelling and they’re some of the best beaches in the world. There’s also an abundance of good coffee, and there are some really good restaurants.

What gets your goat about the area?
Mate, what’s not to like? There’s nothing really. I suppose the only thing I’d like to be able to do that I can’t is ride my self-balancing scooter on the road. I think that’s illegal, so I can’t do that.

Do you have any favourite local haunts?
My favourite place for coffee is a place called Vigor Espresso on Belmore Road in Randwick. They do an excellent coffee. My favourite cafe is probably Indigo in Double Bay. And for a beer I’ve got a soft spot for the Woollahra Hotel. When I first moved to Sydney I spent a bit of time at the Woollahra Hotel, and they’re now actually a sponsor of Easts Cricket Club as well.

How did you end up playing for Easts?
The president of the club at the time was travelling down to Melbourne and was trying to recruit me to move up. I was a rookie with the Victorian Bushrangers at the time. He was trying to convince me to make the move, and then it worked out well that I got contacted by New South Wales anyway, so I already had that relationship. The only place I was really considered coming to was Eastern Suburbs Cricket Club.

Did the fact that they had a number of other high quality players on their books sweeten the deal?

Yes, absolutely. Being able to spend a bit of time with Brad Haddin in particular was a big drawcard, but I also got the opportunity to do that for New South Wales as well.

When did you first pull on the baggy green?
July 2015, at the age of 29. I’d been having progressively better and better seasons playing for New South Wales, and then I had the opportunity to play for Australia A, so there was some indication of progression there, and then there was a West Indies and Ashes touring squad that I got selected for. Once you’re in those squads, you’re never too far away. I happened to get an opportunity and made my Test debut at Lords. It’s hard to describe, actually. It’s remarkable. It’s one of those pinch yourself scenarios. And Steve Waugh presented me with my baggy green, which was incredible. Every time you get to represent your country, it is a real privilege and a real honour, and it comes with a great deal of responsibility and pressure.

How nervous were you when you were back there behind the stumps setting up for the first ball at Lords?
By that point I was pretty good. That’s the thing, I suppose, with test matches, that the hardest part is the lead up. When you get into actually playing, you’re sort of in your comfort zone.

What does the baggy green mean to you?
It represents everyone that’s gone before you. 440 players to date have been lucky enough to wear the baggy green, and there is a lot of responsibility that comes with that, a lot of tradition and culture that needs to be upheld. Steve Waugh put a great emphasis on it. I was chatting to Merv Hughes a while back and he was saying that they used to just get a new baggy green for every tour, but then that changed and everyone loved looking at Steve Waugh’s baggy green because it was tattered and it had blood and sweat and everything in it, and I suppose that made it even more special and it became folklore. Seeing everybody wearing these represented all the hard work they’d done and how much playing for Australia meant to them.

What’s your favourite form of the game – one-dayers, Tests or Twenty20?

I suppose I’ve always enjoyed the long form of the game the most. It’s the most pure format of the game, the way it was intended to be played originally. Having said that, I really enjoy playing Twenty20 as well. It’s a lot of fun, but it is different to playing long form cricket.

At the moment, you’re the Australian keeper for the Twenty20 side and the Test side; are you hoping to add the one-day side to that repertoire, or are you happy doing what you’re doing at the moment?
I’m just focused on what I need to be doing at the moment, making sure I’m performing in Test cricket and T20 cricket. I’m not looking beyond that at all. I think if I neglect what’s right in front of me, I’m setting myself up to not do it justice.

When you first made the Test team, how did you find playing under Michael Clarke’s leadership?
I’ve never had any issues with Michael. He’s always been very supportive of me, and I suppose I’m someone who never got involved very much, never saw the inner workings of what went on with team management and hierarchy and that sort of thing. All I can speak about is my personal experience, and Michael has always been lovely with me. I also love playing with Steve Smith. He’s someone I’ve played quite a lot with, especially at New South Wales before he started playing for Australia, and he’s a lovely guy. He’s a hell of a cricketer. His work ethic is second to none. You spend lots of close and personal time together when you’re on a team, and the amount of time he puts into his game and the dedication he has to improving, is incredible. He got his chance playing for Australia initially as a leg spinner, and has turned himself into the best batsman in the world.

What was playing in your first Boxing Day Test last summer like?
It was a highlight. I used to attend religiously with my father every Boxing Day. I must have been to the first day of the Boxing Day Test at least ten times. Being on the other side of the fence, it was really lovely to look up in the stands and imagine my dad in there somewhere.

Are you looking forward to playing in a proper Sydney Test this season after January’s wash out?

Yes. I’d love to. I’d love to play at the SCG. That is my home ground. It’s got so many fond memories for me, so to play a New Year’s Test and not be hampered by rain and have a wonderful large Sydney crowd there, that would be fantastic.

You’re good mates with former Australian wicket-keeper Brad Haddin; was it bittersweet that your spot on the Aussie team came at his expense?
Ever since I moved up to New South Wales, he’s put an incredible amount of time into me improving as a cricketer and becoming the best keeper I can be, but no, I wouldn’t say it was bittersweet. Brad is such a wonderful character and such a lovely guy that he was very happy for me when I did get selected. He and Karina, his wife, sent a bottle of champagne to my room, and he’s just been so supportive ever since. I can’t speak highly enough of him.

Are you in the Australian team as a wicket-keeper batsman, or for your skills behind the stumps alone?
My initial response would be that you’d have to ask the selectors. In saying that, I was selected for the West Indies and Ashes tour on the back of making 700 something runs at an average of 70-odd in Shield cricket. Before I started playing Test cricket I averaged over 40 in Shield cricket, and that’s after about 60-odd games. Obviously I’d like to contribute with some significant performances with the bat at this level.

Can you walk us through the Sri Lankan stumping that caused a bit of controversy earlier in the year?
This is actually something that Haddin would do quite a lot, and I reckon that’s probably where I picked it up from. The batsman missed and I sensed he was about to shift his weight and lift his back foot, and it was just a very fortunate piece of timing, really, because his foot wasn’t off the ground for all that long. I understand there were a few people commenting who disagreed with it, but I can certainly put my hand on my heart and say that I’ve always played in the spirit of the game and I do hold that quite dear. I would never look to do something that I thought was against the spirit of the game.

What are your thoughts on sledging in cricket?
I’ve got no issues with it. A lot of people use sledging as a way to get themselves up to the contest as much as to try and get in the opposition’s head, but I’ve never found that I needed to do that in order to get myself up. I’m actually very vocal on the field, but I tend to direct my energy towards my team as opposed to the opposition.

What can supporters of the game look forward to this summer?
We’ve got some very good opposition out here this summer. There are a couple of Test series, and some quality opposition in the form of South Africa and Pakistan. It’s going to make for some very entertaining cricket. If Australia plays well, we’ll have every chance of winning both those series.

You won a T20 Big Bash title with the Sydney Sixers, but now you’ve gone back down to your home state to play for the Renegades. Are you looking forward to the domestic T20 competition?
It’s always really enjoyable, the Big Bash. I think the public have really embraced it. Both the TV ratings and the attendance at the grounds have been exceptional and continue to grow. I think you’re seeing new demographics attending cricket, which is wonderful. It’s growing the game. The public have really embraced it, so it was exciting to be a part of that and to play in front of big crowds.

Do you have a career highlight thus far?
I reckon debuting at Lords was a really special moment, and winning that Test in four days. Also winning the Test series in New Zealand earlier this year and becoming to the number one ranked Test nation in the world was incredible, then also being involved in the ICC World T20 in India. Playing cricket in India in front of some of the most enthusiastic fans in the world, and the culture over there, it’s almost indescribable. They live and breathe their cricket.

Who do you most enjoy keeping wicket to?
I’d say Mitchell Starc. You’re really in the best vantage point in the house to watch him bowl when you’re behind the stumps, and I think he bowled one last year that was 160 kilometres an hour, which is just incredible when you’re standing that far back and the ball’s zipping through. It’s very exciting.

Who do you least enjoy facing?
Mitchell Starc in the nets, and before that, Mitchell Johnson in the nets.

Were you ever scared when facing those boys in the nets?
Yes. Especially when you’re batting the nets, because there is a feeling that you’re a bit confined, and it can get a bit hairy if you’re on some practice wickets at the SCG that are a little bit green.

Do you reckon there’s a slightly sadistic element to those fast bowlers?
I don’t think they so. I wouldn’t say they are sadistic. At the end of the day they’re just trying to get wickets for their team, and a bouncer is a very effective delivery to help disturb the batsman’s footwork.

Did you have a backup plan if the whole cricket thing didn’t work out?
I finished a university degree about three years ago now. I did a Bachelor of Management with a marketing major and a commercial law major, so it’s a pretty broad degree. I just wasn’t really sure what I might like to do after cricket.

What about other sporting skills? Are you a jack of many trades?
No, it was cricket or nothing. My hand-eye skills are good enough, but my running certainly isn’t good enough to play AFL or anything like that.

What do you get up to when you’re not playing or training?
I play guitar a lot. I play heavy metal guitar. Shane Watson is a really good guitarist, actually, but he likes playing Johnny Diesel and that sort of thing, and he can sing as well. I’d love to be able to sing. Myself and Shane used to catch up and play a few Metallica tunes before he moved up to Queensland.

Who are your role models in the game?
I think Brad Hodge was a big one for me when I was younger. I was at the Melbourne Cricket Club, and he played there when he played T20 and a half a dozen Test matches for Australia, so I’ve followed his career really closely. Whenever he was around you’d be like a sponge and just pay attention to what he was doing in terms of his training and trying to pick his brains when you could.

And obviously Brad Haddin is a role model of mine, being a wicket-keeper and seeing the way he approached his training and his attitude towards the game. He would analyse the game as well as anybody else and he’s been a massive influence on me.

Do you have any advice for youngsters looking to make a career out of cricket?

Train smarter than other people. You’re not going to get better just by doing the same thing every time you turn up for training. Be methodical about what you need to improve and how you’re going to go about improving it, and then put the time into doing so.

Do you support any charities?
Not specifically, no. but my NSW teammate Ryan Carter has got his charity, Batting for Change, which runs in association with the LBW Trust. Eastern Suburbs Cricket Club is supporting them this season. Ryan is very passionate about education, and he has been able to do things like build part of a school in Nepal, and he’s raising money to put Indian women through tertiary education, as well. He’s a weapon. He’s put a lot of time and effort into that, and it’s getting a lot of traction.

In an ideal world, what does the future hold for Peter Nevill?
Two Test series wins this summer. And, personally, I’m looking forward to getting married in April.