By Mark Taylor, Sydney Morning Herald
The first time I met Kurtis Patterson he was a snotty-nosed brat. Well, not quite, but you get the picture.
To be fair, he probably wasn’t even old enough to blow his own nose, let alone pick up a cricket bat.
The story of how I first came across Kurtis, Australia’s newest Test squad member, began about 20 years ago at Waitara Oval during a grade-cricket match I played with his old man, Brad.
Whenever I wasn’t touring with the Test team or playing for NSW, I used to love returning to play for Northern District, where Brad Patterson was a club great.
I knew Brad, and Kurtis’ mum Dana, before I was younger than he is today. I’m absolutely delighted to see him make the Aussie squad and would love to see him play at the Gabba on Thursday.
I’ve followed him from afar and caught up with him a few times since he’s been a bit older. He is a fantastic young lad and has come a long way since the mischievous kid who came grade games with his dad all those years ago.
Did being around grade cricket from such a young age have anything to do with his deep love and passion for the game? There is every chance.
His parents were both excellent at sport – his mum represented Australia at volleyball – and he has an excellent pedigree. Brad whacked 70 or 80 under cloudy skies one year in a first-grade final to steer Northern District to a premiership. They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
When Kurtis debuted for NSW I was stoked for him and now since he’s burst on the scene he’s put himself, rightfully, within the frame to make his international debut.
A lot has been made about the unexpected decision to parachute Kurtis into the Test squad, even though Cricket Australia initially said he wouldn’t be considered because the tour match against Sri Lanka wasn’t a selection trial.
I thought it was excellent that selectors came to their senses because desperate times call for desperate measures and I think that is the reality facing us at the moment.
Australia need to win this series to, first and foremost, gain some confidence. And, if we’re being serious, Kurtis is in the best six batsmen in the country at the moment, so bravo to those who made the call almost everyone wanted to see.
The more I think about it, I see similarities with how I began my career to how Kurtis has won higher honours.
He’s averaging 41 and that was pretty spot-on with my numbers when I was presented with my first baggy green. I also had to have a fair apprenticeship before getting a crack with the big boys.
He’s coming off the back of a solid season and was on fire against Sri Lanka. In 1988-89 I got picked to play against the West Indies after five or six scores above 50 but I didn’t have a hundred in the year.
Kurtis has put a lot of consistent and meaty scores on the board and that ability to get starts hopefully will be a feature of a successful Test career.
Pat Cummins and Travis Head have come in as the new vice-captains but I think there’s no doubt we’re in a re-building period of Australian cricket. Tim is going to need some support from his senior players, even if Australia don’t have a whole lot in the cupboard at the moment.
Mitchell Starc and Usman Khawaja in particular are two senior players who need to stand up in this series.
I can’t ever recall a leadership void like we are experiencing now and obviously that is brought upon by the suspensions of Steve Smith and Dave Warner but also Australia ran into a decent Indian team and have some injury concerns.
Tim is doing a very solid job but he’s going to need some serious support very quickly if he is to lead Australia on the road to recovery.
Mark Taylor is exclusively managed by The Fordham Company.