Michael Klinger, the veteran Western Australian batsman, is ensuring he embraces his initiation into international cricket ahead of Australia’s Twenty20 International series opener against Sri Lanka at the MCG on Friday (February 17). Australia will field a second string side for the series due to their best players currently preparing for the upcoming four-Test series in India. It has meant the squad has a slew of fresh faces mixed with veterans, highlighted by the 36-year-old Klinger who has never played for Australia despite a stellar 18-year first-class career.
Like many others, Klinger seemed destined to never play for Australia but spectacular performances in the Big Bash League (BBL) have proven irresistible and provided an unexpected late career lifeline. Klinger enjoyed a brilliant recent BBL campaign punctuated by a match-winning unbeaten 71 from 49 balls in the final to propel the Perth Scorchers to their third title.
Klinger seems almost certain to make his debut in game one of the series after Justin Langer, his domestic coach and Australia’s interim T20 coach, publicly backed him. Originally from Melbourne, Klinger said it would be a dream come true to play in front of his loved ones.
“Obviously it would be great to play tomorrow and I can’t wait,” he told the media in Melbourne on Thursday (February 16).
“Super exciting….obviously to find out a couple of weeks ago (of being picked in the squad) and the first few phone calls speaking to the family. The way it’s worked out being in my hometown of Melbourne….I have a lot of family and friends around which will be great.”
Due to his advancing age, Klinger thought his prospects of playing for Australia had all but ended in the longer formats but was grateful he could gain a chance through T20. “Probably in the last 12 months I was thinking that in the Test and One-Day (formats) it was unlikely,” he said. “Obviously Cricket Australia have shown they are looking for young talent around…guys they have picked like (Peter) Handscomb and (Matt) Renshaw have done well. I never say never but am realistic. Cricket Australia are looking at a different direction in Tests.
“Maybe Twenty20 has helped me in a way because a lot of experienced guys have played well in the Big Bash and maybe that helped me get into this setup,” he added.
With more than 11,000 first-class runs at an average of almost 40, Klinger has been a consistent performer for many years but, frustratingly, couldn’t crack into the national team. “There have been other times in the last seven, eight or nine years that I have been close and the timing has been out because other guys have been scoring runs,” he said. “It’s tough because there needs to be a spot and there are a lot of players performing well. You take the good with the bad, this time the timing has worked well.”
Finally part of the national team, Klinger said he wanted to savour the moment. “Obviously there are some players unavailable at the moment over in India…hopefully I can perform well in this three-game series and see what happens after that,” he said. “For now, I’m just going to enjoy this three-game series.
“The whole week is about enjoying it. I had throw downs from Ricky Ponting who I looked up to as a youngster,” he added.
The series has been derided as trivial by critics but Klinger said the players would be giving it their all. “Everyone who gets an opportunity to play are going to be giving it their best shot,” he said. “Every time I play, I am trying to be man-of-the-match which goes a long way to the team winning.
“We want to win the series and hopefully we start that tomorrow night,” he added.