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KFC BBL|07

Chris Lynn's summer of living dangerously

18 December 2017
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Brisbane Heat's maverick master blaster is about to will his recovering shoulder through another season of fireworks, and the Big Bash – and cricket – is all the better for it

About the Writer:
 @AdamBurnett09

Adam Burnett previously wrote for and edited at Inside Cricket magazine and The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia and The Telegraph and the Guardian in the UK.

Chris Lynn is two days away from dusting off his cape, picking up his bat and stepping once again into the light. The six-hitting superhero of the KFC Big Bash, he is also cricket's everyman; a batsman whose mantra is "see ball, hit ball" and a larrikin who enjoys a beer and a bet. But to stop the dissection there would be to dismiss the trials, physical and mental, he has endured over the past five months, and the depth of character required to overcome them. His body, he knows, may never be completely ready, but injuries have never stopped the clock. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. On Wednesday night he will walk onto the Gabba, his reputation preceding him: this is the man who rivals Santa Claus for head-turning festive feats. But it doesn't stop there. Come what may, once this summer is behind him, Lynn wants to take the Bash Brothers show to the world.

***


Shaun Tait is staring at him from 20 paces.

The Wild Thing and Lynnsanity. The former a nickname, the latter by now more of a movement. Both appositely Big Bash.

Tait has just sent down a 148kph rocket – among the quickest deliveries of the summer. Instinctively and almost instantly, Lynn's synapses have fired into action, making calculations of line and length, and determining the delivery to be squarely in his hitting zone. After a whip-crack backswing, willow meets leather at the perfect point in the arc, and a full-blooded follow-through sends Tait's rocket into orbit. The ball soars beyond the midwicket boundary and continues its trajectory over the grandstand, out of the Gabba and into the adjoining practice nets 121 metres away. Some 35,000 people leap to their feet in unison, and the collective roar is mind-numbing. 

Chris Lynn hits one out of the Gabba!

In the middle, Lynn breaks the stare-off with a timely wink, and Tait can only grin. The replay is shown on the giant screen – the delivery, the swing, the six, the wink – and the crowd erupts all over again. In Brisbane's packed-out coliseum, a gladiator rules.

***

September 29. There are three screws holding Lynn's left shoulder together. They were inserted eight weeks ago in Melbourne, where a surgeon who routinely deals in these kinds of precise intrusions performed his unsung medical magic, in turn handing his patient a chance to revive his own magic for the masses. But not this summer. Not according to medical staff anyway. Following the shoulder reconstruction, Lynn has been all but ruled out for the entire KFC Big Bash League season. Typically, he is having none of it.

"My goal is to get back for December 20," he says with a nod to the Heat's first game of BBL|07. There's a proviso that comes with the pronouncement: he won't be making this plan public until much closer to the beginning of the season. Translation: keep that off the record for now.  

"The docs didn't give me that chance," he adds, "but I've been through this issue a couple of times now, and I know my own body better than anyone."

In Brisbane, the weather is warming up. The sky is more consistently a blanket of blue through the day, with late afternoon thunderstorms regularly soaking the city. Lynn, who lives with his dog Lexi just a short walk from Allan Border Field, is swimming in his pool again. Summer is coming, which to him means Big Bash.

He is riding a wave of positivity after his eight-week check-up with the surgeon, who moved his shoulder around with confidence, told him the scar tissue had settled, the rotator cuff was tight, and gave him the all-clear to forgo the sling and press on with the rehab at the National Cricket Centre.

"I can start really ripping into my rehab now," he says. "It's only been baby steps the last few weeks but I'm just starting to amp it up."

Chris Lynn - Road to Recovery (pt 1)

Viewing it through the wider context of his career, Lynn's enthusiasm is both wholly understandable and utterly head-spinning.

He craves a return to the furious glamour of the Big Bash, where he can present his rare talent to a global audience and re-engage with the elite competition that drives him. It's the finest feeling he knows. But then there's the flipside. The torturous grind of rehab – again. It is a shocking fact that Lynn has missed the past four domestic one-day tournaments. And that's just the beginning. Shoulder and neck problems have cut large chunks from what was once a burgeoning first-class career. His Australian ambitions have been routinely derailed. He talks of the Queensland Cricket support staff – Adam Smith, Paul Chapman, Martin Love, Nathan Russell – as if they're his tightest mates. These are the people he sees daily, who witness the never-ending hours in the gym, day after day, month after month, year after year. It is a punishing test of will, a trial by repetition that would have ruined a less determined person long ago. And yet through it all, here he stands – excited.

"I won't be 100 per cent fit for the Big Bash," he says pointedly. "But I know I'm good enough to play, and hopefully win games for the Heat."

***

Lynn was hitting cricket balls out of grounds long before the fireworks and the screaming fans and the national media coverage. A Brisbane boy, he grew up in Northgate but later moved across the road from Toombul Cricket Club (still his Premier Cricket team), where he once deposited a Cameron Gannon delivery onto the roof of his own house. He wasn't the most dedicated trainer in the squad but given his proximity to home, he could never quite get away with skipping sessions. Besides, on some visceral level he knew cricket was his path, so he strove to make himself better. His high school, Nudgee College, is one of Australia's most prestigious rugby union nurseries. Lynn was pushed in that direction, but he has never been one to pay obeisance to the establishment, so he turned to rugby league instead, a rival code that was "frowned upon" at the school but where he found a passion if not a calling.

"At cricket training, no matter how big they were or how fast they bowled, I could still whack 'em over the fence," he says. "Whereas I'd go to footy training and I'd get bashed."

Lynn supports the sentiment that he remains a footballer stuck in a cricketer's body. He captained Queensland's Under-12s rugby league team but his passion for the game nowadays is strictly hands off, manifesting itself instead in a religious following of the Brisbane Broncos, where he has several close mates. Training schedules align and allow him to spend plenty of social time with his Broncos buddies.

"We've just got mutual interests," he says. "Punting. Drinking beer."

Interests, vices – either way, they're not quite the habits the family-friendly Big Bash would endorse from one of their poster boys. But Lynn, a picaresque figure who was once censured for inappropriate social media commentary, has a rugged charisma that helps him to occasionally glide across thin ice. Where others in his position tread more cautiously, he doesn't shrink away from his reputation as a quasi-party boy. More than the nightlife though, it's the horses that draw him in. 

"The best feeling in the world is walking out to bat in front of thousands of people," he says. "And the next best for me is whipping home a horse you've backed down the straight. That gives me a rush."

Enter Brendon McCullum: mentor, kindred spirit and fellow Bash Brother.

***

The first of the two cricket futures Lynn sees for himself is conjured more readily in his mind than the other, and it is quite a spectacular vision. In it, he is a free-wheeling T20 gunslinger, dispatching maximums and collecting pay cheques in domestic tournaments the world over. Australia. India. West Indies. Pakistan. Hong Kong. And riding shotgun beside him is his six-or-die accomplice, McCullum, a man with whom he shares his penchant for power hitting, his passion for horse racing, and more than a streak of larrikinism.

Bash Brothers open up on 'mutual love'

At first mention, Lynn presents the concept as little more than a vague idea.

"Wouldn't that be interesting?" he says, grinning at the thought of the Bash Brothers going global.

"We were only talking about it the other day. It'd be great to link together and play cricket all over the world."

Weeks later, headlines emerge that Lynn will join McCullum at the Lahore Qalanders in next year's Pakistan Super League and it serves as a stark reminder: these are men of action.

Lynn sheds some additional light on the matter, and there's more to it than cricketing brothers in arms cannily arranging well-compensated catch-ups. While each tournament possesses its own flavours, Lynn believes the Bash Brothers can supply some additional spice. 

"Obviously India's got its own culture, and the Caribbean has its own, but we want to take the Lynn and McCullum culture around the world," he says. "Training hard, playing hard, whacking the ball over the fence, drinking beer and backing winners."

To cricket's illuminati, the Bash Brothers' philosophy is surely more cultural cringe than culture, in the manner they pooh-pooh Twenty20 as the sport's inferior product. None of that matters to Lynn, who embraces his popularity with the working-class, among whom he is an idea as much as a person, proof that the knockabout kid can rise up and conquer the world. Equally, the Lynn legend is grounded in his ability to remain grounded; his steadfast refusal to put on a mask for marketers is lauded as refreshing and honest.

"We're not the first blokes to play our cricket like that," he says. "But we have fun doing it. Whether we win or lose, the sun comes up tomorrow and we have another crack."

It's a sentiment that embodies the essence of Lynn, a cricketing maverick who continues to break the mould. 

***


October 26. Lynn looks ready to play.

The benefit of spending much of the past four years rehabbing is a toned physique. His powerful forearms and muscular legs are shaved as closely as his head, accentuating the definition. The whites of his eyes are clear. It is as if he could spring into action at a moment's notice. He looks – explosive.

But appearances can be deceiving. There is still much work to be done. Lynn is around 12 weeks into what was initially forecast as a seven-month layoff. He has returned to the gym, where he has begun the process of re-strengthening his left shoulder. He's back in the lap pool, too, while his rehabilitation also incorporates intensive cardio work on his legs to avoid a hamstring or calf tear upon his return. Such minor subplots have ruined previous comebacks.

But the nets are a no-go zone for at least the next two weeks. He could push it, he says, but the risk outweighs the potential benefit. It's another lesson he's already learned.

"When my body tells me I'm ready, I'll do that," he says. "Not before."

In the meantime, he stalks around his house like a caged lion, habitually swinging a cricket bat. From the outside looking in, the view is all frustration: the most devastating hitter in the country confined to shadow batting in his living room.

Chris Lynn - Road to Recovery (Pt 2)

But Lynn sees it differently. He has been down this road before and has made his way back into the light. The possibilities of the summer burn too brightly for him to be distracted or debilitated by challenges he has conquered previously. 

Given his buoyant mood, I remind him that four weeks ago he was bullishly targeting the Heat's season opener as his return date, despite medical advice to the contrary. Is that still the case? He pauses, and tempers his own excitement with a thought that has floated about in his head since he morphed from mere mortal into the Chris Lynn, and came to understand the expectations and hopes accompanying the title.

"I do still think I am on track for game one, but I don't want to promise anyone that," he says. "The worst thing is letting the fans and your mates down."

He wavers on the topic, unwilling to commit but desperate to make the declaration at the same time, as if once the words are spoken, it's a challenge from which he cannot back down. Eventually, he settles for something in between.

"If I'm right for game one, that's probably a bonus to be honest," he says. "At the time of the surgery (in July), seven months was the (expected recovery time), but if I can get back in four or five I will have done a really good job. So I'm a good chance (for game one), but I won't promise at this stage."

To anyone but himself.


***

Lynn's old man, Col, was once seldom seen at Big Bash matches because he prefers his beer full strength, and his failing eyes struggled to see the action. Chris saw to this. He ensured Col was put in a private box with an ale of his choice and a television beside his seat to better keep tabs on proceedings.

It means more than Lynn can verbalise to have him there, alongside his mum, Kim, and his older sister and two younger brothers. They're a tight-knit bunch who support one another in whatever they do.

"They're a big reason why I love playing at the Gabba," he says. "As well as the 35,000 that turn up for a Heat game, there's those five people in the crowd you really want to play for, which is a pretty special feeling."  

One of his younger brothers, Matty, is in the army. Last year he served in Afghanistan and, like Chris, is away from home often, which only adds to the stresses of Kim, who commits much of her energy to an emotionally taxing job at a respite centre.

"She helps out all the oldies, which is a tough gig, but she's such a caring person," Lynn says, his pride obvious in the description. "She does a lot for me as well. Looks after my dog when I'm away. All those little things I don't have to worry about, which I appreciate."

It's a normality of family that ensures he remains an unaffected superstar.

***

Understated and experienced, Darren Lehmann is an unrufflable guy when it comes to all matters cricket. But in March 2011, he witnessed an innings that moved him to action. The man who would be coaching Australia in a little over two years' time was earning his stripes at Queensland. By stumps on day two of his first Sheffield Shield match in charge, he realised he had someone special on the books. Against a Victoria attack that included Peter Siddle and James Pattinson, Lynn made 172.

"I just thought, 'This kid's a superstar'," Lehmann says. "His technique was very sound; you think because he's a T20 player it's just all power, but he's got a good technique. And his power game just evolved from there."

Lehmann was a busy man. As well as running the Bulls, he was set to mentor Brisbane Heat for their first three seasons in the revamped Big Bash competition, and was at the helm of Deccan Chargers in the Indian Premier League. He felt as though Lynn could make an impact at Deccan or, at the very least, the IPL would be a valuable school for the young right-hander.

Lynn headed over a few days before his 21st birthday, an unknown international joining a squad that included Kumar Sangakkara, Dale Steyn and Shikhar Dhawan. The culture shock was eased by the presence of Lehmann and fellow Australians Cameron White and Dan Christian, and for the next two IPL tournaments he learned his craft in a world-class environment, taking on Steyn, Ishant Sharma and Amit Mishra in the nets. He played just one game in that time, but his potential was identified by Sangakkara, who secured him a game at Kandurata Warriors in August 2012. Again, Lynn played just once at the Sri Lankan Premier League franchise, but this time he made it count, smashing 80 from 51 balls with five sixes. It was enough for Sangakkara to keep close tabs on his progress thereafter.

"He's a force of nature almost … a guy I'd pay to go and watch, any time, in any format," Sangakkara told cricket.com.au in January 2015, before comparing him to David Warner and Matthew Hayden.

"He might need a bit of work in Test cricket but I think if given the opportunity he's the kind of guy who would be very successful … if I was Australian I'd be very excited to know there's someone like Chris out there."

Lehmann subscribes to the same theory. He witnessed Warner's transition from T20 blaster to one of the most devastating batsmen in Test history. Why not Lynn?

The art of hitting a six, with Chris Lynn

"He's going to be an absolute all-time great in the shorter format, but I think people miss the point that he can actually play the longer format as well," Lehmann says.

"His first-class record is very good, and he's made big hundreds. So we (the selectors) keep a really close eye on him. We'd just love to have him on the park more.

"As soon as he's fit and firing, you'll see him representing different teams. As he gets stronger with his shoulder and feels more confident, I'm sure he'll want to play those longer format games again, and do well.

"So the Baggy Green is there for him – it's about getting fit and playing well."

***

This is Lynn's second cricket future. The one that has been all but washed away by the spin cycle he has been tumbling through for the past four years: injury, surgery, rehab, repeat.

He knows Lehmann and the selectors are watching him closely. In fact, he's almost blasé about it, because he has heard it so many times, and he is more acutely aware than anyone of the complicating factors.

"'Boof' (Lehmann) has been harping on about that all the time," he says plainly. Considering the gravity of the line that has just been put to him – the Baggy Green is there for him – the response could be interpreted as dismissive, though it's said with a smile, as if to suggest that's all well and good, but let's be real: Test cricket is a long way off my radar right now.

"Obviously he's the coach, and he wants me to play, but there's going to be hurdles in your career. He wants me to play all formats for Australia but it hasn't been for me quite yet."

For now, it's easy for him to push this alternate reality away. There are so many unknowns. Fitness and form top that list. And when his current trajectory is so promising, why veer from it?

But for cricket fans, the possibilities that come with combining Lynn's unique hitting ability with his impressive first-class record are too exciting not to consider. Lynn's average of 43.53 in the four-day game is among the best in the country, while he also owns the highest Shield score by a Queenslander in a generation – a stunning 250 from 329 balls with 10 sixes against Victoria back in February 2015. The Bulls were 3-7 on the first morning of that match. When Lynn departed a day later, they were 9-506.

Typically though, he refuses to play in the space of pipe dreams for long. Lynn wasn't even contracted by Queensland Cricket this summer, and he has played just 10 first-class matches since that monster double hundred.

"Sheffield Shield cricket at the moment is out of the question," he says. "I need to get the shoulder right. I'd never burn that bridge but for now it's on hold.

"That's the dream, to play all three formats, but at the moment I can't play two days in a row, let alone four or five. Let me get through the next 12 months and I'll see where my body's at, and maybe get that drive back for the longer formats. It's not as fun going out there playing when you're in pain."

***

If sixes are the currency of the T20 revolution, Lynn is the format's Bill Gates. The numbers are staggering. Across the past two Big Bash summers, he has plundered 53 maximums in 13 matches at a tick over four an innings. No other player has managed more than 22 in that time. Roughly every seventh delivery he faces goes over the rope. In BBL|05, he hit former Test quick Ben Hilfenhaus for five consecutive sixes at the MCG. Last season in Perth, he hit 11 against the Scorchers – the most miserly attack in the tournament, and the eventual champions.

Either side of his shoulder and neck problems, he also spent the 2016-17 period dispelling a theory that his power hitting couldn't thrive beyond the hard, bouncy tracks of his homeland. The suggestion gained some traction in the mainstream media and ultimately may have cost him a spot in Australia's squad for the India-based ICC World T20 squad shortly after BBL|05. 

"Until he destroys a spinner on a slow turner," said Kevin Pietersen amid Lynn selection talk in January 2016, "I'm not going to be sold on the idea."

Lynn promptly did just that. In the Australian winter, he headed for the sunny climes of the Caribbean, playing in the domestic T20 league with Guyana and scoring more runs than anyone, including another 27 sixes. Then in this year's IPL, he finally enjoyed what was by his standards an extended run in the tournament (he appeared in only four matches in the three previous seasons), playing seven times for 295 runs. That tally included head-turning knocks of 93no (41), 50 (22) and 84 (52). His strike-rate of 180.98 was the best of any batsman with 150-plus runs. It was a productive period, and one that has quelled the critics, at least for now.

Punter predicts Lynn’s stocks will rise

"I want to make my mark in every competition I play," Lynn says. "I think I've done that in the Big Bash, I had a good season in the Caribbean, and then I showed India what I'm capable of. It's very satisfying."

***

Even putting the injuries aside, Lynn's development as a batsman has been a gradual progression. An evolution and an education that has only really accelerated steeply over the past two years.

"There was an understanding that he was a destructive batsman, but he hadn't quite worked out his game," says Heat coach Daniel Vettori of Lynn during the formative years of the BBL.

Vettori believes a lot of his growth is the simple product of opportunity. The latent talent was there all along. Lehmann seized upon it, as did Sangakkara. Now he is following suit.

"Here in Brisbane, he took a lot of confidence from being able to gradually sneak up the order to where the trust was in him to bat three," Vettori adds. "We weren't going to chop and change, or set him up to face certain bowlers. It was, 'You're our number three, you're our best player'.

"From there, you can work your game around that, and that's what Chris has done so well.

"And now he's worked out his game plan to spin – that was the rap on him early on, that you bowl spin to him. Now you can't do that either. So he's gone through a process, he's experienced more and more, and he's got better."

When he heads out to the middle now, Lynn is faultlessly sharp. He is business-like in the manner he approaches his work. It's almost unheard of for a player to be averaging 41.53 while striking at close to 160. He has learned from Lehmann and Sangakkara and McCullum, and plenty of other names that aren't on the cricket hall of fame list. He has taken it all and he has tinkered and refined and experimented until arriving at his unique recipe for success.

A key element of the Lynn mythopoesis, one that he has happily perpetuated, is that he just goes out there and whacks it. It aligns neatly with his public persona, but according to Vettori, it simply isn't true.

"He's a deep thinker about his batting," he says. "It looks like he's out there just to hit the ball as far as he can, but there's a lot that goes into it. Speaking with him, you hear his game plan, how his mind works. If he wants to hit the first ball for six, that's come through recognising who's bowling, and his training."

Lynn moves away from the standard underplaying of his preparation and obligingly offers a glimpse into the brain behind the brawn.

"There's a method to my madness," he says. "It's not just hit and giggle."

He likes to visualise bowlers and particular scenarios, he explains, so he will sit and watch footage, look to pick up a point or two that he can tuck up his sleeve. He admits there is a lot of thought, planning and practice that goes into the end product we see in the Big Bash shopfront window. Though he does so with a trademark Lynn disclaimer.

"Although you can plan as much as you want," he says, "but instinct takes over once you're out there."

Lynn's BBL|06 sixes showreel

The point he hits on is essential to his success, perhaps the secret to his ability to so quickly establish himself as the hunter, the bowler the hunted. Lynn is always testing for weaknesses, and from there it's about instinct; making the right shot selections in a fraction of a second, and trusting that decision enough to commit immediately and completely. 

"Because I know the moment I half-commit, or change my mind halfway through, that's when I'm in trouble," he says. "I've always been all or nothing, and that seems to be working for me."

***

It is no coincidence the growth of the Big Bash League has paralleled Lynn's ascension, and vice versa. Incredibly, when you consider his injuries, he has been one of the tournament's most bankable stars, appearing more times for the Heat than anyone, and scoring the third-most runs in the brief history of the BBL. Of the top 20 run-scorers, his strike-rate of 157.76 is the only one north of 140.

"When Lynn plays," says Lehmann, "the Heat are box office."

A critical early decision that helped lay the foundation for the BBL's success was the outward separation of the clubs from the states. While the state bodies retained ownership of their respective city-based clubs, the separation occurred in name, colours, and increasingly personnel, both among players and coaching staff. Initially, critics panned the idea of city-based teams with off-the-wall colours like magenta and teal. But it was a calculated gamble and it worked, providing young and new cricket fans with the opportunity to jump aboard something fresh and exciting. The traditionalists still had the Sheffield Shield and the domestic 50-over competition, and with time, there was hope they'd buy a ticket on the Twenty20 express as well. Many have.

"As the crowds started to grow, and each team developed their identity, it felt like a different part of the summer," recalls Vettori, who played with the Queensland T20 team and then the Heat in BBL|01. "Earlier it had felt like a continuation of what we'd been doing; most of the same players rolled out, the same staff. But now you get a distinct delineation between the two, and at this time of year, when you come to Brisbane it feels like this is what it's all about – going down to the Gabba and watching the Heat play."

On the field, the players advertised the new tournament in the best fashion possible: with high-quality, entertaining cricket. The Heat won BBL|02 under Lehmann and while they haven't scaled those heights since, the development of Lynn as a genuine superstar and the return of McCullum has seen the franchise become the hottest ticket in Australia's third-largest city. Last summer, they sold out all five of their matches at the 35,000-seat Gabba.

"If you had told me the Brisbane Heat would sell out a domestic game at the Gabba back when we won the Big Bash, I would've thought you were mad," Lynn says. "But now I'm disappointed if it's not a sellout."

The appeal of hometown hero Lynn has also played a role in the Heat finding itself as a club, and what it represents to its fans.

"You look at Brisbane and our identity is based around Lynny in a lot of ways; his style of play and us complementing that," Vettori says. "So when people talk about the Brisbane Heat, they talk about Lynny, they talk about the style of play, they talk about how far he can hit the ball. And when you have teams where people identify with one player or a couple of individuals, then you see that identity grow. If you go through the eight teams there are always something that stands out that people can attach themselves to."

Ricky Ponting's Heat preview and prediction

And Brisbane has clearly developed an attachment with their club, and Lynn – a fact that was never more evident than when their superhero earned a long-awaited ODI call-up last January. Heat fans were betwixt and between; the scheduling meant he would miss the franchise's next game. Remarkably, in the space of a few short years of BBL, the 'club over country' debate had come to cricket.

"It was a weird feeling, that," Lynn said of the city's reaction to his national selection. "I don't really want to say too much about that, because you want to keep your feet on the ground, but it's nice knowing there's plenty of support around you. 

"I guess everyone barracks for the Australian cricket team, but the way T20 has been going, there's eight teams and they all have their fan base."

***

November 16. As he predicted, Lynn is back in the nets at Allan Border Field well ahead of schedule. He's being fed throw-downs from Heat assistant coach James Hopes. One after another after another. He motivates himself with a whispered word or two after each ball. 

Bang. Six. Bang. That is. Bang. Big. Bang. Six.

There's a conversation going on with Hopes, too. Back and forth they go, two experienced cricketers making points, corrections, minor suggestions for tweaks. All simple adjustments as they methodically reassemble the working parts of a batting machine. 

"It'll come," yells Hopes, adding more encouragement as his charge warms to the task.

Bang. Shot. Bang. Good Lynny. Bang. There ya. Bang. Shot mate.

Chris Lynn - Road to Recovery (Pt 3)

It's a little over four months since the surgery. More than six months since he played a competitive match. Now, with five weeks until game one, Lynn can feel the adrenaline making its way through his bloodstream. If there is a player more keenly anticipating the beginning of this tournament, he hasn't come across him.

"Today was a big milestone," he says of his return to the nets. "The key for me is to get the fundamentals of batting and really set that platform. It's important that I concentrate on the little things – hitting the ball nice and straight, and late, under my nose. That's vital."

To reiterate, Lynn has made nobody any promises about a game one return date. But he knows that's what he has set himself. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. And so it must be.

***

The queue lengthens, begins to snake around the others, making a tortuous trail that in turn creates a headache for the event's organisers. No-one had quite anticipated this much interest in one player. The Lynn autograph (and selfie) line dwarfs those of every other Heat player. At the head, seated behind a table, he happily obliges. Kids, mostly, but adults too; dads who have never seen a cricket ball hit so cleanly so consistently, mums who have been drawn to a brand new form of family entertainment.

In between injuries, across a couple of Christmas holiday periods, Lynn has become a commodity. Off contract in the winter, he tested his market value. Given his history, there is a general wariness about him being damaged goods, but sometimes even the savviest investors can be seduced by the shiny upside. Ultimately, the Heat beat out other suitors, handing their main man the security of a five-year, seven-figure deal. They were very much aware of the upside, too, while they also know Lynn better than their competitors; show a principled man some faith – particularly in a time of need – and he will work tirelessly to justify it. 

"You have to find what your value is around the competition," Lynn concedes. "There were some good offers there, but I'm a loyal person."

But he also knows his shelf life is limited. Given his history with injuries, his money-making window is smaller than most. Which is why he has already signed on to tournaments in Pakistan and Hong Kong next year, while lucrative deals await in India and the Caribbean. Players riding the T20 domestic circuit nowadays are regularly referred to as mercenaries, and true to form, Lynn doesn't pretend otherwise.

"It can be life-changing," he says of the wealth on offer. "I won't shy away from that; it's real life, and there's only a very small percentage of people who get the opportunity to do it."

***

December 10. The cat is at last out of the bag. Lynn has made it known to the media that he is targeting game one, and has put the onus on Vettori to select him. As if he would even consider otherwise.

Five months has shrunk to 10 days and the Big Bash hype is building steadily. The women's tournament has begun, making the whole thing feel – imminent. On a day off during the week he wandered across to the nets at Allan Border Field and volunteered to do some coaching work with the Heat women's squad. It's difficult to say how this fits in to Lynn's character; perhaps a combination of his mother's selflessness and his team-first mentality. Or maybe it was just about taking his mind off his own looming deadline.

"I wish I had another couple of months up my sleeve," he says, and the slight trepidation sounds strange coming out of his mouth. It's a momentary lapse, though; he flicks the switch, returning to business. "But you have to bite the bullet at some point. I'm pretty confident that I can contribute well enough."

In his downtime, Lynn tries to get away from cricket, but he knows the 48 hours leading into this first match will be anxious ones, where little else enters his mind. He thinks back over the rehab period. And those that came before. His is a career played in patches, but he is decisive when he says there are no regrets.

"The moment you have regrets is the moment you start getting sour and bitter," he says. "I'm very grateful for what I get to do. I'd never regret anything."

Besides, there are sunny days ahead. Lynn has dazzled the cricket world at times, while at others he's been a peripheral figure, jogging alongside the sport while waiting to return to it. All along the way he's been heeding the lessons. And he's still just 27.

"You can't buy experience, and I'm slowly getting it," he says. "I think my best cricket is still in front of me."

Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

The time has come. To the Big Bash, and beyond. 

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