Bowral to the IPL: Kerr's 'wild' summer continues
The 25-year-old allrounder who just last year was working as a physiotherapist in Sydney has signed his first state contract with NSW for the 2022-23 season
It's a mark of how far Hayden Kerr has come over the past summer that exactly a year ago he was working as a physiotherapist across suburban Sydney.
Not long after, in June 2021, the 25-year-old took leave to travel to Darwin and the Gold Coast to play club cricket as he chased the sun across the country and avoided Sydney's prolonged COVID-19 lockdown.
Fast-forward 12 months and thanks to a stunning KFC BBL|11 with the Sydney Sixers, Kerr finds himself rubbing shoulders with some of the world's best T20 cricketers in Jason Holder, Quinton de Kock, KL Rahul and countryman Marcus Stoinis as a stand-by player for new Indian Premier League franchise Lucknow Super Giants.
He's also thrown his name in the hat as a potential replacement player for the county T20 domestic competition or the Hundred as an overseas wildcard.
On top of that, cricket.com.au understands the allrounder has just signed his first state contract, a three-year deal with the NSW Blues.
Kerr has been no stranger to big moments during his rapid rise from Sydney University opening batter and bowler to Big Bash star, but perhaps his most daunting experience of the past six months came just five days ago when Lucknow head coach Andy Flower made him stand up in front of those international superstars to recount his life story.
"We went from my childhood all the way through to now in a quick summary but more so about the last year to 18 months for me and what's that looked like in terms of going to work, training, the sacrifices, moving around the country and eventually getting to the position I'm in at the moment," Kerr told cricket.com.au.
"That was a pretty special experience for me standing in front of those guys and them giving me the time to explain where I've come from and what I've achieved in the last season.
"I think they enjoyed it. It was more of an exercise for them to get to know me a bit better outside of cricket, but also the context of me as a person … most of the guys get around you a bit after that because it's a good way to get to know people as well."
Kerr, who bats right-handed and bowls left-arm pace, said former Aussie and Queensland great turned Bulls, Brisbane Heat and Lucknow assistant coach Andy Bichel had a big influence in getting him to the IPL franchise.
"I'm kind of the spare allrounder here considering we've got so many international allrounders, you never know what could happen, so I think that's why I've been asked to come over," Kerr said.
"Obviously, with that comes a bit of net bowling and training so I've used is as an extra pre-season for next year in the meantime.
"I try and stay as game ready as possible, but I don't think that's realistic for me at this point in time considering how well everyone's going and there's no injuries.
"(Flower and I) we've been working together on a few things with my batting to get used to Indian conditions because it's quite foreign to me.
"He's a really good man-manager and is running the franchise really well from what I can see from afar with all the performances the guys are producing at the moment and the way the team gels as well, it's been a really good experience."
Born and raised in Australia's most famous cricket town of all – Bowral, the home of Don Bradman – playing cricket professionally didn't start to become a reality for Kerr until a few seasons ago when in 2019-20 he broke the NSW Premier Cricket record for the most runs in a T20 season with 370 at 92 in five matches, eclipsing former South Africa captain Johan Botha's 346 runs three years earlier.
The Sydney Sixers took notice, signing him as a replacement player that summer for BBL|09 where he played five matches, which earned him a two-year contract with the club at the end of the season.
After finishing high school at Chevalier College in 2014, he moved to the city when he was 18 to study and completed an undergraduate degree in Health Sciences and Masters of Physiotherapy at Sydney University in 2019.
It was where he also played his cricket and across the next eight seasons with Sydney University – starting in fifth grade in 2013 – he worked his way up through the XIs until he became a regular in first grade by 2017-18.
"My childhood, I was never the best cricketer, I was always OK and played low representative cricket but nothing of higher honours," Kerr said.
"Through high school I wanted to go to university because cricket wasn't quite at the point where you could call it a profession.
"The courses took five years and throughout that time I played every grade of cricket from sixth grade to first grade at Sydney University.
"Throughout I was just trying to get better every day (and) consistent performances in first grade started to occur and that started to get me into the Second XI side (for NSW).
"It could be some obscure hours you're spending in the nets but if you want it bad enough, you just made it work … especially at Sydney Uni, that's the culture that already exists there given they're all studying or working full-time."
He also made his List A debut for the Blues during that record-breaking T20 season but his rise to national prominence didn't come until last summer when he made his first-class debut for NSW (scoring 62 not out in his first innings and claiming match figures of 3-72) and then all 17 BBL matches for the Sydney Sixers.
Yet despite his exploits in last season's Big Bash (152 runs and second-leading wicket-taker in the competition with 25) that twice included hitting the winning runs in the final over, Kerr is keeping his feet firmly grounded.
While he last worked with Fleet Physiotherapy before heading to Darwin in June 2021, Kerr said he might do a "few shifts here and there" just to keep his hours up so he doesn't lose his registration.
"They said if I could afford to pop my head in and do a few hours here and there, they'd appreciate it," Kerr quips.
"They've been really good and accommodating … (they haven't) put any pressure on me so I appreciate everything that they did for me on that front."
Asked to describe his past six months, Kerr responds with "pretty wild".
"It's something I've been working towards for a few years now and I've always felt like I've been close, but obviously not quite close enough," he said of his full contract with NSW.
"It's been really good to make my mark on the field this season and show what I'm capable of.
"It just goes to show that maybe I was capable of this in the past and it just took me a little bit more time to show it on the field and get that opportunity … I've always been there or thereabouts with the squads and in the background, it's just a matter of getting my turn to show what I can do.
"It's all a relatively new experience for me … (next year) if I'm able to contribute to wins for the Blues then it means I'm doing what I need to do personally with bat and ball and we'll see where that takes us over the next few years.
"My next point of improvement is getting my body physically up to standards for first-class cricket so I've been dedicating some time to getting that side of things sorted and a Blues pre-season will go a long way to helping me achieve the goals that I want to achieve next season."