Marsh Sheffield Shield 2020-21
Seymour's rare journey to Victorian selection
Having dominated three different club competitions over the past 10 months, James Seymour's call-up to first-class cricket is one few around the country have worked harder for
2 April 2021, 03:48 PM AEST
It was a text message from Victoria coach Chris Rogers that reaffirmed James Seymour's faith that his years of club cricket dominance and personal sacrifice might soon pay off.
Seymour has taken the long route to earn selection in Victoria's Marsh Sheffield Shield squad for their final game of the season against South Australia, a call-up few around the country have worked harder for.
Having played in four different states and territories and worked various odd jobs around the country to pursue his cricket career, the left-hander was not naïve to the first-class prospects for a batsman now closer to 30 than 20 in age.
But, in January, after scoring the latest in a string of centuries for a Premier Cricket representational side against a Victorian XI, the 29-year-old was buoyed by Rogers' message given the former Test opener's own story of persistence.
"He sent me a message after the Premier ‘All Stars’ game and said … 'Keep doing what you have been, have faith it will pay off. I know the feeling'," Seymour told cricket.com.au.
"That was something that kept me going a bit. That was one thing that gave me a bit of extra confidence.
"It's a bit different going from club cricket to first-class cricket but (Rogers) obviously went from first-class cricket to Australian cricket when he was a bit older. So that message kept me a ticking along a bit when you're not quite sure if you're going to get what you want."
Seymour, who earned a contract with the Melbourne Stars during the latter stages of KFC BBL10, has made an irresistible recent case for Victorian selection amid a unique and sustained period of run-making in the levels below first-class cricket.
The opener has scored at least one 80-plus score in each of the past 10 months dating back to the beginning of June last year, including centuries in all but two of them.
That has included three hundreds in a 805-run season for Waratah CC in Darwin last year, one in a brief stint for Randwick Petersham in Sydney during which he averaged 57.50 and then a further three for Essendon since returning to Melbourne (after the Victorian season was delayed due to the pandemic lockdowns) in a campaign that has brought him 822 runs in 13 one-day games at 91.33.
His 110 in January at the Junction Oval in the one-off game for the Victorian Premier Cricket XI was watched by Rogers and prompted his encouraging text message.
JAMES SEYMOUR'S TON-MAKING SPREE
June 2020 – 112 v Darwin Invitational XI
July 2020 – 104 v Nightcliff
August 2020 – (no centuries, highest score of 81 v PINT)
September 2020 – 100 v Darwin
October 2020 – 137 v Blacktown
November 2020 – 142 v Geelong
December 2021 – (no centuries, HS: 88 v Footscray)
January 2021 – 110 v Victorian State Squad
February 2021 – 113 v Camberwell
March 2021 – 108 v Dandenong
Seymour's journey to Victorian honours has been an unusual one.
His junior batting talent had been overlooked not only by the state’s Under-17 and U19 programs, but also his own regional U18 representative team in Bendigo in the Victorian goldfields where he grew up, instead earning selection for his off-spin bowling.
He moved to Melbourne as a teenager to join Essendon, where Rogers himself had played two seasons after joining Victoria from Western Australia in 2008, but his returns were more promising than prolific until shifting to rival club Casey South-Melbourne.
Seymour craved the chance to open the batting but was in the middle order at Essendon, whose coach doubted he was up for the promotion.
"He told me I wouldn't make 250 runs in a whole season. I made 250 runs after three games," Seymour said of his move to Casey.
"That was a pretty big one. You sometimes cop a bit of sledging from opposition players, saying you're no good. But to hear that from a coach when I was contemplating the move, it was hard.
"I knew I had to take the chance to move and find out, and see what would happen."
Seymour tallied near 700 runs in his sole season at Casey before a brief spell playing for Clarence in Tasmania, while he has spent seven consecutive 'off-seasons' in Darwin in his single-minded pursuit of a shot at the level above.
He was 26 before his first involvement in a Victorian development program, meaning he has sought out his own array of batting mentors that have included former Zimbabwe and Melbourne Renegades allrounder Solomon Mire, ex-Sri Lanka star Thilan Samaweera and English power-hitting coach Julian Wood.
Having not lived in a single spot for a longer than six months at a time for most of the past decade, Seymour has worked variously as a private cricket coach, at a waterpark, at a casino, as well as an Uber Eats driver in Melbourne.
"I've always put my cricket career first," said Seymour. "I suppose you could say it's paid off a little now, but I don't want this to be just a one-off game. There's been some sacrifices along the way.
"That's the way it goes for guys outside (the state pathway system). The guys who are a bit older, you have a good season and it will be like, 'You need to prove it to us again'.
"If you're a bit older it's probably a little bit harder, you have to prove that you're not a one-season wonder. I had to make sure I backed it up with a few big seasons.
"You can't think that (state selection won't come), you have to think it is going to come and keep persisting. If you think it's not going to come, you've given up.
"It might not have ever come but it wasn't going to be because I'd given up."
On Wednesday, Seymour's phone buzzed again with Rogers’ name flashing up. This time Rogers was calling him, telling Seymour he had been picked for Saturday's clash with the Redbacks.
"I got a bit emotional," he said. "It's been a long time coming, it's something I've always aimed for and wanted to achieve but you never know if you're going to make it or be selected.
"I really just want to do well and to cement my spot, and prove to people that I am good enough at this level.
"It's taken me 10 years to get here but I'm not just going to be satisfied with getting a debut game."
Victoria v South Australia, Junction Oval - April 3-6, 10am start
Victoria squad: Peter Handscomb (c), Scott Boland, Travis Dean, Sam Harper, Marcus Harris, Jon Holland, Nic Maddinson, Jonathan Merlo, Todd Murphy, James Pattinson, Mitch Perry, James Seymour, Will Sutherland
SA squad: Travis Head (c), Alex Carey (wk), David Grant, Henry Hunt, Sam Kerber, Jake Lehmann, Joe Medew-Ewen, Harry Nielsen, Chadd Sayers, Liam Scott, Jake Weatherald, Daniel Worrall
Don't miss The Heat Repeat on Foxtel, coming April 7. The two-part documentary will also be shown on Kayo and cricket.com.au.