Marsh One-Day Cup 2021
Peter's prospects take a similar turn to the GOAT
Big Bash sensation Peter Hatzoglou is set for his South Australia debut this week and his meteoric rise has drawn comparisons to the early footsteps Nathan Lyon took in his career
23 February 2021, 05:59 PM AEST
Every time Peter Hatzoglou turns up to his adopted Adelaide Premier Cricket club for training or matches, he's reminded of the boundless possibilities that might await along an already remarkable career journey.
From a wall of the Prospect District Club's glass-fronted pavilion in the city's inner north stares a photograph of Nathan Lyon, a past player with the Pirates who recently reached 100 Test matches for Australia and stands unchallenged as the greatest finger spinner the nation has known.
Like Hatzoglou, Lyon landed at Prospect on a flight of fancy.
Aged 22, he famously left Canberra for a job with Adelaide Oval's ground staff and to pursue his playing aspirations, a punt that saw him win selection in South Australia's T20, one-day and Sheffield Shield teams in the course of one giddy summer with a Test cap arriving six months later.
A decade on, Hatzoglou was completing his finance degree at Melbourne University where he progressed from third XI to Premier Cricket before the threat of an impending COVID19 shutdown of Victoria's cricket competitions last year brought a snap decision to move west.
"In the depth of Melbourne's lockdown I decided to leave Victoria and come over to South Australia just in the hope of playing any cricket really," Hatzoglou said Tuesday, after being named in the West End Redbacks squad for next week's Marsh One-Day Cup match against Western Australia in Perth.
"And as it turned out, I found myself in the emerging squad with the Redbacks and then got the call-up to go back to Melbourne and play for the Renegades."
That phone call came on Hatzoglou's 22nd birthday last November from then Renegades coach Michael Klinger, who had been alerted to the energetic leg spinner's potential by coaching colleague Andre Borovec.
The Renegades were on the hunt for a replacement leggie after Cameron Boyce was sidelined for health reasons, and Hatzoglou impressed in his initial net sessions and then a couple of pre-KFC BBL practice games played in Hobart.
But the untried spinner would not have made the Renegades' starting XI for their BBL season opener if Afghanistan pair Mohammed Nabi and 15-year-old Noor Ahmad (also a wrist spinner) were not forced to miss the first two games due to flight delays and quarantine protocols.
Klinger was captain of SA when Lyon emerged from Prospect's playing ranks to share the new ball with West Indies import Kieron Pollard in his T20 debut for the Redbacks against New South Wales in 2010, and he recognised in Hatzoglou a similar skills set and self-belief.
"We saw he (Hatzoglou) could be successful and so gave him a chance, and the rest is history," Klinger, who recently took up a new role as NSW's Head of Male Cricket, told cricket.com.au today.
"He was our leading wicket-taker and bowled a lot of really hard overs.
"In that way, it is quite similar to Nath (Lyon) because when he played for the Redbacks in that first season of the Big Bash he came from playing club cricket to bowling Powerplay overs against David Warner and Phil Jaques and some of the best opening batters around Australia.
"So they weren't really eased through, they came in and had to bowl the tough overs and both did really well."
It's not the only similarity Klinger sees between the two spinners.
"What they were both very good at, and it's obviously a very important trait to have as a spinner, is they were very confident in their own ability," Klinger said.
"Hatz, for example, just came in wanting to play and expecting to play so he's very confident in himself and in his skill level, and Nath was very similar.
"Nath came in from a very similar path where he played in a couple of Redbacks intra-squad practice games at Park 25 (in Adelaide) and basically got himself selected in that first game through those performances, a bit like what Hatz did.
"You could just tell they were confident in whatever role they were given, and for young, inexperienced spinners that's a trait that not many have so it really stood out."
News of Hatzoglou's inclusion for a possible List A debut was delivered by SA coach Jason Gillespie midway through the uncapped spinner's first training session with the senior Redbacks squad last week.
"He offers us a point of difference," Gillespie said of his new spin prospect who he saw first-hand during BBL|10.
"I like the fact he kept the stumps in play.
"He brings a different type of spin bowling to the shortest form of the game, and I like the fact he gets a little bit of turn as well as his pace and bounce."
Whereas Lyon transferred the curatorial skills he had learned at Canberra's Manuka Oval to his new position in Adelaide, Hatzoglou last week resigned as a data analyst with Melbourne-based financial firm Zenith Investment Partners for whom he'd been working remotely since leaving Victoria.
But he sees a future as a professional cricketer and threw his hat in the ring for a contract with the lucrative Indian Premier League although he was among a raft of Australia hopefuls overlooked at last weekend's IPL player auction.
"I'd never seen an IPL auction before, but you get auctioned off like cattle," Hatzoglou said with a smile after tuning into the annual player trading event.
"All of that stuff will come if it does, and if it doesn't then I'll just try and do my best playing cricket wherever I may be.
"I'm still only 22 and I've got so much time ahead of me."
Klinger is certain Hatzoglou will be snapped up by a BBL outfit after his breakthrough summer as a replacement player for the Renegades, and believes he might well find a place on playing lists for T20 franchises elsewhere in the world.
And, like Lyon, he claims Hatzoglou has the confidence and competence to succeed in all three formats now that he's caught the eye of selectors in his new home state.
"It would be really good for South Australia and for him if he got offered a contract and got the outside help as well, which he's never had," Klinger said today.
"He's never had regular physio, he's never had regular sports science strength and conditioning coaching which is only going to help and allow him to be a bit more agile in the field by getting him fitter and stronger.
"So that sort of stuff through the winter with South Australia – hopefully they offer him a contract there – and then he's got that and Big Bash which would work really well together."
Hatzoglou doesn't envisage too many changes to his style of bowling in making the transition from BBL to Marsh Cup competition and admits he sees himself primarily as a red-ball bowler despite his lack of senior experience in the longer formats.
He also admitted that if he is to follow Lyon's career path and progress from 20-over, to 50-over to first-class cricket then he's likely to do it in Redbacks' colours.
"I reckon I'm South Australian now," Hatzoglou said at Adelaide Oval today.
"I love it here, you've got the hills 20 minutes one side of you and got the beach on the other side, and no traffic in between so I love it in this city."
He can also lay claim to a similar cult status as Lyon among cricket fans, albeit a level of recognition that took the Test spinner years to cultivate but has come virtually overnight to the newcomer.
However, Hatzoglou dismisses suggestions he's a drawcard although he did recently meet with one of the young fans responsible for the social media campaign that led to 'Peter' becoming an online sensation during BBL|10.
"I'm no cult hero," Hatzoglou said of his sudden status.
"I was at the Renegades where you've got (Australia representatives) Aaron Finch, Kane Richardson, and Shaun Marsh – they're the heroes.
"It's a bit of funny one. Cricket.com.au put out an article explaining the whole story behind it.
"I guess the kids just liked my story and they decided to follow me.
"I actually met one of them the other day, I went to his school cricket game at St Michael's in Henley Beach and gave him some of my playing pants and a hat.
"It's amazing to have support like that so I'll just go along with it I suppose, but I'm no hero."