Dan’s protege is Sow­ing the seeds of doubt to crit­ics

The Cricket Paper - - NEWS - By Jon Batham

NATHAN Sowter found him­self on the out­side look­ing in on Middlesex’s rel­e­ga­tion de­cider with Som­er­set this week.

But, for a man whose ca­reer was all-but writ­ten off by ev­ery­one, dad Wil­liam in­cluded, back in his na­tive Aus­tralia a few years ago, be­ing over­looked for the do-or-die clash is just an­other chal­lenge on his crick­et­ing jour­ney.

Sowter was hap­pily try­ing to make his way as a medium-pacer Down Un­der, un­til his coach in­formed him his brand of ‘dib­bly-dob­blers’ just wasn’t go­ing to cut it.

With­out a flicker, the ebul­lient young­ster de­clared he would sim­ply re­vert to leg-spin.

Both dad and afore­men­tioned coach poured scorn on the idea, the for­mer, des­per­ate though he was to en­cour­age a sport­ing dream, sug­gest­ing a ca­reer change might be in or­der.

Un­de­terred, the now 24-yearold turned to his and ev­ery Aus­tralian’s idol of the era Shane Warne in search of rein­ven­tion.

Armed with videos of Aus­tralia’s lead­ing Test wick­et­taker his home­work of choice be­came study­ing ev­ery nu­ance of the be­witch­ing ‘leg­gie’.

This in turn led to hours of soli­tude in the back­yard with a spe­cially pro­duced Shane Warne plas­tic ball, de­signed to ‘turn’ his re­search to prac­tice.

“Shane Warne was the idol around that time for any­one want­ing to do spin bowl­ing, so I stud­ied those videos for hours and hours on end,” he said.

“Then I pretty much grabbed the ball in the back­yard and started try­ing to bowl leg-spin.

“The ball had num­bers on it which showed you if you put your fin­gers on them or had your wrist in this po­si­tion it would go one way, or the back of your hand fac­ing fine leg it would go the other di­rec­tion.”

Rein­ven­tion passed stage one and Sowter trav­elled to Eng­land to try to forge a ca­reer in county cricket. And even when the break­through didn’t ma­te­ri­alise im­me­di­ately he was bold enough to turn down Daniel Vet­tori’s in­vi­ta­tion to rep­re­sent Bris­bane Heat in the 2017 Big Bash, so as not to be­come classed as an over­seas player on these shores.

The cricket gods chose to smile on his con­vic­tion when Vet­tori, clearly an ad­mirer of his raw talent, be­gan a three-year deal as Middlesex’s T20 coach this sum­mer and im­me­di­ately in­stalled Sowter as his pri­mary spin op­tion.

The New South Wales man could not have been hap­pier to have a real-life men­tor of the spin­ning art.

“I get on well with Dan and like to talk to him about any­thing from in­ter­na­tional cricket to cricket in gen­eral, my own game and just about life,” he said.

“Ob­vi­ously we have talked about my bowl­ing and about how you de­velop skills in T20 cricket.

“I’ve been try­ing to get the ball more into a hard area and not get it too full be­cause if you pitch up too much you get hit back over your head.

“If I can get play­ers play­ing off the back foot as much as pos­si­ble and then make them come at me the wick­ets will look af­ter each other.”

Four­teen wick­ets at 25 apiece in his first full T20 sea­son made him one of the few suc­cesses of an­other dis­ap­point­ing cam­paign in the game’s short­est for­mat for Middlesex, two of those vic­tims be­ing snared by his first ball of the re­spec­tive games.

Both sparked ex­u­ber­ant cel­e­bra­tions, sug­gest­ing he has learnt some­thing of the art of show­man­ship as­so­ci­ated white­ball cricket.

“I like tak­ing wick­ets and the ex­cite­ment of T20, plus I get a buzz off the crowd a lit­tle bit,” he said.“I carry on a lit­tle, but try not to get too car­ried away. Just a lit­tle bit of ex­hi­bi­tion­ism for the fans.”

De­spite this ini­tial white-ball suc­cess, Sowter knows if he is to make his mark in English county cricket he must mas­ter the red­ball art, too, and not just when it comes to leg-spin.

The mod­ern game, for bet­ter or worse – a de­bate for an­other time – de­mands he build on some fledg­ling bat­ting talent il­lus­trated by a cen­tury for Middlesex sec­onds ear­lier this sea­son.

Crick­et­ing fate may have smiled on him here, too, as again Vet­tori should prove the per­fect role model.

The for­mer New Zealand skip­per ma­tured into a Test all­rounder, be­com­ing the high­est run scorer from the No.8 po­si­tion in the game’s long­est for­mat, scor­ing four cen­turies in the process.

The be­spec­ta­cled Kiwi also be­came a piv­otal fig­ure in one­day cricket, bat­ting as high as five. Not sur­pris­ingly then, Sowter has quizzed his men­tor on how to pol­ish up his some­what rudi­men­tary ap­proach to life with wil­low in hand.

“My bat­ting is a bit hit and miss as I like just try­ing to hit the ball as hard and far as I can,” he added.

“I found it in­ter­est­ing how Dan turned him­self from a lower-or­der bats­man to be­ing some­times a top-six player, so I’ve tried to pick his brain about it.”

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Tick­led pink: Nathan Sowter was one of a few T20 suc­cesses at Middlesex this sum­mer

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