Jason Behrendorff is 27, and rather old for a debutant by Australia’s fast-bowling standards. Josh Hazlewood, after all, made a name for himself at 20. So did Mitchell Starc. And Pat Cummins was 18 when he burst on to the stage.
But age and a spate of injuries have probably made Behrendorff that much hungrier.
And his hunger wasn’t quite satisfied after his debut in the first Twenty20 International against India in Ranchi. One over was all he got after India were set a revised target of 48 in six overs in a rain-interrupted match. In his own words, the Ranchi debut was “like almost not getting on at all”.
Then came the second T20I in Guwahati at Barsapara Cricket Stadium. The rain having cleared up an hour prior to the toss meant that Behrendorff would be getting to bowl four overs this time around. A debut do-over, if you will.
He strays from his lines at the start, offering width twice, and twice Rohit Sharma accepts the gift, hitting two balls to the boundary. The crowd, and press box, made up of several excited local journalists, rise to their feet, while Behrendorff has to think on his before this game gets away from him, and Australia, again.
After a deep breath, he runs in again and this time he pitches it in line with middle and off. Rohit Sharma trapped in front for eight. It’s Behrendorff’s first wicket, but David Warner, funnily enough, is slightly more animated than him.
Two balls later, there are even more rousing celebrations from Australia. Virat Kohli, the perennial thorn in Australia’s flesh, goes for a duck. Kohli tries to flick it to his right, but gets the thinnest of edges, lobbing it into the air and straight into Behrendorff's outstretched hands.
In his second over, Manish Pandey nudges one down to third man for four. Pandey is usually skittish at the start, and Behrendorff tempts him with a nick-me ball and he does, right back to the keeper.
Kedar Jadhav sees out the remaining four balls in the over, but Shikhar Dhawan has to square off against Behrendorff in the bowler’s third over. He goes fuller, and after two dots, Dhawan decides to go aerial over long on. The crowd also start cheering, anticipates a sixer, but Warner, covering quite a bit of distance, produces a clutch catch. India 27 for 4, and Behrendorff sets the stage for Australia’s eight-wicket win.
“Unbelievable feeling,” says Behrendorff after the match. “To bowl four overs tonight and take four wickets, but mainly to get a win … to get the boys back up and about after a pretty tough time in the one-dayers, it’s very, very special.
“A few ones that got hit to the boundary were probably not where I needed to be bowling, but then to get the ball up there, swing the ball, hit guys on the pads and nick blokes off are the things we talked about in our meetings, to get those balls up in those areas especially up front so very happy with that.”
Behrendorff is all smiles and crinkled eyes throughout the media interaction. He nonchalantly plays down talk about the performance in Guwahati earning him an Indian Premier League contract and a place in the Ashes squad, yet entertains a question about his likeness to John Cena, the professional wrestler, eliciting a big guffaw from the cricketer and a quip — “He’s a fair bit bigger than I am!”
Come to think of it, Behrendorff doesn’t seem like the unsmiling sort even during a match.
“You don’t have to be mean and nasty all the time,” he offers. “Generally I’d try and let my skills and the ball do the work and let that do the talking for me instead of getting into a verbal battle or anything like that. Some guys enjoy that and that’s what fires them up and gets them going. But that’s not really my style.”