With the 2015 Ashes beginning on Wednesday, Jack Mendel spoke to Australian cricketer and Gloucestershire captain Michael Klinger about his Jewish roots, international prospects, reflections on the game and of course his all-important prediction for this summer’s Ashes.
With nearly 10,000 first class runs to his name, Klinger has built a reputation as a reliable and technically sound top order batsman.
Whether grinding out runs for Western Australia, or topping the run scoring in the Twenty 20 Blast for Gloucestershire in the UK, it’s hard to believe that such an accomplished and gifted player has eluded international recognition.
At 35, Klinger has no regrets and still harbours hopes of playing for Australia. He candidly spoke to Jewish News, whilst taking a break from playing with his two children in the park.
Jack Mendel (JM): Can I ask a bit about your background? Were you religious at all?
Michael Klinger (MK): No, I’m not religious. I suppose I come from a traditional family. Certainly not religious.
JM: Were you ever involved in Maccabi for Australia?
MK: Yeah! I went to one Maccabiah games when I was 17 years old, in Israel. I went with the Australian cricket team back in 1997.
JM: Let’s talk a bit about what you’re doing right now. You’re scoring a lot of runs for Gloucestershire [Michael is currently top scorer in the prestigious T20 Blast, with over 500 runs] and you played a lot of County Cricket before that.
Have you got any plans for the summer?
Have cricket Australia rung you up asking for shirt sizes or anything?
MK: [Laughs]: No no! Certainly not! They have got all their squads sorted out, for the Ashes anyhow. I had a decent season back home in Australia.
You never know! Hopefully if there is an injury or anything like that. But I’m certainly over here just purely concentrating on doing well for Gloucestershire and helping them win some games.
JM: But you must think you’re the first cab off the rank? Especially bearing in mind guys like Adam Voges, Chris Rogers and Brad Haddin have all been selected, and Cricket Australia have stuck with them, even though they’re above 35 years old.
MK: Not necessarily. I mean, possibly, but certainly there are a lot of other good batsmen around. For example, there’s an Australia A tour picked recently which I’m not on.
Then again, that can sometimes mean that they are just picking younger players. It’s very hard to gauge whether you’re next in line or five or six down the queue.
All you can do is from a player point of view is try and score as many runs as put your name up there and hopefully one day get recognised.
JM: Do you have an Ashes prediction? What do you think will happen?
MK: I think it will be a lot closer than what people were saying. A lot are expecting Australia to win it pretty easy. England have come into good form recently, and certainly they’ll push Australia.
If I had to give a prediction, I’d say probably 2-1 to Australia, being a little bit biased.
JM: So no Glenn McGrath 5-0 then?
MK: No! I don’t think you’ll get that this series. England are playing some pretty good cricket at the moment – and to be fair, Australia’s last few Test series’ have been pretty strong as well; so they’ll definitely be coming in with a lot of confidence.
JM: With the One Day series after the Ashes, do you think that Australia might rest some players? Do you think you might be in with a shout of selection for that?
MK: It’s very hard to say. They may rest a couple, especially for those guys that played in the IPL [Indian Premier League]. But, whether I’d be next in line or even in the mix is very hard to know. I had a good One Day and T20 series back in Australia and the Twenty 20 so far here has been pretty good, so hopefully if they’re watching I might be considered, but as I say, there are a lot of good young batsmen around!
JM: Do you know anything about Israeli cricket? Would you ever be interested in helping out or anything like that?
MK: Don’t know a whole lot about it if I’m honest. It would depend on my workload at the time and after cricket’s finished, what my job aspirations were back in Australia. I’ve got two young kids that keep me very busy, and my wife has been fantastic throughout my cricket career. When cricket is finished I think I owe her a lot – taking some extra time with kids etc..
JM: Do you have any regrets? Perhaps that you didn’t really push for a claim in the Australia team a bit earlier?
MK: No I think I put up a pretty good case since I was about 27 years old, back in Australia. I’ve been pretty close a few times – I guess I just couldn’t quite get over the line to get a call up for Australia. Certainly from 27 onwards I have no regrets. I have done everything that I possibly can to play as well as I could and hope for something to come up.
Possibly if you look back when I was a bit younger it would have been nice to know my game a little bit better like I have done over the last seven or eight years. If I’d have performed like I have been playing over the last seven or eight years when I was 21/22 then no doubt – selectors would have really looked.
I guess that would be the only one, but as a person and a player sometimes you mature a bit later, and that’s what’s happened with me.
JM: To finish off… Any tips for young and aspiring cricketers? Batting and captaining…
MK: From a leadership and captaincy point of view, I think the best thing is just to be up front and honest with your players so they know where they fit in the grand scheme of things. They need to know what their role is in the team.
From a cricket point of view, I know it is said all the time, but because the game has become so professional and with the money now in the game; people can sometimes take it too seriously and it often affects your performance. I think there’s certainly some kind of enjoyment factor. It’s very important to help you perform well.