All-rounder Hilton Cartwright on choosing between batting and bowling, and playing for Zimbabwe, England or Australia. By Richard Cooke.


Scorching all-rounder: Hilton Cartwright, 24, cricketer

I guess I went about things a different way. I started in juniors like everyone else did, and then as time progressed I tried out for under 19s, but unfortunately didn’t make the side. And then I just basically kept chipping away at club cricket. I made a few runs and took a few wickets and then ended up getting picked for a one-dayer in the Ryobi Cup, which is what it was called back then. That was pretty much the pathway.

People are always keen to give all-rounders advice. I think if you spoke to most all-rounders, they would’ve gone through that. When I was younger, I saw myself as a batting all-rounder, and then I started taking a few wickets and people started saying, ‘’Oh you’re a bowling all-rounder’’ because I was out of form with my batting. So it was quite hard to try to keep the idea of myself as a batting all-rounder in my own mind. I was getting advice from Justin Langer, Geoff Marsh, Wayne Andrews, and my club coach, and I was trying to take it all on board.

You’ll hear a lot of the older players say that if something doesn’t work for you, just say, “Thanks very much for the advice but it doesn’t suit my game”. And I reckon it took me a good two to three years to understand that concept.

If cricket was like that – if you could give someone advice and it would work straight away, then it would become a pretty boring sport to watch. But you’ve also got to take your character, and your own technique into the game. You’ve got someone like Steve Smith who plays a completely different league to someone like Ricky Ponting. It all depends on the player.

What I love about being an all-rounder is … that you might not make any runs but you’ve always got another opportunity to get the ball and have an effect. Whenever I’ve been injured in a game and I’ve got to field for 90 overs, I always say to the guys, “I can’t believe how slow the day goes”. The only impact you can have is taking the extra catch or stopping a few runs.

Growing up in Zimbabwe? I can’t remember the whole deal. I remember all the good. I don’t remember a huge amount of the bad side of Zimbabwe. My sister was a bit older and remembers quite a bit, but I remember living on a farm. Our cousins were down the road. It was only in the last year or so when we had to move out of our farm home and live with my mum’s side of the family in Harare was when my perspective started to change.

I’ve never thought about playing for England. I used to think “I’m always going to play for Zimbabwe”, but since moving to Australia I’ve actually never thought about playing for the English. That’s always been my goal, to play for Australia. I wouldn’t be able to manage the weather over there for more than six months, I don’t think. It’s too cold for me.

There’s an old cliché that if you’re a batter you’ve got to make runs, and if you’re a bowler you’ve got to take wickets. So I think I get along with Mitch [Marsh] quite well. I went to school with him. Whenever he’s back in Perth we always have a couple of hits and we always enjoy each other’s company. There’s always that rivalry of getting a spot but it’s a positive one.

I surf in my leisure time. If I get a free weekend or a spare morning, if the surf’s good I’ll definitely chuck on a wetsuit in Perth. I just find it really clears my head and gets me away from everything, and makes me feel a lot more relaxed.

I love playing Twenty20. Obviously the crowds are great and the exposure’s really good, but I love the pressure as well. If you haven’t got the extra yard of pace like a Coulter-Nile or a Dirk Nannes, the execution of all your deliveries becomes a lot smaller.

Next step? Just progressing up the batting order. At the moment it’s going to be quite hard, because of the experience of our batting line-up. But I think for me and a couple of the other guys back in WA, like Ash Turner and even Ash Agar, Sam Whiteman, there’s a huge opportunity going forward.

If I had to choose between batting and bowling? Well, you could always say the game will never start if you don’t have a bowler. So as much as I’d want to say that, I prefer, much prefer, batting for a whole day than bowling for a whole day. But I’ll let you choose which one I pick.


This week’s highlights…

• Rio Olympic Games
Until August 22
Swimming – medal events, Saturday and Sunday, from 11.03am (AEST)
Athletics – men’s 100m final, Monday, from 11.25am (AEST)
Sailing – medal races, Monday until Friday, from 2.05am (AEST)
Cycling: BMX – women’s final, August 20, from 4am (AEST)

• AFL: Hawthorn v North Melbourne
Saturday, 2.10pm (AEST), Melbourne Cricket Ground

• NRL: Canberra Raiders v Melbourne Storm
Monday, 7pm (AEST), GIO Stadium, Canberra

• Motorsport: Austrian MotoGP
Sunday, 10pm (AEST), Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on August 13, 2016 as "Scorching all-rounder".

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Richard Cooke is a contributing editor to The Monthly, and the 2018 Mumbrella Publish Award Columnist of the Year.

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