Mickey Edwards is 27 years old and been a fast bowler since he first picked up a cricket ball aged 10 in the backyard of his family home at Allambie Heights.
By conservative estimate he’s sent down tens of thousands of deliveries and become so adept at the art of fast bowling that he performs the role in first class cricket for the great state of New South Wales.
Play for this state, you’re a serious cricketer.
But there he was, at the top of his mark at the Sydney Cricket Ground in a Sheffield Shield game against Western Australia last week, and he was worried that he could do a Steve Harmison at the Gabba, first ball of the 2006/07 Ashes series.
Edwards was worried he wouldn’t hit the pitch.
Edwards (if not Harmison) perhaps had an excuse: he hadn’t played first class cricket for four years. Long time in politics – for a fast bowler it’s an epoch.
“When you get the news that you’ll be out for a period, it’s like three months of grief, three months of light at the end of the tunnel,” Edwards tells the Beaches Champion.
“You start off kicking stones, why me, all that.
“But then when you can do more, train more, bowl more, and there’s a date in line for your next game, you have something to work towards.”
Age and muscle memory are both on Edwards’ side – at 27 he’s approaching his athletic and experiential prime. (And that first over? No worries. And soon enough he had the key scalp of Cam Bancroft LBW for one.)
He’s also seen Australia captain Pat Cummins overcome lengthy periods out of cricket, and plenty of peers including Josh Hazlewood and Mitch Starc overcome similar injuries.
And if he’s lucky, all Edwards’ injuries are out of the way.
“They reckon you’re not a fast bowler unless you’ve had side injuries and stress fractures. I’ve had both. I’ve had stress fractures every year,” Edwards says.
Fast bowlers are a different breed: they just soldier on, pounding in, time after time, for apparently little reward.
Yet Edwards says his run of injury was particularly dispiriting. Because time after time the big man broke down. Ask him how he kept going and he admits he contemplated the end.
“I wasn’t going to give up, if you like. But there were times I thought I might have to.
“I’d ring around mates in the building game, asking about labouring work.
“I never stopped loving cricket – but you had to be realistic,” Edwards says.
The plan now is just play. For NSW, for Sydney Sixers, for the Waratahs of Manly Warringah DCC.
“It’s a little hard to plan a schedule – you’re not a hundred per cent sure if you’re going to be picked, particularly in the [T20] Big Bash League given NSW has great depth in fast bowling.
“It’s also hard to balance between training and playing too much. There is such a thing as bowling too many overs. You’re at risk of breaking own.
“But I’ll have my hand up for all forms of cricket and when I’m not playing at first class or Big Bash level I’ll be playing with Manly, which I love to do.
“The club is looking at something special this year,” Edwards says.
He’s right: Manly sits top of the NSW Premier Cricket first grade ladder while strong showings in two-day and one-day cricket from second grade (T5 on the ladder), third grade (1st), fourth grade (1st) and fifth grade (3rd) sees Manly on top of the highly coveted Club Championship.
Manly’s women’s team – freshly promoted from second division – is a creditable seventh in the 10-team competition.
Get down to Grahams Reserve, Balgowlah on Thursday from 3:45pm for big-hitting cricket action when the Waratahs take on Sutherland in the NSW Premier Cricket T20 Cup. And click here to follow Edwards’ progress in the Sheffield Shield match against Victoria at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Thursday from 11am.