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Nathan Lyon's groundsman-to-Test cricketer story

MiD DAY talks to Manuka Oval chief curator Brad Van Dam on the amazing groundsman-to-Test cricketer story

CANBERRA: Nathan Lyon, a country lad, was never cut out to be a Test bowler. He was a laid back teenager, who attempted to spin the ball with a rather hilarious action (knee adjacent to his chest). He attended school just one day a week and worked four days as an apprentice to Manuka Oval chief curator Brad Van Dam. He then assisted Adelaide Oval curator Damian Hough as recently as 12 months ago when England crushed Australia in last summer's Ashes.


Young gun: Australia's Nathan Lyon spins it during the first Test against
New Zealand at the Gabba recently. Pic/Getty
Images


Eight months later, Lyon was blooded into Australia's Test squad. Another two months later, he emerged the No 1 spinner in the country. It's been an amazing journey for this 24-year-old. And his old mates at the Manuka Oval here are proud of his rapid rise. "He was a good bowler, but never did we imagine that he would turn out to be so good -- a bowler who could take fifers in Test cricket.


Michael Sangston, Brad Van Dam and an apprentice curator at the Manuka
Oval yesterday. Pic/Sai Mohan


He finished his apprenticeship here (as a curator) before moving over to Adelaide. They obviously found something special in him (as a bowler) and developed him a bit more. Immediately after that Adelaide Test (against England), he got a big break in the Big Bash. And he's just been going up, up and up from there. We are all very pleased for him," said Van Dam.

Lyon hails from Young, situated in southern New South Wales, a two-hour drive from Canberra. "He came back only once to visit us, obviously because he's travelling with the national cricket team. Adelaide has obviously given him his cricket, but he still considers himself a small town boy from Young. He's just got better and better at the art of spin bowling. He worked as one of the curators at Adelaide Oval for only four-five months (between August 2010 and January 2011)," Van Dam added.

Michael Sangston, who is currently an apprentice at Manuka Oval, recalled some good times with Lyon. "He had a great sense of humour. There was this time when I set him up with my girlfriend's sister. He was never a great bowler. His action has changed... he used to bowl with his knee close to his chest (laughs). Now, we rarely get to see him.  I am so happy for him," he said. With 22 wickets from seven Tests at 24.59, Lyon goes into the Boxing Day Test against India as Australia's sole spinner.

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