Highly-rated young Warwickshire batsman Sam Hain has trod an unusual and exotic path to Edgbaston – but sees his future very much with Warwickshire and England.
Born in Hong Kong and brought up in Australia by England-born parents, Hain found himself with options when it became clear that he possessed the ability to forge a career in cricket. And he had a big choice to make.
Would he carve out that career in Australia and, potentially, one day compete for a place in their national team? Or did his future lie on this side of the world, perhaps with England?
A tricky decision. But Hain, now 18-years-old, plumped for England – courtesy of a spell in Scotland. And the catalyst for his decision? A chap from the West Midlands – former Bears captain Michael Powell.
“When I was 14 I came over on an exchange to Loretto School in Edinburgh where Powelly was teaching,” said Hain. “He sent me down for a trial with the Bears and I played for the 2nds at Cov & North Warwick. After I finished my two and a half months at Loretto I went back to Australia but was then asked back the following year.
“Dougie Brown came over to Coventry one day and said they wanted to offer me a two-year contract when I finished school. I was delighted with that and 2013 was my first year as a contracted player.
“Now I’m just really pleased and grateful to have got some first-team opportunities this season. I always thought my path would eventually lead to England but I didn’t think things would move this quickly.
“It was a big decision either way. I will always regard Australia as home in terms of being where I grew up but, cricket-wise, England is my home. The amount of cricket we play here, compared to Australia, is great and as a batsman that’s what you want. Batsmen go through troughs and, at a young age, you have to learn how to get out of them.
“In England you go through that and have to try to figure it out whereas in Australia you don’t play nearly as much.
“Whatever the future holds I will always be grateful to Michael Powell. He’s a great guy. I remember talking to him and him saying they would send me down to Warwickshire and it was all really a blur for me. Now it makes sense and I can see the path he had in mind for me but back then it was just a case of ‘great, I’ll go and play some more cricket’.
“He was the catalyst who showed me the ropes in Engish cricket and I am very grateful for that.”
Hain has made a great start to his first-class career, becoming the youngest player ever to score a century for the Bears against Northamptonshire this week.
What the future holds for him, who knows? So many factors, not least luck, are involved in any individual’s career.
But all the early signs are that he has the talent and temperament to succeed. And also, importantly, the support network around him.
Hain admits that last year, as a 17-year-old thousands of miles from home, he found life tough at times. But now he is feeling much more settled and acclimatised to England and the demands of English cricket.
“Last year was a little bit tough what with being away from home and my parents but now things are coming together off the pitch,” he said.
“It’s hard being away from mum and dad and sometimes you under-estimate how important that support is and how much you feel it being away from your family and mates back home. Sometimes you just need a chat to dad and it was tough last year, especially when I wasn’t scoring runs. But I am past that now and enjoying life.”
Hain’s emergence as a genuine first-team option has been very welcome for Warwickshire, not least in the light of yet another injury afflicting Ian Westwood.
The left-hander must rank among the unluckiest of cricketers, copping injury after injury over the seasons, often quite serious ones and usually sustained just as he is showing good form.
It has happened again – and in exasperatingly freak circumstances. Fresh from making an excellent 99 for Warwickshire in the championship against Somerset at Edgbaston, Westwood played for Moseley against Wolverhampton only to take a ball on the end of a finger fielding at mid-wicket. He will be out for around six weeks.
“This is probably the most upsetting of all the injuries I’ve had,” he said. “I worked so hard to get back from my ankle operation last winter and was really pleased to get back in the team and get some runs.
£It was great to put on a big partnership with Will Porterfield and start scoring some of the runs we have lost with losing Belly to England, which is what we have said we need to do.
“I was feeling in really good nick and looking forward to putting some games together, so thought I’d play for Moseley just to keep a bat in my hand and help them out. It was just an innocuous piece of fielding. The ball was played to me and I took it on my finger and didn’t think anything about it at the time. But then it stayed painful and clearly there was something up.”
All being well, there will be time for Westwood to return this season. He should be fit and available again for the last two months.
But it is still a tough pill to take for the 31-year-old who deserves better luck, to say the least next season and beyond if (or, surely, it must be when) he is awarded another contract.
“I’ll just use the time to work on my ankle and build that back up,” he said. “I want to be back as soon as possible but with a fracture there’s not much you can do. You can only really wait for it to heal.”