Reported by Jesse Hogan, Delhi
October 6, 2009
WHEN Aiden Blizzard blasted 89 off 38 balls on debut against South Australia in January 2007, Victoria knew it had found a Twenty20 specialist.
That view was reinforced the next season when Blizzard's 47 off 20 balls at the top of the order against Western Australia in the KFC Big Bash final helped the Bushrangers to their third consecutive Twenty20 title.
But while the ''country kid'' from Shepparton is in India as part of Victoria's squad for the inaugural Twenty20 Champions League tournament, Blizzard, 25, is not a guaranteed starter for the team.
The reason, he freely admitted, was his ''poor season'' last year. Blizzard played all seven Big Bash matches but scored 102 runs at an average of 14.57 - including finishing with three single-figure innings - after averaging 28.5 and 24.2 in his first two seasons. Furthermore, the big-hitting left-hander managed only two innings in the Ford Ranger Cup, averaging 11.5.
''I thought I had a poor season. I started well but really struggled after Christmas, so I've gone back to the drawing board and tried to simplify my game as much as I can,'' Blizzard said. ''I changed my [grip], holding my hands up instead of the free-flowing game I did have [when I held my hands lower], so I've gone back to that. It's worked really well for me in the pre-season, so it's just a matter of me taking that confidence back into the new season.''
As well as the technical remedies such as reverting to his old grip, Blizzard said the disappointment of last season made him realise he had become too obsessed with his form - and cricket in general.
''I was pretty mentally fatigued and tired so it took the pre-season to freshen up. I've just got a whole new outlook on life and the way cricket's going,'' he said.
''As a young bloke coming up playing a lot of cricket wears you out, so you've just got to do what you can away from cricket to freshen up. I've just really relaxed, spent a lot of time with the family and friends, tried to do a bit of surfing. Things like that just to get my mind away from cricket.''
One thing Blizzard will likely have to confront is having to find a new batting position in the team. While he has opened the batting in all but one of his 17 Twenty20 innings - his 89 on debut came at No. 3 - he is unlikely to have that opportunity in the Champions League.
Star batsman Brad Hodge has one opening slot, with Rob Quiney almost certain to take the other, having scored 91 off 56 balls in last year's Big Bash final when opening in place of the injured Hodge. When you factor in Cameron White, David Hussey and Andrew McDonald, Blizzard seems to be jostling with Aaron Finch and all-rounder John Hastings for the final batting slot.
If Blizzard plays it will be in front of a partisan crowd, likely to be about 40,000, for the clash with the Delhi Daredevils on Friday. ''You grow up going to Test cricket, and even in the AFL seeing the big crowds there. From being outside the fence and then getting inside the fence I think it will be a great buzz, especially just being a country kid,'' he said.