Bradman Medallist and Emerging Redbacks squad member Daniel Drew, from West Torrens, was one of the players wearing the orange vest. We quizzed him about the experience …
How do you come to be a 13th man and what’s the process for selection?
Drew: Each year, Cricket Australia contact the SACA regarding sub-fielders/13th man for the Adelaide Test. SACA High Performance then nominate three players for the job, who then must be cleared and approved by Cricket Australia for the duties involved. I still remember receiving a phone call from Tim Nielsen four years ago, asking if I was available to sub-field for the first Day/Night Test against New Zealand. I immediately said yes, of course. Being an 18-year-old, I was extremely excited about the opportunity and quite overwhelmed about how the game was going to play out and if I was going to actually field for Australia. Now, after just completing my fourth year as a 13th man for Australia, I still never take for granted the opportunity and experience that I have gained from all the players and coaches involved. Being around the best cricketers in Australia for five days each year is something I will always cherish and look back on for years to come.
What’s a typical day for the 13th men group?
Drew: A day in the life of a 13th man for the Australian Cricket team is an unreal experience and is something which I have been extremely lucky to be a part of for the past four years. Reporting to the changerooms at 9am each day of the recent Test with my fellow 13th men, Luke Robins and Ben Pengelley, we started the day by either heading to the nets to assist to the batters with their pre-game routines or heading out to the oval for a run around and warm up with the team. The role can get quite hectic and busy throughout various stages of the match, which always requires extreme concentration and awareness, especially when the Australian team is out in the field. Our main roles during the game are sprinting out with the drinks when a wicket falls or a player needs assistance, as well as racing to the changerooms to find more gloves to give the batters at the crease. Sitting with the players during lunch and interval breaks is a big highlight of the role as I find myself sitting back and taking it all in while I have a brief chance to see what it really means for them to represent for their country. As the game continues throughout the day, the three of us plus the team physio and doctor sit on the bench, watching each ball, constantly looking out for the players. When the boys are batting, a handful of players come down to the bench to watch from a different view which is a great experience for us as we try and get as much out of the players about playing for Australia as we can. When the day is wrapped up, we clean our area on the bench and head into the changerooms with the team to listen in to what the captain and the coach thought about the day and what the plan looks like as we head into the next day of the Test match. The three of us then head home to get a well-deserved rest and look forward to what the next day brings.
Where did you watch the game from?
Drew: Throughout the match, we watch from the ground bench with the team physio and doctor. Other staff and players filter through the bench throughout the five days including coaches Justin Langer and David Saker, who are always filled with ideas and plans for the current situation out in the field. Most of the players watch over from the viewing room which is upstairs of the changerooms. The three of us are constantly going from the bench to the changerooms with drinks, lollies, gloves and whatever the players need or ask for. The view from the bench is so close to the action it feels as if you're on the field, which is something all three of us aspire to do throughout the match. Going out on the field after Mitchell Starc was struck in the helmet after a bouncer on the last day was a different experience and was quite odd for the other boys as there was no other spare helmet that would fit Mitch’s head.
Did you actually get on Adelaide Oval to field?
Drew: Not this year. In previous years of doing 13th man for Australia I had come onto the field for short periods of time, to cover for a quick toilet break or a change of clothing/spikes or attention from the doctor or physio. This year Peter Siddle stayed with the team as 12th man for the full five days which resulted in us three boys not being required to field. The players hardly come off the field and if they do, it was not much longer than an over or two. There had been opportunities in previous years to get on the field, though. For example, during the Ashes Day/Night test against England last year I found myself fielding at point while Mitchell Starc was bowling, which was an extremely nerve-racking experience at the time. But looking back on it now, it will be something I will never forget and a great story to tell down the track.
Who was the most nervous in that last period on day five?
There were a few of the players sitting down on the bench with us for the last bit of the Test including Marcus Harris and Peter Handscomb, who were getting a bit edgy and vocal as the runs required got below 50. I was more excited than nervous throughout the last period of play as I thought if the Aussies could chase this down it would be against all odds and something special to be a part of but unfortunately it wasn’t the result we were hoping for, but the boys didn’t give up without a fight. I would say a few of the coaching staff were the most nervous out of all us sitting on the bench and us three boys were quite excited but also tried to stay as relaxed as possible around the other players when the chasing total became shorter.
How were you treated by the players and staff? Was there much interaction?
The staff and players were first class. The staff treated us like we were a part of the team by doing the warm ups with the team and bowling to the batters in the nets when needed. Justin Langer was very appreciative of us and the work we did, which was made evident after the game in the chat between players and staff. Also having access to the best bowling and batting coaches was great for us all to feed off them and their knowledge, which they provided to us throughout the five days. The players made you feel welcome and always backed you in. Having Travis Head there with me in the team for the five days was obviously special to me and the way he guided me amongst his team-mates throughout the match was a clear sign of the type of person Travis is and that is something that I was extremely grateful for.
Do you get to wear an Australian baggy green?
We get given a very similar baggy green to the real one the players wear for the Test match but unfortunately cannot keep it. Putting it on at the start of each day is a quite a surreal feeling and something I have loved doing each year. I cannot imagine what the feeling would be like to receive a proper Australian Baggy for your first Test match, but I know that I wouldn’t be taking it off for the whole match!