From advice on risks to the beginnings of a Lord: Peter Hatzoglou takes advice from Warne in Hundred chance

From advice on risks to the beginnings of a Lord: Peter Hatzoglou takes advice from Warne in Hundred chance

Pierre Hatzoglou is sitting across from me in a cafe in Kennington when he pulls out his phone to show me his Instagram DMs. He opens his chat history with the late Shane Warne and dates back to July 2021, when amid a Melbourne lockdown he first messaged Warne.

“Hey Warnie (sorry, I don’t know exactly what to call you),” he began. “Just reaching out to talk about legs up…”

“I didn’t have a state contract,” says Hatzoglou. “I felt like I had no one to share my ideas with. I knew he was in Melbourne at the time, so I reached out to him thinking, ‘what the hell? could anything worse happen?'”

To his surprise, Warne responded. They began exchanging messages and when Hatzoglou backed up his breakthrough Big Bash League season with Melbourne Renegades by winning the title with Perth Scorchers, Warne raised the possibility that if he spent the Australian winter playing in the UK United, the 23-year-old could be in line for a contract with his side London Spirit in the Hundred.

At the time, Hatzoglou was juggling his gambling commitments with work as a risk management consultant at KPMG in Adelaide. After returning to the office as a Big Bash winner, he discussed his plans with two of the company’s partners and made the decision to travel to the UK.

Shortly after Warne’s death in March, Hatzoglou explained the situation to Andrew Papageorgiou, a fund manager in Melbourne with whom he had worked. “He was like, ‘Pete, mate, they don’t do state funerals for accountants,'” Hatzoglou recounts, “and I was like, ‘Okay, I gotta go.'”

Hatzoglou booked his flights and headed to Sawston and Babraham Cricket Club in Cambridge, which he has since helped rise to the top of the East Anglian Premier League as the competition’s top wicket-taker. In between his club commitments, he staged a number of stints with counties as a nets thrower in hopes of attracting attention, but no one took a punt from him in the Blast.

Trevor Bayliss, Spirit’s new coach, never followed through on his predecessor’s interest in Hatzoglou, but just as he had given up hope of a contract, Oval Invincibles reached out to offer him a short-term contract as a substitute playerwith Sunil Narine leaving for the CPL following Tuesday’s loss to Birmingham Phoenix.

Now he is in line for his Lord’s debut on Saturday night, playing against former side Warne. “The circle is complete,” he said. “When he died people talked about the time he had for others and that’s 100% true in my case. He owed me nothing – I was just a young punk who came onto the T20 scene – but he gave me more time than I could have ever asked for.

“He was so supportive in comms which made my heart warm. Whenever I feel down I have a five minute clip saved on my phone in the favorites section of a game against Brisbane Heat that I’m watching. He was commenting, and Mark Howard handed over to Warnie to speak throughout my conversation. Shane Warne said good things about you? That’s pretty cool.

For Hatzoglou, playing in his first league overseas as a professional cricketer – and replacing one of the world’s best whiteball bowlers in the process – is a sign of how far he has come. Three years ago he spent the English summer playing for Ashton-on-Mersey in Cheshire’s fourth tier but seized the opportunity the Renegades presented him when he signed a substitute deal in 2020-21.

“I was originally only going to be there for a week,” he says, “but I was always determined not to be a passenger, no matter what cricket team I was on. I’m 23 and it would be easy for me to hide behind my age, but I’ve never thought like that. It’s been a wild ride: in many ways, I feel like be the accidental cricketer.

Hatzoglou has an idiosyncratic action, bowling a combination of topspinners, sliders, and googlies. It compares to Ravi BishnoiIndia’s wrist-twisting, but plays from a high launch point (he’s 6ft 4in) and at a high pace, often above 62mph/100kph, on which he” stumbled upon” while playing club cricket for Sunshine Heights.

“I used to try to bowl like Warne – classic leg rotation, clearing wide, spinning the ball big – which is what I did all the way through juniors,” he says. “I was an ordinary cricketer. I had a coach who was called Luke Simpson – like my village cricketer coach – and he said, ‘Peter, play with a little more energy’.

“My interpretation of that was running faster, playing a little bit faster. That’s what I’m playing now. It’s refreshing to come here and have that element of surprise again, where most hitters have never faced me before.”

His development has taken place outside of the typical Aussie player path and he is beginning to follow the lead of Tim David and Chris Green in forging a career as a T20 freelancer. “My skills are well suited to T20 cricket and there aren’t too many players who have that level of exaggeration,” Hatzoglou said. “I sprint, basically, and I’m so much better when guys try to chase me.

“I really tried to play state cricket and play all formats and in many ways I still have that ambition but I couldn’t even get a rookie contract with Australia -Southern and the potential opportunities in T20 cricket far exceed what has been presented to me in the longer forms.”

Hatzoglou describes himself as a “professional cricketer and CFA [chartered financial analyst] candidate” on his LinkedIn page, and will take his exams in November shortly before flying to Abu Dhabi to play in the T10. “Having that safety net has helped me play with so much more freedom,” says -he.

He expected to spend his 20s wearing a suit in an office. Instead, he’ll be outfitted with the teal Invincibles this weekend, making his Hundred debut in a sold-out Lord’s and looking to make his mark on the competition. “I’ve only been on the tour for what, less than two years? In my opinion, there are so many upsides. I still feel so raw and I’m still learning so much. I’m just excited to see where it goes .”

Matt Roller is associate editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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