Last week, the Australian fast bowler Nathan Ellis received a text message from his manager. “I have been in contact with the Punjab Kings, and I have a contract offer ready for you.”
It was day eight of hotel quarantine for Ellis and his teammates, who had returned from their first-ever Twenty20 (T20) series against Bangladesh. “With the time difference, I had an early morning text from my manager that I woke up to,” Ellis tells Sportstar.
With the Kings pair of Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith pulling out of the UAE leg of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021, Punjab needed a fast-bowling cover. They had found one in Ellis. The IPL deal has capped off a phenomenal month for the 26-year-old. Not only did he become the first bowler to take a hat-trick on debut in a men’s T20 international but also secured selection as a travelling reserve for Australia’s T20 World Cup squad.
The last two weeks have played out like a dream, but this is a reality for the Hobart Hurricanes quick, who as recently as 2019, was a club cricketer struggling to make ends meet. “As an aspiring player, who has many dreams in the white-ball arena, the IPL is up there as the pinnacle. So it feels surreal. And it has all happened whilst in hotel isolation where one can get a bit delirious.
So some days, I wake up, and it genuinely feels like a dream. I have to question if it has happened! But I feel very honoured and very lucky. Just super excited to get over there and rip in,” Ellis says.
Ellis rang up his fiance Connie, followed by his mum and stepdad. “They were all really, really excited. My stepdad is already asking for a Punjab playing shirt!” he says. “Since I am in quarantine with all the other Aussie boys, I also got to lean on them and talk about their experiences. I spoke with Moises (Henriques), my new Punjab teammate, and Mitchell Starc, who was really happy for me.”
Punjab needs an overseas bowler who can bowl at the death to back up Arshdeep Singh and Chris Jordan. That’s a job Ellis “takes pride in. If and when I get my chance, I want to execute and nail my role within the team. I’m there to make an impact and bowl death overs. So if I can contribute within my role, hopefully, that will correlate to some wins for Punjab. But above all else, it is my first IPL experience. So I want to learn from the best and soak it up as much as I can. Hopefully, I can win some games whilst also helping me be the best I can be.”
Meanwhile, Cricket Australia has given the go-ahead to all players with IPL deals to rejoin their franchises for the resumption of the league next month. It will be followed by the men’s Twenty20 World Cup, which will also take place in the UAE and Oman from October 17 to November 14. “This was one of the benefits of coming to the IPL,” says Ellis. “This is what we discussed when talking to my Australian coaches about what would be best for me. You couldn’t have better prep leading into the World Cup.”