Peter Hatzoglou swaps Big Bash League with Perth Scorchers for EAPL with Sawston & Babraham
Fifteen wickets in four games is a sure sign of someone making a big and immediate impact on a new setting.
It has been a dominant start to the new Read Brothers East Anglian Premier League season for Sawston & Babraham as they have racked up six straight wins in the defence of their crown.
Central to their cause has been the form of new arrival Peter Hatzoglou.
Anyone who knows their cricket will not be at all surprised by the way in which the 23-year-old has taken to life at the Rams.
The Australian has arrived in the UK fresh from winning the Big Bash League with Perth Scorchers, which immediately begs the question, how did he end up playing in the EAPL this summer with Sawston & Babraham?
“Playing cricket overseas is a huge drawcard for a lot of aspiring young cricketers,” says Hatzoglou.
“I came out to Cheshire in 2019 and had a really enjoyable time with Ashton-on-Mersey Cricket Club but once the idea of Sawston & Babraham being interested and having me was floated across I was really keen on coming over.
“The club has had so much success recently and just, after two years of lockdown in Australia, being able to come over here and having a run around and playing in a successful team was a huge drawcard and something I was really keen on doing.”
The corridor for cricketers between England and Australia is a well-worn path during the respective off-seasons.
It provides the opportunity for players to experience different conditions and set-ups in order to improve their games, and makes a change to being confined to indoor nets and training.
But Hatzoglou’s plans for the past two summers were curtailed by the pandemic, although it did open up the opportunities on a bigger scale Down Under.
“I’m from Melbourne so we were locked down for a long period of time so it was indoor nets and lots of training,” he says.
“I was a very fortunate beneficiary of the pandemic because I got my break in the Big Bash League in Australia from one guy having Covid and another guy being unavailable due to a Covid-related travel issue.
“I got my breakthrough in the professional ranks and I guess I have just rolled with cricket ever since. It was definitely something I never saw myself doing necessarily in a professional capacity but here we are today.”
Hatzoglou’s Twenty20 opportunity came with Melbourne Renegades in December 2020, and he seized on it by taking two wickets going on to earn a call-up to the South Australia squad.
It earned him a two-year deal with the Perth Scorchers last summer, and that has led to trying his reputation in the UK.
“My agent really encouraged the idea and it doesn’t take much to look at Sawston’s social media and you know straight away that they’re a well run club,” explains Hatzoglou.
“Dave Ellis, Dan Heath and Ian Reeves and the rest of the team at the club have done such an amazing job at bringing it up and getting to the place it’s at now – we won the EAPL last year, we’re on top of the Premier League this year, on a Friday night there are in excess of 100 juniors running around.
“It’s a thriving cricket club and that was one of the many reasons for why I wanted to come along, just being a good environment that is run by people that are putting in tireless effort to uplift cricket in the community.”
In his homeland, Hatzoglou’s community club was Sunshine Heights Cricket Club.
He developed through their junior programme, and you can sense that is why providing an opportunity for youngsters to play cricket is so important to him as he praises the youth set-up established at Sawston & Babraham.
But cricket was not an instant No 1 choice, as Hatzoglou was a typical sporting Aussie.
He tried his hand at AFL, soccer and athletics – he was a very keen high jumper – before finding a focus in his mid-teens.
It was perhaps a natural calling as it is easy to think of Melbourne as being a cricketing city, although perhaps that is down to the MCG as much as anything else, and Hatozglou had a good foundation at first Sunshine Heights and then Melbourne University Cricket Club.
“Melbourne has many different cricket exports, the late Shane Warne probably being the biggest of them all,” says Hatoglou.
And it is the late cricketing great who was a source of inspiration for the young right arm leg spinner.
“My style of leg-spin bowling is probably more suited to Twenty20 cricket,” says Hatzoglou.
“I’m quite fast through the air and I really try to rush the batsmen so they don’t have much time to hit me big I guess.
“I used to try to emulate Shane Warne when I was growing up, but as I discovered, it’s very hard to do that – no-one can really bowl like Shane Warne.
“I just started bowling my own way with the fast leg-spin at the batters’ pads, at the stumps, and I guess that is well suited to Twenty20 cricket.”
It is easy to overlook how big an impact Warne had on successive generations of cricketers, and we perhaps only fully appreciated it on his shock death in March this year, at the age of 52.
So many people remember ‘the ball of the century’ to dismiss Mike Gatting on his Ashes debut in 1993, and even those born a decade or more later can vividly recall the delivery.
“It’s fantastic to see people come out and bring forward their stories with Warney,” says Hatzoglou, of his hero.
“My experience with him was very similar. He had so much time for me.”
Hatzoglou had got in contact with Warne through Instagram one off-season in Melbourne, while the Aussie great was coaching overseas.
“We eventually just kept on chatting,” he says. “The life of a T20 franchise cricketer is fairly nomadic and I was going to take any guidance I could from someone like Warney.
“Although I didn’t know him nearly as well as what other people do, he had time for me when he owed me absolutely nothing and that lines up with many other people’s experiences with him.
“He really did have a profound impact, whether you knew him or not, and for me, personally, to establish a little bit of a relationship with him was something I will always cherish and always look back on very fondly.”
That advice feeds into the sense that Hatzoglou is keen to learn in whatever way is possible.
There is of course the playing side of things, but he is also studying
to become a chartered accountant, and doing some coaching while in the UK.
“I’m over here to just try to develop and refine my skills, that is the primary motive.” he says.
“I am doing some coaching with the juniors at Sawston & Babraham, and I’m also doing a little bit of coaching at Culford School as well.
“It’s enjoyable coaching, to be honest. It’s just cricket, it’s not even work to me, it’s fantastic.”
Waxing lyrical about Sawston & Babraham and the volunteer base that the club has created, Hatzoglou puts the blossoming start to his career in the EAPL down to the environment in which he has arrived.
“We’re a strong team, we’re a strong club,” he says.
“For me personally to come in and have an impact straight away is a reflection of how well I’ve been set up over here.
“It is difficult to come in and perform straight away but if the club helps you get on your feet when you arrive and help you settle in really quickly, then they’re giving you all the tools to do well.
“All credit to the club for helping me get on my feet and having an impact straight away.”