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Michael Klinger: Success in Adelaide was ‘extremely special’

Known to most as ‘Maxy’, Michael Klinger was a prolific run scorer during his six seasons with South Australia, winning the Neil Dansie Medal on three occasions.

He went One on One with Grady Hudd to talk about his time with the Redbacks, his departure to Western Australia, and what life has been like since retiring from cricket.

Grady Hudd: You’ve spent over 20 years of your life playing first class cricket, 182 first class games. I just wanted to go right back to the start and talk about what got you into the game as a youngster. Where did your passion for the game come from?

Michael Klinger: The first thing was going to watch my brother play under 12s when I was a three or four-year-old.

I was just sitting on the boundary line and had my own little cricket bat and watched him for three hours every Saturday morning.

And my dad used to throw me balls, or other kids in the team used to play with me while I was watching the game.

So, that was probably my first taste of watching and being involved in cricket.

Then, the usual backyard stuff with my brother and dad – my brother’s seven years older than me, so quite a big age difference.

From there it was just starting my junior cricket as an eight-year-old in under 12s, so I was quite young compared to some of the other kids, and a lot smaller.

I couldn’t really hit the ball very far, but I still loved it and it all went from there.

GH: At what age did you think you had what it took to make cricket a career?

MK: Probably when I first got asked to go to a district club.

I went to Prahran Cricket Club when I was 13 and got asked to play in the third XI there, and I think then once you’ve gotten to a grade club you start thinking if you get runs you go up into the seconds, and then the firsts, and you’re in the mix.

Also, I was lucky enough to play in the underage competition, back then it was called the Dowling Shield, which was an under 16 district cricket comp – I played for Prahran against all the other grade clubs.

And if you perform in that you got chosen for the Victorian under 17s, and under 19s following that.

So, I think the move to Prahran Cricket Club and then playing well in those junior competitions got me into the pathway with Victoria’s under 17s and 19s, and then Australia’s under 19s and into the state squad after that.

GH: You made your first-class debut in the 1998/99 season for Victoria as a 19-year-old. What do you remember about your first game?

MK: My first game was a one-day game at the MCG against Tasmania, and that was a day I’ll remember forever.

I was actually lucky enough to get 80 not out in a run chase, I was batting at five and we were three for not many – I can’t remember the exact total we were chasing.

But, myself and Matthew Mott, who is now the Australia women’s coach, he got 50 not out as well so we put on a partnership to help win the game.

Family and friends came down to the MCG to watch that, so that was pretty special.

My first first-class game was at the SCG, probably about a month after versus New South Wales. They had a scary strong team too, so that was quite cool.

GH: Was there a difference you found in the Shield competition back then, in terms of the standard, compared to what it has been in your later years?

MK: No, I think the standard’s pretty similar.

I think probably overall the wickets when I first started were generally a bit flatter.

Grounds and teams nowadays seem to leave a lot more grass on the wicket to try and get results, which makes it a bit challenging for batters, and maybe has something, potentially, to do with batters not scoring as many runs as previously.

But they’re also now using the Duke balls as well for the last few seasons and second half of the year, which also makes it a little bit more bowler friendly.

It’s not a bad thing, I just think it makes it a bit more challenging.

I don’t think the standard has changed a hell of a lot.

The only thing I’d say is with the busier Australian schedule over the summer, there’s obviously a lot more Twenty20 cricket and more games, so those guys who play most formats in Australia don’t get to play as much Shield cricket as maybe the Australian players did when I first started.

So, you were probably coming up against a lot more international cricketers back when I first started playing.

GH: I read earlier, which I actually didn’t know before, that you were left stranded one run short of your maiden first-class century when your captain Paul Reiffel declared against Tasmania during the 2000/01 season. Can you remember much about that?

MK: It was an interesting day.

At the time, to be honest, I was just loving being out there playing for Victoria, I was quite happy to get in the nineties and to get a good score.

When I got to reflect on it more, it obviously would’ve been nice to get one extra ball and get a hundred.

I was scoring quite quick that morning and got to 20 minutes before lunch and was on 99, but he was very keen on getting some overs at them before lunch.

I’ve seen him heaps since, obviously, because he’s been umpiring and stuff, and he may have given me a few square ups along the way, a couple of LBWs he gave not out maybe that may have been out. Maybe he felt a little bit bad about it (laughing).

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Grady grew up in Bordertown in the state’s South East, around 10 minutes from the Victorian border, and is a Geelong Cats tragic and a lover of sports. Grady has worked in the journalism field for more than six years at a number of regional newspapers. He plays cricket for Trinity Old Scholars, and doesn’t mind teeing it up at some of the fantastic golf courses scattered across Adelaide and its surrounding regions.