Tipped by legend Alan Border to make the national team 10 years ago, batsman Michael Klinger is on the verge of breaking into the Australia squad and could be called up for next summer’s Ashes series.
Nicknamed Max after M*A*S*H character Corporal Maxwell, Klinger’s inspired form has shot him from fringe state player to Test star in waiting. The former Under 19 national captain has timed his return to form to perfection.
Two years ago, he was Victoria’s leading run-scorer in the Ford Ranger Cup but failed to hold down a regular place, often a casualty for high-profile stars returning to the state team. But since moving to South Australia Redbacks in June, he has scored runs like they are going out of fashion.
Klinger, 28, currently tops the domestic league averages with 775 runs, coming at an average of 96.88. He has accumulated three centuries, two 50 and top-scored with 255.
Speaking about his chances of making the Ashes squad, Klinger said: “If there is a state cricketer that doesn’t want to get to test level then they probably shouldn’t be playing. It’s probably everyone’s dream and it’s certainly still mine.
His chances were boosted after captain Ricky Ponting blamed the batsmen for the recent defeat against South Africa.
“There are so many good players around that you really need to put one full good season together if not more in both forms of the game to get to that stage,” he said.
Preferred to Michael Clarke as Under 19 skipper, Klinger hit a match-winning 80 on his debut for Victoria in a one-day game. Following the match, Border said “he was as good as certain to play for Australia”.
His white-hot streak came soon after he married Cindy, who attended the same Jewish high school, although the couple did not properly meet until five years ago at a Melbourne house party.
Scoring big runs has turned into a habit for Klinger who finished unbeaten on 133 for the Redbacks against Ford Ranger Cup champions Tasmania. He earned praise from Test off-spinner Jason Krejza, who recently broke into the national team. Krejza said: “Michael Klinger played very well.”
His 255 is the highest score by a Jewish player at first-class level anywhere in the world, surpassing former South African Test skipper Ali Bacher (235) and former Australian Test player Julien Wiener (221).
On breaking the record for the most runs scored by a Jewish player in a first-class game, Klinger was philosophical. “Some of those guys would have made those scores for their country, so I’d take a hundred for my country before a huge score for my state.”
Klinger puts his purple patch down to feeling at ease with his new surroundings. “I guess it was easier knowing I had a lot of confidence behind me from the coach and team,” he said. “I’m not constantly telling myself: ‘If I don’t make runs I’m out of the team’. That was the situation in Victoria over the past couple of years.
“Just knowing that if I do well now I’ll keep my spot is good. I knew that if I got picked for the first game of the year I’d get a few chances and hopefully I’ve taken that now. It almost feels like I’m starting my career again. It’s not technical. It’s more having the full backing of the coach and the players. It’s made a difference to my confidence.
“It allowed me to relax a bit more and just bat and play my game without being so tense. If I knew then what I do now and could put that back into play at 21 or 22, it would have been a lot better.”