On Saturday evening, Nathan Ellis had the cricketing world’s floodlights beaming brightly on him, as he kept his cool under pressure to deliver a much needed win for the Punjab Kings in the 2021 VIVO Indian Premier League.
Celebrating with his new teammates, soaking in all the acclaim, somewhere the 26-year-old’s mind though would have run back to how far he had come in his cricketing journey, and how he was so close to throwing it all away not so long ago, when he had his bags packed and he was ready to bid adieu to this sport he’s loved so dearly since childhood.
“Back when I was 22, I moved from New South Wales to Tasmania to try and pursue a cricketing dream. I didn’t have a contract then, and I was moving out of home for the first time, so there were a lot of expenses that came with it,” revealed Nathan Ellis in an exclusive interview to Punjab Kings.
Working multiple jobs
“I had 5-6 different jobs back then to try and pay the bills. I started with some landscaping work, but I had to quit that because they wanted me to work Saturdays and that’s when the cricket was on,” recalls Ellis.
“I did some furniture removal and furnishing as well, but I had to leave that too because it clashed with my match days. I also did some construction work but that was too hard on the body, so I had to give that up as well,” he added.
Nathan Ellis then found an ideal job as a teacher’s assistant at a high school, which fortunately did not interfere with his match days. Nevertheless, it was an early start and a packed schedule for the Aussie seamer, who was really put through the grind in his early twenties. Ellis had to wake up at 6 AM to finish his gym sessions, juggle his work shifts shrewdly so as to fit in his training sessions with the Tasmanian team reserves as well.
The seamer recalls how he sometimes worked for days on end without a break, all this while diligently sticking to his gym and net schedules as well.
“Looking back, I don’t even know how I managed to fit everything together. It was a tough few years where I was getting fired from a lot of different jobs and working lots of different shifts. Something that at the time was hard, but now I can look back on as a really great life experience,” states Ellis with a content smile on his face.
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Despite putting in the hard yards, Nathan Ellis couldn’t quite break into the Tasmanian team, and he very candidly revealed that the disappointment of not being selected made him mull over his cricketing aspirations back then.
“I had played two seasons in Tasmania, and I had done really well in grade level cricket but I hadn’t received an opportunity in the state team,” said the 26-year-old.
“I was sort of thinking that I need to go back home, I wasn’t saving any money, I wasn’t really building a career so it was time to start the next chapter of my life,” he added.
Nathan Ellis however was persuaded to stay on for another year by one phone call, a phone call from then Tasmania coach Adam Griffith. The former Australian cricketer asked Ellis to train the entire pre-season with the Tasmanian team, and dangled the carrot of selection in the state team if he performed well at those training sessions.
“I told him (Griffith) I’m done, I can’t do another season here. I’m not making any money. But he sort of coaxed me into staying, and I just thought one more year! And that turned out to be my breakout year. It all happened really quickly from there on, with my call up to Tasmania and the Big Bash contract,” reminisces Ellis.
Ellis latched onto those opportunities with both hands and since then has never let go, ending as the leading wicket-taker for the Hobart Hurricanes in the last Big Bash League. What followed that was a maiden Australian call-up, and what followed that is an indelible place in the history books for Ellis owing to that dream T20I debut.
“I sort of look back at that moment and think what could have been had I not stayed for one more year in Tasmania. My bags were packed, I was ready to go home. So I look back now and think Wow! What a good decision I made,” concluded Ellis with a beaming smile.