New Year’s Day 2018: The injury-hit Perth Scorchers pluck amateur Tim David out of relative obscurity and thrust him into a full house at the WACA.
The Scorchers need 55 off 31. Standing at six foot plenty, off just the second ball of his BBL career, he lofts off-spinner Will Somerville over long off for six. The partnership is dominated by Michael Klinger, but David’s 17* off 10 helps the Scorchers edge past the Sydney Sixers in a final-over thriller.
If you’ve just woken up from a coma that you fell into the day after David’s debut, you will have noticed that he’s swapped his orange Perth Scorchers kit for the neon purple of the Hobart Hurricanes. Despite switching teams, he’s still depositing bowlers who miss their lengths into sightscreens and car parks.
David has emerged as the Hurricanes’ designated power hitter this season, pummeling 224 runs at an average of 37.33 and a strike rate of 152.38.
Yet, a lot has happened in the three years between his debut and his breakthrough 2020/21 BBL campaign.
September 25th 2019: Tim and I are sitting in the lobby of a posh 5-star hotel in the swankiest part of Kuala Lumpur. Dressed in flip-flops, grey sweatpants, and a white t-shirt, he’s slouched back in his crimson cushioned chair as the gentle flow of the water fountain and smooth jazz instrumentals provide the backdrop soundtrack to our conversation.
In less than 24 hours, Singapore will square off against tournament favourites Canada in their final game of the first round of the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League A. Just a day earlier, David had recorded his 5th consecutive half-century for Singapore across formats with a composed yet belligerent 95* against Malaysia.
For now, his calm demeanour is understandable and well-deserved. Without realising it, I’ve assumed a similar posture to Tim.
But then I ask him about his BBL debut, and he says something that forces me to sit up straighter.
‘Everyone was a professional and I wasn’t.’
As David was quick to point out, the switch from Western Australian Grade Cricket to the BBL was a big step up.
‘It was a big difference because I was an amateur cricketer,’ he says. ‘I was in the academy, so I’d trained a bit, but I wasn’t professional, and then I’ve gone into a fully professional environment… I’d just been [a professional] for two weeks. That meant I hadn’t had the preparation that guys had had.’
The fact that David was able to make it to the competitive academy program and the Second XI of Western Australia, his home state, is commendable in itself. His cricketing journey from childhood to the present day is more complicated than the archetypal story of a child prodigy earmarked for great things from a young age.
Born in Singapore, Tim was two years old when his father and former Singapore medium pacer, Rod David moved the family to Perth in the wake of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. Rod would go on to play Fourth Grade cricket for Claremont-Nedlands Cricket Club (CNCC) in addition to heading up the local MILO Have-A-Go youth cricket program.
‘That’s my earliest memory: being down at Creswell Park and Belvista Oval, which is our second ground, from when I was three years old,” David recounts fondly.
Claremont-Nedlands, who David still plays for up to this day, is his boyhood club in every sense of the word. As an eight-year-old, he first made it to their Under-10 team and would progress through the age-group system along with the likes of Joel Paris, Matt Kelly, Will Bosisto, Durham opener Cameron Steel, and Middlesex batter Steve Eskinazi.
However, as he got older, the depth of competition meant that David was still playing Second Grade for CNCC. Many of his contemporaries, in contrast, were playing First Grade having been identified as potential state and even national team players from a young age.
‘I wasn’t really getting anywhere in WA in the sense that I wasn’t a pathway player, where they identify talent at 15 and you’re basically given a lot of opportunities to press your case, so I always had to score runs to get picked in teams.’
When he did make the step up to First Grade cricket, he endured three middling seasons, averaging south of 30 with the bat in that period.
That, however, started to change in 2016. He finished as the top run-scorer in England’s Northeast Premier League, outscoring, among others, Scotland captain Kyle Coetzer and Leicestershire batter Jacques du Toit.
When he returned to Claremont-Nedlands for the Australian summer, Tim David ended the season as the leading run-scorer across formats in First Grade. On the back of such a prolific year, David forced his way into the Western Australia Under-23 team for the Futures League in 2017/18 to go with his BBL contract.
‘If I compare what I used to do when I was 18 to what I do now, I’d probably be like “that guy is wasting his time,” he says. ‘How I would train, the intensity of training… Some guys might see me train now, guys that aren’t professional cricketers, and be like “wow he’s pretty intense.” I don’t think I’m that intense when I train, but I certainly have a purpose to what I do and I don’t really want to waste time.’
David wasted no time at all, picking up a rookie contract with Western Australia for the 2018/2019 season.
Unfortunately, just as his career was taking on a new trajectory, David suffered a stress fracture in his foot and was sidelined for the rest of the season, including the Scorchers’ entire BBL campaign.
Western Australia’s deep talent pool meant that he was unable to hold onto his rookie contract after returning to full fitness the following season. David, however, barely mentions the injury setback during our conversation. Instead, he’s grateful for the opportunity to play for Singapore.
‘I certainly was pretty disappointed at the start of this season to not be contracted with WA, so it’s a great opportunity [to play for Singapore].’
‘Playing for Singapore opens up opportunities for other things, which, if I’m not contracted at home, I can pursue for a period of time… Playing on these wickets [across Southeast Asia] there’s a lot of spin, it’s hot, and it’s hard to bat, so at some point down the line I’ll be able to call on those experiences.’
Throughout his time with Singapore, Tim David has also endeavored to transfer his knowledge about professionalism and purpose-driven training to his teammates.
‘You don’t get how much preparation goes in behind the scenes for guys to perform as frequently as they do, but I was lucky to get exposed to it. This is what I’m trying to get across to some people in the Singapore unit. As we put in better performances, there’s going to be an exposure to better players and for us to keep improving, guys will have to be more professional.’
Despite his recent setbacks, the hard-hitting all-rounder has backed up his exploits for Singapore with a strong BBL season. And if the past few weeks are anything to go by, David’s professional mindset may well translate into a long-term professional contract.
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