An eight-for one game, dropped the next: The Jason Krejza story
Even though it only comprised of two caps, Jason Krezja’s Test career stands as one of the most unique in cricket history.
His 12 wickets in his first Test gave him the fourth best match figures on debut ever, with his dismissal of VVS Laxman rated as one of the balls of the century. But his 358 runs conceded were also the most ever in a maiden appearance. One game and one wicket later, his Test career was done.
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Speaking on The Grade Cricketer podcast, the off-spinner explained how the runs he conceded are always used to qualify the eight-for he took in his maiden innings, but he is proud of his efforts nonetheless.
“That’s always in the comments,” he said. “Everyone’s always like, ‘You got eight-for, but gee you were expensive’. And I’m like, ‘Yeah I was, but I got eight-for’. If I could describe the feeling of debuting for your country when you didn’t know a month ago you’d be in the frame for Australia, it’s ridiculous.
“It was an incredible feeling to be standing there with Ponting at midwicket, it was just mindblowing to me. Even turning up at Dubai airport, because we took the dumbest flight in the world to get there, going over India to get there for five hours and then fly back, getting to Dubai airport and seeing everybody there with their suits on was just like, ‘Man I’m part of it. I’m in’.
“It was a little bit hard for me to get the feeling that I was actually in, and I know a couple of other players have said the same thing, there was a big strong hierarchy of players that knew each other and then I’m the new young bloke coming in. I was thankful that Binga [Brett Lee] was on the tour because he was a mate already so he took me under his wing and made me feel like part of the team, but man playing that first Test…
“I remember sitting in the shed at the end of taking eight-for, just sort of slumping into the chair, and Michael Hussey comes up and says, ‘Do you know what you’ve just done?’ and just whacked me on the back. I then just gave myself that moment of being like ‘Jeez you just took eight wickets, far out.’ I was buggered. It was a lot of overs, but man that was an incredible feeling.”
Krejza said that his first wicket, Virender Sehwag, was especially pleasing because of how it validated his method of keeping on attacking even while the opposition were attacking him.
“At the beginning it was trying to get Sehwag, because he was tearing me apart,” he said. “I was like, ‘I really need to get him, and I’m not going to just bowl darts, that’s not me, so I’m just going to keep throwing it in there and if he shanks one, he shanks one. If he keeps bombing me, then he keeps bombing me.’ He tried to cut my big spinning bouncing office and chops me on.”
Then came his second and last Test, against South Africa at Perth, famous because Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers both hit hundreds as the Proteas cruised to their 414 target with six wickets to spare. Krejza conceded over four an over and was powerless to bowl Australia to victory despite the runs on the board.
He explained how conditions, his own fitness, and the expectations placed on Australian spinners in the post-Shane Warne era hampered him in that performance.
“It felt like you had to be consistent and play a big role in every game,” he said. “That’s what it felt like. In Perth it felt like I needed to take wickets and win the game on fourth innings, which on that wicket was going to be difficult, but that’s what it felt like. It felt like you had to do everything right, and if you didn’t do everything right the first couple of games, they were going to try someone else.
“That second game for me, it was probably one of the hardest conditions I’ve bowled in. I think I’d maybe only played in Perth once prior to that, and the Freemantle Doctor that comes across, it’s blustery as well. It would be howling as you come into bowl, and then as you bowl and you’re trying to adjust for it to drift away, it stops, and so then you start the ball a bit too straight because you’re expecting it to drift, and then one would drift wide because as you’re bowling the wind would pick up.
“It was very difficult to bowl, and my ankle from the last game when I twisted my ankle in Adelaide, I wasn’t 100 per cent but everyone was saying, ‘Mate you need to play’. Binga was saying, ‘If you don’t play and Haury [Nathan Hauritz] bowls well again, you never know.’ I had a massive brace on my ankle, so I wasn’t 100 per cent, but I wasn’t expecting to not go to Melbourne that next game.”
Krejza said that his dropping, and particularly the speed at which he was informed of the decision, shocked him. “I got a call about three hours after the game, before we even got on the plane, at the airport, which was quite quick. I remember saying to Binga, ‘I just got dropped. And he said, ‘Mate, they’re not gonna do it now. You’re not going to get dropped now’. I said, ‘I literally just got the call from Hilditch straight after the game. It was almost like they had the selection ready to go, based on my performance, and from there I just didn’t feel like I had a look in at all. They wanted to get in a different type of spinner, with three or four attacking quicks they needed someone to hold up an end, and that wasn’t me.
“When I was playing, my role was never, ‘you need to bowl dots, you need to be tight’. It was ‘Spin it, and we’ll set fields accordingly’. It was never, ‘Maybe you need to tie down an end here and let the quicks rotate from the other end,’ it was always, ‘Get it into the rough and spin it’. That was my strength. I was always told to come on and take a wicket. But I had to go the opposite during that time, but I was never told to do that. I was never used to tie up an end, it was always to attack.”