When Oliver Davies’ father Kevin was doing his carpentry apprenticeship, he didn’t have the fortune of being mentored by the world’s best craftsmen.
But Davies’ professional cricket apprenticeship, which is barely six months old, has already featured some valuable lessons from a host of the world’s best limited-overs players. And there are more to come, as he has been included in New South Wales Marsh Cup squad alongside Steven Smith and new NSW captain Pat Cummins.
“I’m hoping to get a game. That would be absolutely amazing,” Davies told ESPNcricinfo. “But I guess I’m going to be running drinks for Steve Smith and Pat Cummins so either way I’m going to be learning a lot.”
Davies, 20, announced himself as a future star with two stunning innings in his first two BBL games for Sydney Thunder. He made 36 off 22 balls against Perth Scorchers on debut, striking three huge sixes off Jason Behrendorff and Fawad Ahmed.
He trumped that with a Player of the Match performance in his second outing against the Melbourne Renegades scoring 48 off 23 including striking five consecutive sixes. Davies was delighted to even get a game let alone perform as he did.
“I initially didn’t have any expectations of playing any games,” Davies said. “It was only because Alex Ross got injured after the second game against the Heat that I actually got a chance to play.
“I wasn’t really going in with any high expectations. I just wanted to sort of spend a full season around the group and take it in. But I ended up playing eight games. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting at the start but it was amazing. Picking the brains of Callum Ferguson, Usman Khawaja, Alex Hales, some top-quality cricketers, it was a really good experience.”
The performance against the Renegades was extra special for Davies, as he got to spend some time post-match with his childhood hero Shaun Marsh.
“Shaun Marsh was my favourite cricket growing up,” Davies said. “I didn’t really look at anyone else.
“It was when he made his Test debut in Sri Lanka in 2011 and made 141. That was one of the first games that I watched and I loved him after that. I was like, I’m going to back this guy and obviously got the chance to meet him when I was a little bit younger and then play against him.
“He came up to me before the game and had a little chat to me and after the game he said well done and said I’ll meet you back in 10 minutes and we’ll have a chat. We went back out and had a chat for 10-15 minutes which was quite good and got a little photo, which was nice.”
Davies was grateful for Ferguson’s guidance in particular in a rollercoaster debut season.
“For me, Ferg was really good chatting before my debut and then after each of my games, I’d catch up for coffees with him and check in with how I was going,” he said.
“He spoke to me a lot about giving myself a chance when I was going out and playing. More often than not I would go out there and try and hit the first or second ball to the boundary if I thought it was there but he spoke about giving yourself five, six, seven balls just to have a look and pick up the pace of the wicket, which was probably the big takeaway for me and that’s something I wish I knew a little bit earlier in the tournament. It would have been good to get that under my belt.”
Englishman Sam Billings also provided sage counsel as Davies faced the cold reality of life in the professional ranks. Following the success of his first two games, he scored just six runs in his next five innings and lost his place in the Thunder side in the latter stages of the tournament.
“I was a little bit down and he just spoke to me and said why don’t you watch some of your highlights of when you were absolutely whacking them,” Davies said. “He got me to think in a more positive mindset, like how I was playing at the start of the tournament and before then when I would go back to grade cricket and perform quite well.
“He was just dumbing it down for me and said what were you doing well when you’re batting well, and how can you get back to that now.”
WATCH – Aus U-19 cricketer Davies hits six sixes in an over
Davies responds well when things are simplified for him. His father kept things simple when throwing balls to him for hours in the backyard at home. Kevin Davies is still playing in his 50s for Warringah in the Shires in Sydney, having peeled off four half-centuries this season.
Davies junior’s closest cricket mentor, Cricket NSW Transition and Under-19 coach Anthony Clark, has also taken the same approach in coaching Davies.
The pair met when Davies was 15 and he continues to turn to Clark for advice.
“He’s probably been my biggest mentor throughout my short career so far,” Davies said. “He had a lot to do with me since NSW Under-15s. He’s really my person I go to when I’m talking about batting.
“Some coaches can get really technical. He just dumbs it right down and says play the ball late or watch it right onto the bat which for me personally that’s a lot more beneficially and take a lot more out of that than getting bombarded with technical stuff.
“He’s my main man who I go to if I need to ask anything or if I’m not doing well, I’ll always go to him.”
Opportunities are coming at Davies thick and fast. But ultimately, he knows he will need to be patient if he is to progress to where he wants to go.
“In my ideal world, I’d love to be opening the batting in every game that I play in in white-ball cricket,” Davies said. “But obviously I understand that opportunity probably isn’t going to come anytime soon for me. If I get an opportunity to play in the NSW one-day side I’ve just got to take wherever they put me at.
“I got told if I play I would be batting at six. I think that’s something I will have to adjust to. That’s the position I’m probably going to start in.”
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne