Nathan McAndrew has treasured memories of Sydney Thunder’s maiden Big Bash League title, when the paceman was a “deer in the headlights” during a remarkable start to his professional career.
McAndrew, Usman Khawaja and Chris Green, who all played during the 2015-16 finals, are seeking to deliver the Thunder another crown.
McAndrew, now nearing the end of his sixth BBL season, had been plucked from the obscurity of grade cricket as a replacement for Pat Cummins that summer.
McAndrew debuted at a sold-out SCG then won a semi-final in front of almost 50,000 fans, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Mike Hussey, Shane Watson, Andre Russell and Jacques Kallis.
Kallis returned for the ensuing final, meaning McAndrew was dropped.
A first-class debut for Auckland as “probably the cheapest overseas recruit of all time” followed, thanks to a good reference from Bankstown teammate and former New Zealand player Daryl Tuffey.
McAndrew ended the NZ stint to help Bankstown win one-day and two-day competitions, capping the most surreal of summers for an engineering student never sighted in Cricket NSW’s elite pathway.
“As far as being dropped goes, it’s pretty easy to take when it’s for Jacques Kallis,” the right-armer recalled.
“That first BBL season is a blur … some incredible ‘pinch yourself’ moments.
“Amazing memories of celebrating winning the tournament, we’d love to do that again.”
The 27-year-old, who looms as a key player in Thunder’s elimination final against Brisbane on Sunday, managed six games in his first four BBL campaigns.
He is now a strike bowler; few players have exhibited as much development over the past two seasons.
The change can be attributed to the allrounder training like a professional with NSW throughout the year.
A state contract has also reunited McAndrew with NSW bowling coach Andre Adams, his mentor at Auckland and a vital sounding board for Mitchell Starc in recent years.
“Andre’s changed my life in the cricket sense,” McAndrew said.
“He’s taken me from being a fringe player at this level to someone who believes they can compete in all three formats.
“I certainly doubted whether I was going to be good enough but I was going to give it 100 per cent until I was told I wasn’t.”
Thunder coach and former New Zealand tearaway Shane Bond is glad that McAndrew stuck at it.
“The more he plays, the better he seems to get. There’s still more in the tank too, which is the exciting part,” Bond said.
“He’s got serious pace.
“People don’t realise he is a proper allrounder.
“He’s a really important part of our team. I’m excited to see what the future holds.”