If it wasn’t for the late, great Shane Warne, Australian spinner Peter Hatzoglou would not be on the brink of making his Hundred debut at Lord’s.
It’s because of Warne that Hatzoglou is even in the UK this summer, having followed the legendary Australia leg-spinner’s advice to come play club cricket and give himself the chance of securing a Hundred contract.
After being called up by Oval Invincibles, Hatzoglou is set to face London Spirit, who Warne coached in the inaugural tournament, in front of a full crowd on Saturday.
It would cap a whirlwind year for Hatzoglou, who was still working for KPMG in Australia in April.
“I’ve always sought out advice from those who’ve come before me and I reached out to Warne last year,” said Hatzoglou.
That came after Warne had effusively praised Hatzoglou while commentating on one of his first Big Bash League appearances, during a remarkable breakthrough 2020-21 season in which he took 17 wickets for Melbourne Renegades.
“I’ve been impressed with this guy,” said Warne. “It’s very hard to score off him – I think there would be a lot of interest in Hatzoglou around the world.”
As a leg-spinner, hearing Warne praise your bowling is the cricketing equivalent of having Lionel Messi compliment your dribbling skills or Tiger Woods endorsing your golf swing. It simply doesn’t get better.
“That was one of the reasons why I reached out to him initially, I honestly just wanted to thank him,” said Hatzoglou.
“Even to this day, I’ve got a clip on my phone from when he commentated on one of my overs and whenever I need a bit of a confidence boost, I watch that video.
“To have someone like him endorse me is huge.”
Their relationship developed to the point that Warne encouraged Hatzoglou to play club cricket in the UK and they last spoke in February this year, a month before the spin legend’s tragic death aged 52.
“I don’t know if I would have come to the UK to play this season if it wasn’t for him,” added Hatzoglou.
“I remember being in my office and after I got those messages from him, encouraging me to come out and play some club cricket here, I asked my partner at work what he thought and he said, ‘Just get out of here, go to the UK.’
“When Shane is asking you to do something like that you go and do it.”
Hatzoglou quit his job, packed his bags and flew to the UK to play in the East Anglia Premier League for Sawston and Babraham Cricket Club.
After a successful summer with the Cambridgeshire side he was picked up by the Invincibles for the final stages of The Hundred to replace Sunil Narine, the top wicket-taker in the 2022 tournament so far, who has departed for the Caribbean Premier League.
“I didn’t think three years ago that I’d be sitting here looking over the Thames in a hotel with the Invincibles, playing alongside the Currans and Billings, Rossouw, all sorts of guys – it’s incredible,” he said.
Not long ago, a cricket career seemed so unlikely that Hatzoglou took a year-long break from the game to prioritise his exams.
“At 18, I was playing village cricket, I’d never even played in a state cricket age-group team,” he said.
“Cricket wasn’t a reality for me – while I was doing my Australian equivalent of A-Levels, I didn’t even play cricket, I took a year off to focus on those.”
In 2016, after completing his exams, Hatzoglou joined village side Sunshine Heights in Victoria, becoming the club treasurer – a position he still held long after his BBL debut.
In 2019, he came to the UK and played for Ashton on Mersey in the fourth division of the Cheshire Cricket League.
It certainly wasn’t the most glamorous start to a cricketing career, but his undeniable talent was eventually spotted, and in 2020 he was drafted by the Renegades in the BBL, before moving to Perth Scorchers for the 2021-22 season.
“My first season of the Big Bash I was still the club treasurer reimbursing the third XI captain and paying the umpire on the weekend – it’s been really funny and fantastic,” he said.
“I guess my story is as good as any in encouraging people to persevere and hope for the best in a cricketing career.”
Despite his rising star status, Hatzoglou hasn’t forgotten his roots. He was born to a Greek father and a North Macedonian mother, and his heritage matters to him.
“I speak both languages and it’s always been important to me,” he said. “I’m going to Greece later this year to travel around for a little bit and potentially link up with the Greek national cricket team.”
Before a trip to Greece though, Hatzoglou has some revision to do. Following The Hundred, he will return to Australia and head to the library to prepare for upcoming exams.
“I’m studying for my Chartered Financial Analyst exams at the minute, so that takes up a lot of my time outside of the game,” he said.
“It’s a case of having a really solid back-up plan. It allows me to play with a lot of freedom when I am on the field.”
You’d forgive Hatzoglou if, unlike with his A-Levels, he allows himself some time off revision for the occasional game of cricket.