Baxter Holt’s determined approach to a gruelling recovery program that would’ve tested any athlete’s depth of desire was rewarded when Sydney Thunder signed him to a one-year-deal to play in this summer’s KFC Big Bash League campaign.
The 21-year-old, who provided a glimpse of his exciting potential in the two matches he played for Thunder during BBL|08, was forced to spend time over the last 12 months re-programming his body how to properly move, walk, and even stand up, after suffering a debilitating back injury.
“About three years ago my back started to play up after I tore my left hamstring four times in the space of 12 months,” said Holt. “We scanned my back thinking that could maybe be an issue for it, and discovered I had a slight bulging disc pressing a nerve.”
Holt soldiered on for 18 months, but he said the the injury became unbearable last October while representing the Cricket Australia XI in a T20 match against Pakistan at Bankstown Oval.
“I really struggled to get through that, and I actually struggled getting out of a squat [position after a ball was bowled],” he said.
“Talking to the doctor, we knew it was time to hang it up for a bit. That was the start of about four months I had out last year.
“I missed the bulk of last season; I only played 10 games, which is tough. I pretty much had to re-teach myself to move and how to walk... as basic as it sounds... how to stand up, just so I wasn’t in all that pain and to completely relax my muscles all round my back.”
Holt, who is studying a Bachelor of Counselling degree, said he’d used his time while stranded on the sideline to take stock of himself ‘holistically’.
“We spend so much time and effort focussing on cricket, it was actually nice to have a bit of time out of the game – as different as that sounds – just to focus on life outside of cricket,” he said.
However, as the keeper who hit 37 runs off 28 balls, took two catches and made a stumping during his debut for Thunder against Melbourne Renegades in BBL|08, Holt said he’s keen to get back into the adrenaline-charged Big Bash League arena.
“It feels great to be back, and I ‘m grateful for that opportunity,” said Holt of returning to Sydney Thunder.
“To have the opportunity I did a couple of years ago, playing at the SCG in front of 36,000 was an incredible night, and hopefully there’s a few more like that this year.”
Holt, a former student of The King’s School in North Parramatta, said he'd been humbled by the support Cricket NSW and Sydney Thunder provided to him during his fightback.
“The amount of support [Cricket NSW and Sydney Thunder have] shown me for the last 12 months when I haven’t played any cricket, and still give me contracts... still want me to play cricket... gives me a lot of hope, which is really nice,” he said.
Thunder coach Shane Bond said the club kept close tabs on Holt – who took a state record six catches in the first innings of his Sheffield Shield debut for NSW – despite his tough battle with injuries.
“We always had our eye on Baxter because we think he’s going to be a very fine player,” said Bond. “He’s had some injury problems with his back, but he’s fit again.
“We lost a few keepers in my first season as coach a couple of years ago [Jos Buttler to England duties, Jay Lenton and Matt Gilkes to injuries] so we went to Baxter. While I liked his temperament, he also batted well for us.
“With what Baxter showed at Big Bash level a few years ago, we know he’s got some real potential and we’re very excited to have him in the squad.”
Sydney Thunder is set to open its tenth KFC BBL campaign on 12 December 2020 against the Melbourne Stars at Manuka Oval in Canberra.
Memberships are now on sale, starting from $40 and including access to a host of exclusive benefits and discounts. Visit sydneythunder.com.au/membership for more information.
Sydney Thunder BBL Squad
Head Coach: Shane Bond
Contracted for BBL|10: Callum Ferguson (C), Sam Billings, Jonathan Cook, Ben Cutting, Oliver Davies, Brendan Doggett, Matthew Gilkes, Chris Green, Alex Hales, Baxter Holt, Usman Khawaja, Nathan McAndrew, Adam Milne, Arjun Nair, Alex Ross, Daniel Sams, Jason Sangha, Tanveer Sangha, Chris Tremain