Michael Beer Q&A: Australia's unlikeliest opening bowler

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

Growing up around Malvern Cricket Club in the Victoria Sub-District Cricket Association (VSDCA), Michael quickly rose through the ranks after taking up left arm orthodox bowling and was soon playing Victorian Premier Firsts for St Kilda. He would go on to play 163 games for St Kilda and captain the club in 2018/19, taking 319 wickets @ 18.25 in his time there. In Western Australian Premier Cricket, he would also take 64 wickets for South Perth and Willetton.


Michael played two Test Matches for Australia, taking 3 wickets. He took 74 First Class wickets for Western Australia, 26 List A wickets for Western Australia and Victoria, and forged a 60 game Big Bash League (BBL) career where he would take 42 wickets at an economy of 6.70 for the Perth Scorchers and Melbourne Stars.

Thanks for giving up your time today Michael, let’s get started.


Q. What year were you born?

1984.


Q. When did you start playing cricket and who for?

In the under 12’s at East Malvern. Malvern didn’t have any junior teams and dad was very involved with them, that’s where I spent all my afternoons and was really my cricketing home.


Q. At what age did you start playing Premier cricket?

I think it was the year after I turned 18, so yeah, 19.


Q. Tell us about your journey to Premier Firsts?

I spent a lot of years, probably ages 14-18 down at Malvern. I started in the fourths, then went through the thirds, I pretty much skipped the seconds once I started bowling spin and had a full year in the ones where I went pretty well. I was invited to train down at St Kilda and I started in the twos that year. Shaun Graf was the captain and he was great, he really knew how to handle people and helped me get settled. We had a very strong one’s team at the time and I got my first opportunity in the last round of the 2003/04 season against Dandenong through injury. The was an injury for the first final so I played in that and was 12th man for the Grand Final when they won the flag. It was hard to break in to the one’s because when the team was full strength they didn’t really need a spinner. They had Graeme Rummans who was handy with the ball and Shawn Craig who had taken plenty of First Class wickets, and they were both in the top three. They didn’t really need a spinner but I eventually broke into the team.


Q. So when did you start bowling spin and why?

In the under 16’s I would just try and bowl as fast as I could, I wouldn’t swing the ball much and would always get smacked over my head so I had to try something different. Dad was a spinner so I started off just trying to copy his art. David Jacobi who was the club coach of Malvern told me there would always be a spot for a left arm spinner.


Q. When did you make your Premier Firsts debut and what was that like?

It was at Wesley. Funnily enough, I’m the head of cricket there now. We played Dandenong, the wicket suited spin and I took a few. It was a good occasion and it’s always your goal to try and play Premier One’s. To do it at age 19 was very exciting and doing it at a club with such rich history made it even more special, it’s something I was really proud to achieve.


Q. Tell us about your first Premier Firsts five wicket haul?

There’s a few that really stick in the memory. I’m struggling to remember but I think it was against Melbourne in one day game, it was a make up round. I came on when they were 0-90 and Liam Buchanan had about 80 odd. He chipped one to Michael Klinger and then I ran through the side, Melbourne were big arch rivals of ours as well so it was good to do it against them.


Q. In 2007, you toured England with the Victoria Emerging Players, what was the tour like and how’d you perform?

It was definitely an interesting tour. In 2005 I was in Bristol and got to be apart of that tour for about 12 days and played game with them. After that I got some opportunities in 2006 as a net bowler for Victoria and in 2007 I made the training list. There were plenty of quality players on tour and I was one of the older guys. I went ok, myself and Jon Holland did well together so it was a bit of a strong showing from the left arm spinners. When we got back Jon got some opportunities for Victoria which was good.


Q. Was it tough a decision to move to Western Australia, and did you move with the guarantee of a state contract there or was that a risk you had to take?

I’d had a few good years in District (Premier) cricket but Victoria already had Bryce McGain, Cameron White and Jon Holland as spin options. I was too old for a rookie contract so I probably matured a little too late in that respect. I’d had good discussions with Tom Moody, who was the Western Australia coach, and he was keen on bringing me over. He was replaced by Mickey Arthur and I thought, ‘ah shit, there goes that opportunity.’ Luckily, Mickey was a fan of left arm spin and I got on his books and had the opportunity to go over there. They gave me a call and a couple of hours later a signed a one year contract. By June I was off to WA and living out my childhood dream of becoming a professional cricketer.  


Q. Tell us about your First Class debut and what that was like?

I made a pair, I definitely remember that. We were playing at the WACA against Victoria. Peter Siddle bounced me and I thought it was coming at chest height but it came a bit higher and hit me on the gloves and popped up. Before it had even been caught I had Matthew Wade and a few of the other Victorian boys running past telling me where to go. We got absolutely trounced. Andrew McDonald scored a good hundred, he was struggling and we were getting a few wickets and they convinced the umpires the light was bad. We went off for bad light and the next day he smacked us around. I got David Hussey with my first wicket, Mitch Marsh and Adam Voges also got David Hussey as their first wicket, so I joined that little club. It was Mickey Arthur’s first game and he was starting to work a few things out and make some plans, but we got trounced.


Q. Your call up into Australia’s Ashes squad surprised a lot of people, did it come as a surprise to you?

At that level you get a pretty good gauge of what’s going on and where you sit. I’d had a pretty good domestic season and took a few wickets against England in a tour game, although they’d probably just gotten off the plane and were all a bit tired. I got all the right handers out too and I think that helped. I was playing Shield down in Victoria in the return match from round 1. Greg Chappell was there and he told me I was going well and they just needed to see a bit more of me, I was just happy he knew my name let alone how I’d been going! They’d been looking for a spinner and Xavier Doherty was cut from the squad unfortunately, and that put me in the frame. Warnie (Shane Warne) wrote an article in the newspaper saying that I should get selected and the story goes that he already had inside word I was going to get picked when he wrote it. I was in the squad for the Perth Test but the wicket was greener than my front nature strip and I wasn’t picked.


Q. How’d you find out you would be making your Test debut and what was that moment like?

I found out I wasn’t playing at Perth. We waited right until the toss to announce our team but I had a fair indication I wasn’t playing, they had all the cameras there ready and waiting if I was picked though. I ended up playing a Shield game down in Hobart where the wicket was even greener, funnily enough. I was in the 12 for the Boxing Day Test but it was unlikely I’d get picked, it seemed the curators almost wet the wicket the night before the game. In that match Ryan Harris broke down so I spent a lot of time sub fielding. We got to Sydney and it came down to me and Doug Bollinger to replace Ryan Harris. I had Doug knocking on my hotel door every three hours asking if I’d heard anything. The day before the game Michael Clarke announced it to the group at training.


Q. Can you tell us about your baggy green presentation?

Warnie presented me my baggy green. We played a bit together at St Kilda, so he spoke about my journey, Tom Moody might’ve actually called him sounding out about me when we were playing together. He spoke about Bristol, he went on that same trip years earlier. He told me to treasure the moment, respect it and play my role in the game. I look back and cherish my time wearing the baggy green.

Michael Beer (left) and Usman Khawaja (right) in their debut Test

Q. What was your relationship like with Shane Warne?

It was good. What I liked about him was whenever he came back to St Kilda, he was still a St Kilda bloke, maybe with a few extra cars or a few extra packets of darts.


Q. What were your nerves like when you came on to bowl for the first time in Test cricket and how did you handle them?

My heart was racing, I think I bowled a full toss to Kevin Pietersen and he put it away for four but I was just glad the ball came out. My batting was more interesting, I was just trying to calm myself down and watch the ball, the good thing was I was batting at number 11 so if I made a duck that’s what everyone was expecting, there was no expectation. It definitely helped being around the squad for a few tests because I felt like I was apart of the team and belonged.


Q. You dismissed Alastair Cook for your first Test wicket, but it was a no ball, what was going through your head when he was called back?

There’s not much I can do about it now so just get on with it and get him out again. When he was on 99, he half played at one and it went to short leg, Michael Clarke was convinced we had him so I thought I had him twice but it wasn’t to be. I didn’t end up getting him out, I don’t think anyone did. He made a fair bit that game so the no ball probably didn’t help. I ended up getting Paul Collingwood out for my first Test wicket.


Q. What was the feeling like when you finally got your first Test wicket?

Relief. I got him out a certain way in the tour game and tried the same thing. He was always looking to score and take the game on and he hit one up.


Q. What’s it like touring with the Australian team?

Touring with any side is awesome, but the hype around being with the Australian group is amazing. They’re guys you watch on TV and play against and to be touring with them, it’s just great.


Q. In the home summer of 2011/12 you had a rough outing for Australia A against New Zealand and you weren’t picked in any of the Test squads, did you think you’d get another chance to wear the baggy green at that stage?

Nathan Lyon was up and going by that stage. It was probably the year Sydney became flat and less spin friendly, it was only the overseas tours where I might’ve been in the mix. I just went back to WA with Mickey Arthur and focused on plying my craft as best I could.


Q. Before you played your second Test in the West Indies, did it get frustrating touring but not playing?

In Sri Lanka yes. It was 9 or 10 months after the Ashes, and it got a little frustrating. I was ready to go and the wickets really suited spin and my bowling. Nathan Lyon made his debut on that tour and he grabbed his opportunity with both hands. In the long run he’s just been amazing, so they obviously made the right call. They also had Trent Copeland in the team at that stage, he was really durable and almost counted for two bowlers so that made it hard to get selected.


Q. In your second Test in the West Indies, you opened the bowling in both innings, what was the thinking behind that?

The wicket at Trinidad was dead. Ryan Harris was out with some workload related rest and I came in to fill the gap. The wicket was a bit up and under and I did ok against the right handers. I got to play under Ricky Ponting which was great, he didn’t play the Sydney Test. It was awesome to get to play under such a legend of Australian cricket and it’s a definitely a career highlight playing with him.

Michael Beer bowling for Australia

Q. In your time with the Test team, who did you get along with best?

Probably Phil Hughes. A lot of guys had family on tour with them, but we didn’t. We spent a lot of time at the café together drinking coffee and getting to know each other which was good because I’d played a fair bit of Shield against him. He was a real go to guy for me when I was touring with Australia. There was also the Marsh brothers with that WA connection.


Q. What advice would you give to a young cricketer that has aspirations of playing Test cricket?

Hard work is probably the key. You’ve got your family members and people you trust, worry about their opinions of you and what they think, don’t take notice of the media’s opinions or other people’s. You have to be resilient and stay focused on what you need to do at the level you’re playing, don’t worry about the next level.


Q. What did you enjoy most about playing Test cricket?

The time I spent with the group. Travelling was great and I really upped my skills on tour. It was good knowing where I was at, in my first Test I needed to be more patient and in my second Test I knew my role a lot better.


Q. What was the most challenging aspect of playing Test cricket?

The intensity. Being away from home for long periods of time is hard, when you’re not playing it becomes very challenging.


Q. You’re a foundation player at the Perth Scorchers, before the BBL was played, what pre-conceived ideas did you have about the tournament?

I thought spin was going to get whacked. I was pretty much the sole spinner on the Scorchers list and they had Hoggy (Brad Hogg) who was on a low contract. Coulters (Nathan Coulter-Nile) got injured and Hoggy came into the team and put on a clinic. I opened the bowling and did ok, when I was bowling with Hoggy I just tried to bowl tight so they would have to go at one of us.


Q. In your eyes, what has the BBL done for domestic cricketers and the domestic cricket scene?

It put domestic cricket in the spotlight. You go from playing a Shield game in front of six people to a packed stadium where you’ve literally got people hanging off the rafters. For six to eight weeks you’re a well known person and you go out for drink with the team and everyone knows who you are. You fall of your perch pretty quickly though and soon you’re back to playing Shield in front of four people. The BBL also really enhanced the skills of domestic cricketers. When it started no one would take the bowler on over mid on, now you see blokes mishitting it down there and clearing the boundary by 20 metres.


Q. When you were growing up, did you ever think that you’d be playing domestic cricket in front of such big crowds?

Growing up, I dreamt about playing in at the MCG a lot and wished to play for Victoria and Australia. As you get older your aims lower and I was happy to play firsts in Subbies (Victorian Sub-District Cricket Association) at Malvern. As you start ticking some boxes your aims get slightly higher and it all happens so quickly and suddenly your dream of playing for Australia is realistic again. There’s always a chance things can go down as quickly as they went up which is why I never got too far ahead of myself.


Q. Does a big crowd add any extra pressure or nerves when you’re playing?

Absolutely. I played a derby game in front of 80 000, we bowled first and I kind of tried to block it out and didn’t think about it much. Once we were batting I really just tried to soak in the atmosphere, it was incredible. When you do something, your teammates start celebrating and it’s followed by this huge roar.


Q. In the first two BBL seasons, you played in two losing grand finals, in the third season the Scorchers won but you fell out of favour and missed out on the premiership, was that hard to deal with?

Not really. Justin Langer later admitted that trying to keep Pat Cummins at the Perth Scorchers was a factor in his selection ahead of me. That didn’t sit well with me and Pat ended up leaving anyway. I played my part throughout the tournament and was happy with how I contributed. There was a lot of strength in the side. It’s disappointing not to be in the XI but I was very glad the Scorchers won.


Q. Before the fourth BBL season, you signed with the Melbourne Stars, how’d the move come about?

I was in India with the Scorchers for the Champions League. I didn’t get picked on one of the dustiest pitches I’d ever seen, that gave me a fair indication of where I stood with the Scorchers so I sought around for other teams. The Stars were pretty keen to get me across and I was pretty keen to come home, it was a great decision and I loved my cricket there.

Michael Beer playing for the Melbourne Stars

Q. You played in a few unsuccessful final’s campaigns including another losing grand final with the Melbourne Stars, was it disappointing to never win a BBL title?

Absolutely. It’s going to happen for them sooner rather than later, they’ve worked so hard and deserve it. Back in BBL 05 we had a good chance but Usman Khawaja batted out of his skin and almost single-handedly won Thunder the title. The Stars are getting very close and they’ll get there.


Q. What was your favourite aspect of the BBL?

The energy, the fun, and the hype it gave domestic cricketers for six to eight weeks. Everyone’s really enjoying themselves, the national team is already picked and playing so you haven’t got players stressed about national selection. It’s great.


Q. What was the highlight of your domestic career in each format?

In Shield cricket, it would have to be my 7-fa against a very handy New South Wales side, Liam Davis got 300 that match and you couldn’t predict how well we would’ve won the game.

In One Day cricket it was probably just playing for Victoria after losing my contract with Western Australia, it was an honour to represent Victoria where I’d grown up and I was very grateful for the opportunity.

In the BBL, it was probably the whole experience. The Melbourne Stars taught me a lot and I loved every minute there. From a people point of view nothing beats playing in front of 80 000 people, playing with great mates and guys from St Kilda like Rob Quiney and Peter Handscomb, it’s unreal.


Q. You played a couple of games for Perth in the old T20 Champions league tournament, what was the tournament like?

I went to three Champions League tournaments from memory, two in India and one in South Africa. The one in South Africa I didn’t play too well but it was a good tournament and a really good couple of weeks. In India we struggled but it gave a real taste of what the IPL (Indian Premier League) is like. We were playing teams like Chennai and Mumbai and guys like MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar, they created plenty of challenges.


Q. How did the teams you played in the Champions League compare to the BBL?

It was very up and down. Perth got decimated every time, we were losing Mitchell Johnson, Michael Hussey and Nathan Coulter-Nile to IPL teams. In South Africa we nearly knocked over a great team that had the like of David Warner and Morne Morkel.


Q. Is it disappointing that the Champions League was discontinued?

Absolutely it’s disappointing. Teams used to celebrate qualifying for the Champions League more than the BBL title itself, that’s how good the tournament was. It was funny, the semi final was almost like the real big game since if you won that you qualified, I guess when it ended it placed more emphasis on the BBL title. Obviously, the funding wasn’t there but they should look into starting it up again, it’s a great experience.


Q. You were one of the first spinners to be utilised as a powerplay bowler in white ball cricket, whose decision was it to play you in that role?

I opened the bowling for WA in the lead up to the BBL and I opened a lot in club cricket, even at St Kilda. At the higher levels it really just comes down to the match ups and conditions. Most of the time, especially back then, openers were used to facing pace so it was a good way to catch them off guard.


Q. Did you change anything about the way you would usually bowl when you were bowling in the powerplay?

Yeah, I didn’t try and spin the ball, even though people will tell you I didn’t spin it anyway. I just tried to skid the ball on and the new ball had some nice curve.


Q. For a period you were playing all three forms of cricket at domestic level, is it difficult to transition between red ball cricket and white ball cricket?

Going into white ball cricket, it’s not difficult. The biggest issue is getting ready for red ball cricket after you’ve been playing white ball cricket. It probably took me three years to workout how to transition from white ball to red ball. In white ball cricket my action completely went out the window and your action’s pretty crucial in red ball cricket when you’re trying to get more spin, dip and so on. You look at club cricket now and they basically make that transition every week.


Q. What was your favourite format of the game to play and why?

The hype of T20 was definitely great, I loved the longer form though. There’s a bit of relief when you don’t have the hustle and bustle between balls like you do in the T20. You have to compete over long periods of time and be consistent over long periods of time, that’s what I love.


Q. Which format do you think suited your bowling best?

Probably T20. I played a lot of Shield where I could play my role and tie up an end in the first innings. If an opportunity came in the second innings and the rough had opened up and there was a chance to win the game, I enjoyed that.

Michael Beer (left) celebrating a wicket for Victoria with Peter Handscomb (right)

Q. How does the standard of Premier cricket in Western Australia compare to Premier cricket in Victoria?

They’re similar, I would say Western Australia is just behind, but it’s down to population. There’s similar if not the same amount of teams in both comps but WA has a much smaller population. I would say the factor that gives Victoria an edge in standard is simply the fact they have a bigger population.


Q. How do you compare the standards of First Class cricket, Futures League (2nd XI), and Premier Cricket?

They’re different games at each of those levels, the conditions, balls, everything. In Premier cricket you have a ‘rego’ ball. In the Futures League they changed some rules and there’s more younger kids which has made the standard a bit lower. First Class cricket is very good. If they could somehow lessen the gap in standard between the three that would be great and would make the jump to First Class cricket much easier.


Q. I believe you’re an assistant coach with the Stars WBBL team and development coach with the men, how’d you find your way into those roles and how are you finding them?

Even in WA, Justin Langer always told me I had to get into coaching, I was almost like an extra coach up there when I was playing, Adam Griffith who has Tassie’s head coach said the same thing. I did the Cricket Australia courses once I finished playing. I find it’s easier for people to coach what they’ve experienced, and I’ve got a degree in Phys Ed teaching, so I fit the role pretty well. It’s just a case of getting in there and finding where I fit. I would like to be a head coach one day but there’s no rush at all.


Q. Is coaching something you’re keen on pursuing?

Absolutely, I really enjoy doing it and love giving the players the same opportunities that I had. Whether it’s coaching in the Vic Pathways or anywhere I’m happy to help.


Q. What are your thoughts on women’s cricket and where do you see it in five years time?

It’s definitely growing, we saw eight weeks ago how big it can be. There’s lots of younger girls coming through and getting great opportunities the older heads didn’t have. We’re seeing 16-17 year old’s playing WBBL and there’s a really skilled crop of girls coming through. The women’s game is in a really strong place, at least in Australia.


Q. In 2018/19 you captained St Kilda, how much of an honour was that and how’d you find it?

It was a great honour, I had a fair bit going on with employment and stuff but I had a great group of coaching staff that really supported me. If someone said 20 years ago that I’d be captaining St Kilda I would’ve laughed. It’s disappointing that I can’t this year because of those employment reasons but the group’s getting really close and the futures bright.


Q. You also captained a few state 2nd XI games in your career, did you find it difficult managing when to bowl yourself as captain?

Not really, it depends on what’s going on in the game and so forth but I know when to bowl myself and when I can take wickets and it’s not something I find challenging.


Q. Who are some of the best batsmen you’ve bowled too?

Alastair Cook, he’s a champion. Kevin Pietersen, for England and I’ve spent a fair bit of time bowling to him with the Melbourne Stars. Chanderpaul, he’s a class act in his home conditions. In Australia there’s about two guys in every side. I bowled a lot to Steve Smith when he was younger, back then he was a bit looser but still very good, David Warner’s another one.


Q. Who would you rate as some of your best scalps?

I don’t know really, that’s a tough one. I got Steve Smith out, I got Kevin Pietersen, Ross Taylor in the Champions League T20 is another one. I got Mohammad Arfeez in one game too, he makes a lot of international runs nowadays.


Q. Which bowling performances of yours stand out to you as your best?

Definitely my 7-fa at the WACA against New South Wales. Nine or ten of that 11 have gone on to play international cricket at some stage.


Q. Can you tell us about some of the best wins you’ve been involved in?

That one I just mentioned against New South Wales, that was awesome. In the West Indies, we won the Test series, I played in the drawn Test. On Australian tours, we won in Sri Lanka, even though I didn’t play that was another good one to be apart of. In the BBL it was always nice playing for the Stars when we beat Perth, beating your old mates and the history you have with them is good fun.


Q. You’ve played with a lot of great cricketers over your career, can you pick an XI of the best players you’ve played at least a few games with?

That’s pretty challenging, I’ll have to give you two XI’s, one at club level and one at domestic level.


At club level:

Graeme Rummans (St Kilda)

Shawn Craig (St Kilda)

Michael Klinger (St Kilda)

Rob Quiney (St Kilda)

Peter Handscomb (St Kilda)

Hilton Cartwright (South Perth)

Glenn Lalor (St Kilda)

Shane Warne (St Kilda)

Damon Rowan (wk) (St Kilda)

Adam Warren (St Kilda)

Adrian Jones (St Kilda)

12th Brad Hogg (Willetton)

And at domestic level:

Marcus Harris (WA/VIC)

Herschelle Gibbs (Perth Scorchers)

Kevin Pietersen (Melbourne Stars)

Adam Voges (WA)

Michael Hussey (WA)

Shaun Marsh (WA)

Luke Ronchi (wk) (WA)

Nathan Coulter-Nile (WA)

Michael Hogan (WA)

Nathan Rimmington (WA)

Brad Hogg (Perth Scorchers)

12th Scott Boland (Melbourne Stars)

Q. Across your career who were your biggest influencers or mentors?

Number one is definitely my dad, as a kid growing up, he was awesome. It’s hard to pick people out at St Kilda, Graeme Rummans is one. I called on him a lot when I was in WA, he had a great knowledge of the system and was a great bloke. Shaun Graf is another one. At WA Mickey Arthur was first class too.


Q. Looking back on your career is there anything you’d do differently?

Probably not. If you told me when I was 19 or 20 what I would achieve, I definitely would’ve taken it. I did elbow Steve Smith once and got fined, going back I probably wouldn’t do that again but it’s just the heat of the moment.


Q. What is your proudest moment as a cricketer?

Getting my baggy green, hands down, I was very lucky to get the opportunity to play for Australia. Looking back now, the blokes I catch up with and the relationships I was able to build solely through cricket, they’re really special too.


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