With Tasmania today announcing his contract will not be renewed, the curtain looks to have drawn on possibly the most charmed cricket career of all-time, Jason Krejza.
The man born to Eastern-European migrants and bought up in Newtown, a suburb of Sydney now more associated with petty crime and arts students then any sort of sporting endeavour (at least, ever since the demise of the Jets in 1983), managed to bumble and bluff his way through a cricket career that really should have ended on several occasions before now.
Krejza’s first bit of luck was managing to break into a NSW team due to the various national duties or injuries of Stuart MacGill, Nathan Hauritz, and Beau Casson. This despite an attitude that was roundly described as being poor and a control over his off-breaks that even a 14 year old schoolboy would be ashamed of.
More astounding career-escapes were to come. Whilst a fringe player at NSW, he tested positive to cocaine. This came to light just after he was later selected for his first test match. Which, in my book, would make him the least scrutinised and least-punished recreational drug user in Australian Sport – at least of those who tested positive. Even those who didn’t test positive, such as Andrew Johns, got put through the ringer.
His excuse for how this happened is one of my favourite stories to retell. He claimed he left his drink on a sidebar whilst he was on the dancefloor at a Sydney niteclub. He claimed he returned to his drink, took a sip, and began ‘to feel woozy’ – an affect more associated with depressants then stimulants. Jason became concerned at this, went home to sleep it off, and then informed NSW officials what had happened (which some people might read as him waking up and thinking ‘oh shit what if I get tested’), and successfully identified the substance he thought his drink was spiked with. He was withdrawn from a game and lo and behold, tested positive to cocaine.
Perhaps predicting that some may question the validity or even the likelihood of somebody in a Sydney niteclub wasting a difficult-to-procure drug that costs $400-a-gram, CA’s Acting Chief Exec at the time, Michael Brown offered the following excuse ‘"I saw a report recently that stated there were around 4000 reported cases of drink spiking last year ... and higher-profile athletes and celebrities can be targeted.” – a statement that sent shockwaves through the high-profile ranks of Domestic 2nd XI players across the country.
Following this normally-career-ending incident, Krejza wasn’t even suspended, but quietly shifted off to Australian Cricket’s version of purgatory. Tasmania. His luck didn’t finish there, however. Upon arriving in Hobart with his tail between his legs, he was determined to change his life. He was determined to change his attitude. He was determined to change his career. He was arrested for drink-driving within weeks. Despite his issues, Tasmania kept him on (think if Jesse Ryder would be afforded similar treatment). Despite their reputation and history, Krejza found himself amongst a Tasmania team who had suddenly found themselves a force in Domestic Cricket.
Krejza contributions to this, however, were debatable. A handy batting average (36) was outweighed by a bowling average of 47. But simply by being a spinner, he was on the Australian selector’s radar. They wanted anybody to replace the frankly-ridiculous riches of Australia’s previous spin stocks, highlighted by even Colin Miller possessing a better strike rate and average than Graeme Swann. He was picked for India on a hunch, and a hunch that was never going to be acted upon lest Bryce McGain – the leading shield wicket-taker that season – got injured. McGain got injured.
His first day went as expected, with the snorting restricted to toilet cubicles and not as descriptions of his off-breaks. The next day India chased quick runs. They certainly got them off Krejza, but the 205 runs he conceded also yielded 8 wickets. I’m still wondering if they’re good figures or not to this day. His total match figures were 12/358. The 2nd highest amount of runs conceded of all time. Despite that, he picked up the man of the match award.
After a particularly heavy mauling at the hands of South Africa in his next test, where they chased down a world record 4th innings total and Ricky Ponting was seen with his head in his hands in exasperation at Krejza’s inability to land even 4 consecutive balls on the cut strip, Krejza was dropped. Most thought for good. But, despite his appalling control, and owing to major injuries to Hauritz and Doherty, Krejza was picked to play in the 2011 World Cup. He played every game, despite an incredibly modest return in each one.
He has since been back in domestic cricket, toiling away without success as the 2nd choice behind Xavier Doherty for Tasmania. If this does signal the end of his career, he will end it with a test bowling average of 47, a first class average of 48, and some pretty cool kit. No doubt that if he does go down the Nathan Hauritz route of selling it at a garage sale, the lucky prick will probably have a drunk Indian Billionaire walk by and give him 100k for a training shirt.