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Will Young: A terror attack, a foundation to help kids, injuries, and a long wait to stardom

Will Young might not have got his hundred but the journey to Kanpur has been fascinating. From terror attacks to foundations to help kids, Young knows how to wait for his moment.

Written by Sriram Veera |
Updated: November 27, 2021 11:49:06 am
New Zealand's Will YoungNew Zealand's Will Young plays a sweep shot shot during the day two of their first test cricket match with India in Kanpur, India, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Kane Williamson. Ross Taylor. Tom Latham. Or perhaps even Tom Blundell. If someone was quizzed which New Zealand batsman would be the first to get real close to getting a hundred against India with three spinners in Kanpur, not many would have picked Will Young. It wasn’t to be as he edged a floater from Ashwin that kept low and KS Bharat, standing in for the injured Wriddhiman Saha, plucked a superb catch. The wait for hundred might continue for now but this is a man who knows how to wait.

Young had just seen the Bangladesh team bus pull up at the Christchurch Oval after attending his first press conference for New Zealand ahead of his Test debut in March 2019. It was pelting down and he and Tim Southee, slated to captain a Test for the first time, pulled up to their team hotel when the players got a text message. “There is a gunman on the loose in Christchurch, everyone get back to the hotel immediately.” Young would soon learn that it was the terrorist attack at the mosque where Bangladesh players were congregating.

Young and others gathered in a room at the hotel, gaping at the television in horror. “It was devastating for everyone. I didn’t even think about cricket. It was just without question that the game was going to be called off,” Young recalled to the Live Magazine. “I was told that the (Bangladesh) team bus pulled into the driveway of the mosque as people were running out to flee from the killer. It was an act of God really that no one from that team was hurt.” It took a week for it to sink that his chance to debut for New Zealand was gone as that was the last game of the season.

His next hope was the 50-over world cup that year. But in a freak accident at training, he hurt his left shoulder. A surgery would need nine months of rehab, he was told. Instead, he went on a tour of Australia for an unofficial ODIs series with New Zealand XI, hit back to back hundreds (130 and 111) and averaged over 100 in the three-game series. But when he came back, it was clear that he would need a surgery which put him out for months and the chance to play the world cup had faded away.

Will young, IND vs NZ New Zealand’s Will Young plays a shot during the day two of their first test cricket match with India in Kanpur, India, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Not only was he worried about coming back to fitness, he fretted that nine months away from the game and the shoulder surgery might affect his style of batting. He turned inwards. “Why I play the game, what I want to get out of it … I asked myself what I can do to give back to the game.”

Instead of venting and sliding into self-pity, he started to look outside to help. He set up The Will Young Cricket Trust to help kids tidy over financial hurdles and play cricket.

“It’s available for any aspiring Taranaki cricketer, male or female, to apply for coaching sessions, gear, to attend tournaments or whatever financial barrier they may be facing,” he tells the magazine. “That’s something I’m really proud of and something good that came out of that nine month rehab and reflection”

He returned to cricket, found runs immediately, moved up the ladder once again, and was told he would play the first Test against West Indies in Hamilton, after BJ Watling got injured. “I didn’t bat for anywhere long enough, but it was still an awesome moment.” He had called his close ones to come watch the game.

Next chance came just before the world Test championship final against India when Kane Williamson sat out a Test against England. Young made 82 at Edgbaston against England in front of Barmy Army fans. “They were so loud and just so much fun to play in front of.”

New Zealand fans at the stadium cooked up a song on him, that was sung around the song Forever Young. One of them messaged that song to him that night. “I can’t remember it now but they changed the some words to encompass me and batting. IT was really funny and neat to get that from some random Kiwi in the crowd.”

More happy memories would come floating by. Sitting with the Test championship maze in the business-class flight back home. When couple of hours were left for touchdown, someone pushed aside the blinds. “And you could see the sunrise coming up over the white cloud, you know the Land of the Long White Cloud. It was about 4 am New Zealand time and to see that was pretty special.” The team ordered a round of drinks “Baileys on the rocks” before they landed.

His personal batting highlight would be that knock against England. “To make 82 in front of a packed stand of Barmy Army fans, who had just got out of 18 months of lockdown, is definitely my career highlight to date.”

Until, Kanpur raised that bar. Almost a hundred in the first Test in India. Not bad for a guy who would buy 2$ lolly mixture to any neighbour kid who could bowl and get him out.

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