Nathan Ellis wasn't originally in Australia's ODI squad for the India tour. An injury to Jhye Richardson opened up a spot for him, and now he is relishing every moment of being with the Australia side on tour. Like pinning Virat Kohli lbw in a ten-wicket victory in the second ODI in Visakhapatnam. Like smashing the net bowlers for fun with the bat at the MA Chidambaram B Stadium, which is adjacent to the main ground, on a hot afternoon. Like answering every question at a press conference with a big smile.
With Pat Cummins and the injured Josh Hazlewood also absent for the ODIs, Ellis could get another crack at the Indians at Chepauk as Australia look to seal a rare bilateral series victory in India.
"Yeah, 100% [enjoying it]. I sort of have to pinch myself sometimes when I am wearing the Australia colours," Ellis said on Tuesday. "It is obviously a dream come true. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Josh and Pat… all the guys in the squad, it is helping my game and it is helping me as a cricketer and as a person. So, having blokes like that around the squad and being able to have coffee with in the morning or dinner with in the evening is huge. Really thankful [for the experience]."
Ellis expressed his excitement at bowling in tandem with fellow New South Wales native and leader of the attack Mitchell Starc. "Starcy has been huge for me," Ellis said. "For me, personally, he is someone I looked up to for a lot of time. He presented me my first Australia cap too. He is a big part of my Australia journey. Even up to the other day, speaking to him pre-game and post-game... He is a calming influence; he is also someone who has been there and done almost everything the game has to offer, whether it is the ups or downs. Being able to rub shoulders with someone like Starcy and sort of bounce ideas off [him] and debrief games, it is something that I've cherished. It is invaluable, I think."
On Sunday, in the second ODI, Ellis bagged the prized wicket of Kohli for 31 with a fuller ball that seamed into the batter, and he then extracted extra bounce from a length to have Ravindra Jadeja nicking off for 16. With the Chepauk track likely to be on the slower side, Ellis is prepared to adapt and dip into his back-of-the-hand slower balls - his variations have given Hobart Hurricanes a potent point of difference in the BBL.
"For me, I am not necessarily a bouncy bowler as it is," Ellis said. "As I said before, it is a matter of assessing the wicket on the day and adapting my sets of skills to the wicket. Whether it is adjusting my line, being a bit straighter… if it is not as bouncy, slower balls if needed and changing my lengths. The scores haven't dictated or gone as we thought the wickets might have played. Tomorrow is another case of not going with pre-conceived ideas and taking it as it comes.
The left-arm quick has nine five-fors now. Only two people in ODI history have more
"Obviously, it's known to spin here [in Chennai]. For me, if I was to get the opportunity, the slower balls might come into play. I think it will be a matter of assessing the wicket if we are bowling first. You get a bit more information for the batters who will come out in the second innings and vice-versa for batting first… relaying the message back on what the wicket is doing and adapting as the game sort of progresses. It has not been a high-scoring series so far, so we will have to adapt to the wicket and what is presented to us on the day."
Victory on Wednesday will hand Australia their second bilateral ODI series win in three recent attempts in India. Barring Australia, no other team has toppled India in a bilateral ODI series since 2016. Ellis' future opportunities after the Chennai ODI remains uncertain, but he feels playing in potential World Cup venues like the Wankhede and Chepauk will serve as a dry run for the main squad members for the tournament in October-November later this year.
"I mean, it's obviously a great opportunity for us as a squad to play one-day cricket in the place where we will be playing the World Cup at the end of the year," Ellis said. "It will be silly not to take out as much as we can… try and sort of emulate maybe the set-up or squad we are going to have for the World Cup. For me, I was not part of this squad initially. I was a late call-up, I am just stoked to be here. I imagine that the guys who were named in the initial squad are taking it as a dress rehearsal. Absolutely!"