Oct 2018 Sydney Morning Herald
Mike Hussey describes the story of Sydney grade cricketer Austin Philip as "awesome"; national deaf team coach Jason Mathers insists he is "an important part" of cricket’s future in Australia; while the secretary of the tradition-rich Parramatta club says he’s someone who "gets results".
But the only reason 18-year-old Philip can hear such ringing endorsements, or his name being read out to represent Australia at the upcoming Deaf World Cup, is because of the Cochlear implant he received after doctors confirmed he was deaf 16 years ago.
While the Indian-born tearaway’s hearing problem means he is sometimes the only Parramatta player appealing for a caught behind, he’s celebrating his selection in the Aussie squad that will compete in next month’s Deaf ICC T20 World Cup because it is another positive step towards his goal of becoming the first player with a hearing implant to play Test cricket for Australia.
“I learnt my speech by naming the world’s top cricketers.”: Austin Philip
“It means the world to represent my country,” he said of the tournament in India, from November 23. “I want to play Test cricket and I’d also like to play in the BBL, but to get there I know I must work hard, be humble and enjoy the game.” His hard-earned ability to hear and speak – things most people take for granted – have convinced Mike Hussey that Philip has the strength of character that’s needed to master any challenge. “He’s an awesome story,” said Hussey, who took time out during his playing days to meet and inspire Philip to follow his dreams after receiving an emotion-charged email about a cricket-crazy kid from Sydney’s western suburbs. “I met him and his family a long time ago at the SCG when he was just a young boy and it was great to meet him, to understand his story and to watch his career develop.
“To make the Australian deaf team is a fantastic effort by Austin because, just like the other players in the squad, he proves if you’re really passionate about something and you’re prepared to work hard, there really are no obstacles and you can achieve anything.” Philip has needed to work harder than most because recipients of a Cochlear implant undergo countless sessions with audiologists, speech therapists and teachers to learn how to hear and speak. “When I was little I couldn’t hear or speak, so all of my language lessons involved cricket,” he said of the exercises that trained his brain to convert the electrical impulses transmitted by his implant into sounds. “I learnt my speech by identifying and naming the world’s top cricketers.”
At the Deaf World Cup, Philip will have to play without a hearing device under tournament rules. While coach Mathers appreciates that could be a challenge for the players who aren’t used to it, he holds high hopes for Philip, whose family migrated to Australia when he was a six-month-old baby.
“His physical abilities are very impressive – he’s quite an athlete,” Mathers said. “He’s going to be a long-term player for the Australian deaf side and when you look at potential leadership in the years to come we want to push him and the other young guys coming through.”
Driven: Austin Phillip has set himself lofty goals in the game
There are similar hopes for him at Parramatta, a club whose honour board stretches back to 1843 and boasts such names as Richie and John Benaud, Doug Walters and Sean Abbott. “Austin is a very promising player, he’s in third grade at the moment, but I have no doubt he can make first grade,” said club official Ron Wright of Parramatta’s latest international. “He works hard, and he gets results.”