Chris Dutton from the Sydney Morning Herald writes about PNG’s young batting maestro Lega Siaka on taking on the big stage playing alongside some of the big names in cricket like Michael Hussey and Glen Maxwell against the touring England team. All the best buddy!
Lega Siaka grew up hitchhiking to matches and sharing equipment with his mates to reach his goal of playing cricket for Papua New Guinea.
Siaka will become only the fifth international player to line up for the Prime Minister’s XI when he faces England in Canberra on Wednesday.
It is a world away from his life as a junior outside Port Moresby, where he would try to find transport to games by asking around his village.
Now he catches the train and tram in Melbourne as he laps up the experience of a Twenty20 Big Bash League contract with the Renegades.
“We would share pads and bats and to get to the game you’d have to go and ask around town to see if anyone could take you out there.
“It’s tough to get your own gear back home, and good stuff. But I got some when I came to Melbourne … and when I go back I’ll share my good equipment with my teammates.
“When I started playing cricket I had nothing. I was asking for pads and gloves. Now I will share my gear with them.”
Siaka has spent the past two seasons playing for Essendon in Melbourne’s club competition, as he aims to lift PNG to a World Cup in the future.
The 22-year-old scored PNG’s first century in their inaugural one-day international series against Hong Kong in November.
He caught the eye of Renegades coach Simon Helmot, who offered Siaka a rookie deal to train alongside the likes of Peter Siddle, Aaron Finch and James Pattinson.
“He still has to fend for himself … he’s got some good equipment and Renegades attire, that’s a perk,” Helmot said. “It just shows the diversity of opportunities that people have in their national programs.
“I think it’s been a great learning curve for him. I think he’ll benefit from it and it’s a great initiative in the Big Bash.”
PNG failed to qualify for the World Cup this year, but have risen to 16th in the world rankings and beat Hong Kong in their first ODI series.
The major sport in PNG is rugby league, and Siaka grew up idolising Darren Lockyer and the Brisbane Broncos. But he made a decision to switch his focus to cricket.
“Cricket is getting bigger now – more people are into it back home,” Siaka said. “I’m a fisherman as well … when I get a break from cricket I just go to my brother’s place and go fishing.
“It’s tough to get to games back home, but the trains and trams are easier. I’m really excited to play in Canberra in front of a big crowd.”