These are busy times for cricketers involved in the Indian Premier League 2017. As exciting as it may seem, the two-month cross-country extravaganza takes a lot out of the players, battling through the grind without the comfort of family and friends.
For instance, Moises Henriques, who has been chipping in well for Sunrisers Hyderabad in their title defence, was last seen on instagram one week into the tournament, when he posted a picture of himself with Moreton, his golden retriever, with a caption reading ‘I miss dancing with this legend.’
“Oh, he’s a real leveller, I’ll be honest, I’m missing him a lot over here in India,” Henriques told Wisden India when asked what was his favourite thing to do after a tough day in the middle. “Back in Australia, when I’m playing domestic cricket or sometimes, international cricket at home, it doesn’t matter whether the day has gone well or not on the field, I know that he’s going to be waiting right there when I get back. It’s a very nice way of being welcomed home.”
On his time at Sunrisers Hyderabad:
“I have really enjoyed the opportunity I have got here. Coming back to the same team year after year really helps because you are coming back to a lot of friendships you have made, and it kind of makes the stay away from home a lot more easier rather than going to a new team every year and not knowing what it is going to be like. Knowing the staff, the coaching unit and a lot of players over the years makes it much more enjoyable.”
Henriques lives in Sydney, where he grew up playing most of his cricket during his formative years, but was born to Portuguese parents in the city of Funchal, which, co-incidentally, is also the birth-place of football legend Cristiano Ronaldo.
“That connection is not often brought up by me, it’s almost always the journalist who picks that up,” Henriques clarifies. “I don’t even speak Portuguese or anything like that, though I have tried learning the language in the past.”
It would be fair to say Henriques comes from a sporting background, though he grew up under circumstances very different from those which existed during the times of his father Alvaro, who had to hide from his strict parents to play professional football for Camara de Lobos in Portugal’s second-division league.
The Henriques family – Alvaro and wife Anabella, along with three sons (Moises, Nicholas and Robert) – settled in Peakhurst, a southern suburb near Sydney, after moving in at a time when Moises was only a toddler. Nobody in the household had a clue what cricket was till the eldest son started playing the sport, though things have changed drastically since then.
“Well now they give me professional tips on how I should be playing my game,” smiles Henriques. “Back in the day, they definitely had no idea what cricket was, and they only knew soccer, or what they call football.”
So was it just cricket that attracted the young Henriques, growing up in the high-brow sporting society of New South Wales?
“For some reason, cricket was the first sport that I had a real passion for and gave a lot of time to,” he remembers. “Once I started playing sports in school, I got into a lot of other sports, but cricket has always been the No. 1 choice for me.”
Henriques was only 16 when he was named in Australia’s Under-19 squad for the 2004 Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh. Two years later, he made his List A debut against Victoria to become the youngest ever to represent New South Wales. A Twenty20 International debut came by in 2009, and Kolkata Knight Riders were the first IPL side to notice his all-round prowess, offering him a contract the same year. The journey led to a One-Day International debut during Australia’s tour of India later that year and finally, the baggy green for the longest format, also against India, in 2013.
Henriques’s proximity with the cricket-obsessed fans in the country has made him a well-known figure amongst Indians, and he doesn’t mind the extra request for an autograph or a selfie anymore.
On the collision with Rory Burns which broke his jaw in three places:
“It was a little bit of a hurdle, and I am lucky to be back on the field and carrying on playing the sport I love. Rory came out and played for my local club in Sydney last year and he stayed at my house, so we are actually quite good friends now after the incident. We do happen to speak about it often and I am going to be back playing for Surrey in a couple of months’ time. So I will probably spend a lot of time with him again but I would like to see him on the opposite side of the ground this time!”
“I think it’s really cool to be given an opportunity to have a positive impact on people like that,” he reflects. “It (the attention) is not something I probably wanted initially, but it’s actually quite nice to have such fans around you. Yes, sometimes, when it’s a big crowd and in public areas, when we are trying to get from one place to another, it can get difficult to keep everyone happy. But whenever I do get a chance to be able to spend some time with a fan and make him or her happy, I try to do so.”
Henriques went from Kolkata to Delhi Daredevils to Mumbai Indians to Royal Challengers Bangalore before settling in, and becoming a vital cog, at the Hyderabad franchise for the past three editions.
“I have really enjoyed the opportunity I have got here,” he points out. “Coming back to the same team year after year really helps because you are coming back to a lot of friendships you have made, and it kind of makes the stay away from home a lot more easier rather than going to a new team every year and not knowing what it is going to be like. Knowing the staff, the coaching unit and a lot of players over the years makes it much more enjoyable.”
Only time can tell whether Hyderabad can defend their title this season, but Henriques will be flying out to England soon after, to join his Australian teammates for the Champions Trophy in June.
“It has been a fantastic last couple of years for me, and I always take the field trying to be a better player than I was yesterday,” he insists. “It’s great that I have been selected in the squad, but I really do not want to change much about how I approach my cricket because of that. I just want to remain positive and learn from yesterday for a better tomorrow, if that makes sense. I am stoked to have the opportunity to maybe play for Australia in the tournament, but even if I do not get to be part of the playing XI, my aim will be to bide my time and keep getting better at what I do.”
A big chunk of that gratitude towards the sport, by Henriques’s own admission, comes from the realisation that he was lucky to still be playing, having suffered a horrible accident in June, 2015 when he broke his jaw in three places after an on-field collision with Surrey teammate Rory Burns while attempting a catch.
“It was quite a serious injury, but I guess when i look back and think about the operations and rehabilitation programs, it went pretty smoothly,” he recollects. “I was pretty lucky in the end. It probably wasn’t an ideal thing to happen, you want to play as much cricket as you can, but then, a lot of people do get into a lot worse situations than that. It was a little bit of a hurdle, and I am lucky to be back on the field and carrying on playing the sport I love.”
The incident has taught its lessons to Henriques, and he now makes sure not to get anywhere close to such a mishap again.
“Rory came out and played for my local club in Sydney last year and he stayed at my house, so we are actually quite good friends now after the incident,” he quips. “We do happen to speak about it often and I am going to be back playing for Surrey in a couple of months’ time. So I will probably spend a lot of time with him again but I would like to see him on the opposite side of the ground this time.”