Twenty20 all-rounder Daniel Christian admits he made a ''life-changing'' fortune thanks to last year's Indian Premier League auction, but he swears the financial security has not changed his pursuit of his dream to play Test cricket.
Gayatri Reddy, the owner of the Indian Premier League team Deccan Chargers, stunned the cricketing world when she splashed out $900,000 on Christian to join her stable alongside superstars such as as Kumar Sangakkara and Dale Steyn. It was 18 times more than the $50,000 the Australian started on, and when Reddy fronted a curious media who asked ''Dan who?'' her response was, at best, underwhelming.
''We believe Dan Christian is a good buy,'' she said. ''He is a good fast bowler and a decent batsman. He is also a brilliant fielder.''
She did not mention Christian's overcoming of setbacks, such as being dismissed as not good enough to play for Campbelltown's under-16 team, or that he was so driven to succeed that one coach feared it was hurting him. Then there was the time, after one frustration too many, he almost tossed in cricket to play rugby league.
The 28-year-old, who will play for Australia against India in Wednesday's first international Twenty20 match at ANZ Stadium, might have almost a million reasons in the bank to feel he's well off, but Christian insisted the lure of the baggy green, and his professional pride, had pushed him to train even harder.
''I've never been one to play for a contract. I have always wanted to play as well as I can and to go as high as I can,'' he says. ''From the perspective of setting you up for life [my IPL deal] does [that], and it makes life easier … but it hasn't changed my hunger.
''Twelve months ago I would never have thought I was anywhere near the Test team but I've been picked in a few squads, which shows I'm closer to it than I thought.
''I see [my national T20 selection] as a reward for all the hard work and the time in the nets. Hopefully I can cement a spot and be in a position to help Australia win the T20 World Cup in a few months' time.''
As Reddy met the media horde in Bangalore last January, Christian was in a Canberra restaurant with his manager, Cade Brown, an old teammate from the University of NSW, with whom he shared a house. Brown remembers that dinner as happy, but subdued. ''Dan had a terrific six-week block in the lead-up to the auction,'' Brown says. ''In one game he scored 95 and took six wickets against the [Victoria] Bushrangers; he then scored 85 against a strong NSW attack, which included Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz. The timing couldn't have been better but it's great he's been able to transfer that form to the Sheffield Shield.
''On the night of the auction we went out for dinner. He was here in Canberra playing in the PM's XI. He had just gone for an amount that was above and beyond what anyone had expected, but he's so down-to-earth it was almost though it never happened.''
Brown pointed to Christian continuing with his tertiary studies, after the Deccan windfall, to become a financial planner as further evidence of his continual self-improvement. Both of them looked to Michael Hussey, who made his Test debut for Australia at 30, as proof that Christian could still have a Test career.
Christian considers his T20 international call-up a significant step. He has watched other sons of the T20 revolution, namely David Warner and Nathan Lyon, progress to the Test team's ranks after making their mark in the adrenalin-charged bash-and-barge format.
''The best Twenty20 players are the ones who do the basics well, and those basics work in the three forms,'' Christian says. ''David Warner has shown that; his basics work for him in Test cricket. He's gone the non-traditional path: the Twenty20 team, the one-day side and then the Test team, but his game is built on watching the ball and playing straight, and that works in every level you play.
''Others will follow. Nathan Lyon made his name in T20 and is now a Test cricketer. My first cricket for NSW was in the T20 format, and I think it's the way a lot of guys will go. It adds to the importance of the Big Bash; it exposes young blokes to playing in front of a big crowd and being under pressure.''
Christian laughs, now, when he recalls the frustration that almost pushed him back into playing rugby league four years ago. He had been overlooked for a Blues contract after playing in each of the state team's Twenty20 and one-day games. He wondered if it was time to try to rekindle the skills that made him a schoolboy prospect as a member of the famous St Gregory's College at Campbelltown. Christian was sought by a battalion of NRL talent scouts when he played five-eighth, and then lock, alongside Melbourne's former international Ryan Hoffman.
Peter Mulholland, one of the best judges of schoolboy rugby league talent, is now the recruitment manager for Newcastle, coached by Wayne Bennett. Mulholland vividly recalls how hard he worked to try to secure Christian's signature for his then employers, Penrith.
''His size; he was always going to fill out to be a big man,'' Mulholland replied when he was asked to name the traits he and his competitors chased.
''He had speed and he was a tough competitor. He was looked at by a number of clubs, and I think Danny could have easily developed into a good player. I'm not saying he could've been as good as Ryan Hoffman, but in saying that, we won't ever know.
''I think he made the right decision. He was dedicated to cricket, and that's been vindicated by where he is now.''
Christian grinned when he revealed the simple reason behind his decision to forgo the promise of a cast-iron footy scholarship for the uncertainties offered by cricket, a sport in which many are called but few are chosen.
''I was better at cricket,'' he says. ''I enjoyed rugby league. I loved the contact and collisions, but when I made the NSW under-17s cricket team I stopped playing footy … it was an easy decision, really.
''But I thought about league as an option when I missed out on a NSW contract … I thought about going back to it and giving it a crack.''
As Christian flirted with a return to the scrum, Rodney Marsh, then chief executive of the South Australian Cricket Association, offered him the chance to play at the Adelaide Oval for the Redbacks.
Not long after that telephone call, Christian packed his belongings into his car and soon he could not be seen for a cloud of dust.
''I didn't look back,'' he says. ''Rod Marsh called to say I'd been picked in the next game if I wanted to play. It was a no-brainer. I jumped in the car and grabbed the opportunity.''
Bush coach Warren Smith was impressed by Christian's promise and natural talent when he first laid eyes on him, as a youngster, at one of his legendary clinics, which have unearthed the likes of former Test players Michael Slater and Andrew McDonald.
They met again many years later, when Smith coached at the University of NSW's club. And while he's an ardent supporter of Christian, and proud of his achievements, he believes the cricketer's move to Adelaide was a step he needed to take.
''He came to my clinics out at Narrandera [in southern NSW] for four or five years when he was a kid, so I knew Daniel and I liked him a lot,'' Smith says. ''He was an aggressive young bloke at uni and would get the dirts when things didn't go right.
''I always thought that came from his trying so hard. He had a bit of aggression; sometimes throw [things] in the sheds, as some players do. I told him one day that wasn't going to work for him, and I guess he realised that.
''I rate him so highly; a great player. We are good mates but I think the best thing for Daniel was he moved to Adelaide and fended for himself. [Blokes] grow up in that situation or they don't.
''Dan definitely did grow, and he hasn't looked back.''