Ben Dunk and the others

He's not ABDV, but there's something about Dunk.

(Apologies to anyone who received this twice in their email. There was an error at my end.)

Zach Lowe once talked about how he works who to write on. He is looking for someone near the top 30 guys in the NBA but isn't well known.  And it's not that he isn't obsessed with why Bruce Brown is playing as a 6-4 centre for the Nets. He just knows how it works.

Hearing this, I realised why ESPN paid him a lot more money than they paid me (on top of the many other reasons). Aasif Karim, Shaun Tait, Benny Howell and Colin Ingram don't pay the bills. I should write or cover the top players on loop, or at least the next big things.

Instead, here is my video essay on Ben Dunk.

A cricketer you may not have ever spent two minutes thinking about if you have given him that much time. I mean, it is possible you don't know who he is at all. And yet here is my endlessly researched mini-documentary on him.

But here is the thing, I find these oddball weirdos that make no sense far more interesting. And I am a writer before I am a sportswriter. I fundamentally have to give a shit about something to write on it. That doesn't mean that Virat Kohli will not grab me as well, but I have built my career on a huge amount of just trying to work things out and weird cricket players.

Ben Dunk is a combination of both things. Dunk is a weird cricket creature, almost famous enough that most fans have heard the name, but invisible enough that he could stand next to you at the hardware store. You'd not think he was a cricketer. And his career has been so weird, demented and just outright damaged that it's something I wanted to work out.

I started the Ben Dunk project as much as a way of trying to work out his career. But I realised soon that this was about my quest to work out how players end up in teams. And I know a lot of this because I've worked as an Analyst and GM for teams. Still, even then, you will be at the draft and looking across the tables at someone, and you can't help but think, "why on earth have they chosen this guy now?"

With Dunk, you have the perfect canvas for this kind of madness; his career truly makes no sense. He was chosen for everyone in one year, and then did so poorly everyone said he was a bust. A few years later, he was clearly a better player, and no one cared. And then, in the middle of a nothing period for him, he started playing in leagues again.

I know it's Ben Dunk, and you don't care about Ben Dunk. But this is not about Dun Dunk; it is about how T20 cricket is run. And it's funny. But while I understand the Zach Lowe's of this world making perfectly chosen topics - and Lowe is a brilliant writer - because they will get the most traction will fulfilling him as a writer. I have trouble letting the freaks and weirdos go. I should write about AB de Villiers, but then who will tell the Ben Dunk story. And these stories are part of why we love sport. The left-back only you remember. A boxer who got shafted in the quarter-finals of the Olympics that stays with you. The goal attack with the weird elbows. Subash hosted an episode of my podcast where we talked all about this.

At a certain point, I don't think I pick Pankaj Singh or Ben Dunk; they find me. They are the reasons I loved cricket, the people who didn't make it despite so much, the ones who did but we don't know why, the players with the Rubik's cube records, the batsmen who can't play most of the shots, the guy who always gets run out. All of them.

A few years ago, I watched a Pakistan women's match. They had a left-arm seam bowler, Almas Akram (no relation), who bowled big hooping inswingers to right-handers. The weird thing was that she bowled them from around the wicket. So it was like she was swinging the ball from off the pitch in an angle I have seen no one bowl before.

I wanted to know why, how. I still want to know. One day I might find out.

This piece on Ben Dunk started a similar way; how could a guy who had done nothing in his own league for a couple of years just show up in the PSL, a stronger league. How could Ben Dunk be the MVP of the Big Bash and traded for a guy who had only played two games? How could Ben Dunk be Ben Dunk? I am not sure I found out any proper answers, but I had a lot of fun getting there.

And now Ben Dunk has the 23-minute mini-documentary on him. Or, as someone called it, his own Anime movie.


Ben Dunk has seen the video, and now I owe him a drink. Probably several.