Coming into my first real summer of cricket, I had no idea what to expect.

Actually sitting in the dug-out, as a bona-fide Big Bash player, watching the way the lads went about it… was completely different to how I had expected.

As much as people like to say, “Just keep playing your natural game. Don’t worry about everything else. Just go out there and play your best.” – there is a massive gap between sitting there as a rookie and watching the game from the sidelines, to actually playing in the big leagues.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 21: Jason Sangha of the Thunder bats during the Sydney Thunder v Melbourne Stars Big Bash League Match at Manuka Oval on December 21, 2018 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

One of my biggest takeaways in the BBL this summer, was learning how to deal with the distractions that come with playing the game of cricket. Learning how to prepare like a pro in between games, especially on the road.

There are such short turnarounds in the BBL that you’re almost constantly in recovery-mode.

I was batting at four and five for most of the season for the Sydney Thunder. At that position, you can come in when the score might be 2/150 and have only 15 balls or less to face.

In those moments, it’s about maximising those 15 balls, figuring out how you might be able to finish with a score of 15 or 20.

And as weird as it feels, you almost expect yourself to get out because you are looking to take the game on at every ball.

Then, there are days when you might come in at 3/30 with only 6 overs played, and your role suddenly focuses on building a partnership with the batter at the other end, as you both seek to get the game back on your terms.

Sometimes it works for you in the middle, sometimes it simply does not.

My debut against the Melbourne Stars in December, we lost a couple of wickets in our early overs, forcing me to come into the innings much sooner than we would have liked.

In that situation, I was able to set myself and take on the challenge of building a partnership for the team. It also didn’t hurt that batting with me out in the middle, was none other than English Test cricket captain, Joe Root.

I managed to score 63 off 36 balls. It was a night where the boundaries simply looked closer than usual.

At the end of the game, while I was in the rooms, someone came up to me to let me know I had become the youngest player in Big Bash history to notch a half-century. That was pretty surreal.

If only that night had been an indication of how my summer performances would look. As I said before… sometimes it works for you, sometimes it simply does not.

As it would go, I really struggled to build on that maiden 50. I endured a string of games after the match, where scoring into double digits seemed near impossible. There were definitely moments when I began to doubt my own ability.

When you go through a string of low scores, you start questioning everything. Your mind starts racing at an all-time pace, trying to figure out what is going wrong and how you can put a stop to it. You question your technical skills and your mental aptitude.

My biggest obstacle, which I hadn’t really factored into my summer, was the exposure to criticism from the outside world.

There was one particular game against the eventual champions Melbourne Renegades – we were losing wickets all around me and I was trying to make sure that I was the guy that could bat through so I could attempt to influence the final overs.

I couldn’t have hit a beach ball. I tried everything, but I just could not find the boundary. Nothing I was doing was working. I tried every different shot in the playbook and still couldn’t get the ball over the rope.

We ended up losing the game, a game we probably should have won.

I remember going back to the hotel later that night and seeing the flood of comments just pour in via social media.

All through my Instagram and Facebook, fans and the wider public were just lining up to take shots at me. I’d never experienced such a thing!

I suppose up until now, given I am only still 19, all the talk around my cricket has been really positive.

I’d never really been in that situation before, where the criticism was just so extreme. That night was one of the most humbling and greatest learning experiences in my short career, because it really made me wake up to the fact that there will always be bad days thrown in with the good. You can’t hide from it. If anything, you need to use it as motivation to get better.

I’ve always been a massive NBA fan and one of my idols in Lebron James, preaches that all the times.

There is arguably no athlete in the world more polarising than Lebron – some people love him, others want nothing to do with him. I’m in the former camp.

I love what he stands for and I love his message of being more than an athlete. But he has never forgotten that basketball is at the core of everything he does, and that all he can do is manage everything is in control.

I’ve tried to approach my cricket in the same manner.

I quickly learned that I didn’t have to impress the whole of Australia or the fans that were watching. I just have to go and do my job for the team.

The most important thing for me is to be a player that coaches love to coach and players love to play alongside.

If I’m doing that, then I can be happy.

I’ve never had to worry about letting the growing praise, that has surrounded me for the past 12 months or so now, go to my head.

My parents do a good enough job of ensuring that haha. As does the rest of my extended family! My cousins are always taking the mickey out of me.

I remember the first contract I signed with New South Wales, I was 16 and I put a lot of pressure on myself. Pressure I didn’t really need.

I kept thinking my time to shine is now. I have to go onto bigger and better things right away. The worst part was, it wasn’t even my own expectations, I was just buying into the media coverage, because every story I was reading, people couldn’t believe how this 16 year-old kid just got a contract.

For me I was so eager to live up to those expectations, I didn’t take the time to think about what was actually right for myself.

Again, I just bought into so much what people were saying about my running or about who I am or if I deserve a spot and that became another key learning.

I’m glad I went through that stage really early in my career, because had I not, I would be learning about those things right now.

I will say that one of the best things about this year’s Big Bash tournament for me, was spending time with Joe Root.

I remember the day when the Sydney Thunder signed Joe, I was like wow, I hope we have a chance to bat together. Never did I imagine it would be in my first game, in an innings where our partnership would prove the difference in the match.

There was no better person out there for me with my first ball than Joe. It was an amazing moment, one that I’ll probably never forget it.

I just remember that first game, when he walked out to bat after we lost a couple early wickets, he just summed up the game perfectly. He knew exactly what the situation was and what was required of him.

By the time I was down at the other end, we were just in sync with one another and kept going with the flow of the game.

Joe was so precise into what we needed to do to raise a good target and could assess in real time exactly how we were going to navigate out of what was a really difficult situation for the team.

He just broke it down over by over, explaining clearly how we were going to execute our game plan, literally on the field as we’re batting. I’d never seen anything like it.

If anything, it made me appreciate how brilliant of a cricket mind Joe is.

After a year of playing every shield game including the final, and BBL and being a part of the JLT One day squad earlier in the year, it made me realise how the best players are the ones who are resilient and believe in themselves regardless of the situation.

I wish it didn’t take me 7-8 games to figure this out. But I’m only 19, I’m glad I’m learning this so early in my short career. I wish I didn’t doubt myself about my ability when I was going through times where statistically I was struggling.

It took just a few conversations with all my teammates, (and some special ones and they know who they are) to actually realise that I’m not a 100 game player in both BBL and Shield cricket.

This is my first year in the game. Enjoy what cricket brings, love the contest and always believe in your ability.

If it’s got you this far, you don’t need to change, you just need to believe you can do the job. And if my teammates can say that to me, why couldn’t I?

So to my teammates, thank you for making it an enjoyable and the biggest learning experience.

The coaching staff for always challenging me and supporting me.

As my cousin Daya always tells me, ride the waves.