Grass Roots: Doncaster-born Sam is a star Down Under

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It is an unusual sporting story that has taken him ‘Down Under’, from Doncaster - and now South Yorkshire-born Sam Whiteman is in line to be the next Australian cricket star.

The youngster, who was born in Doncaster, moved to Australia when he was just three years old.

Now playing for Western Australia in Perth, the 22-year-old has since forged himself a reputation as one of the country’s brighest young talents - and has been tipped by WA coach Justin Langer, himself a former Test batsman, as Australia’s next wicketkeeper.

“I still love Doncaster, and I go back at least once a year to visit my family over in England,” Whiteman told Grass Roots from sun-kissed Perth.

“It’s always good to go back from where you’re from. I moved to Australia when I was three, so I don’t remember much from when I was younger.

“My parents went over to Australia for a holiday, loved it and decided to live there. That was that, really.”

Despite always being a keen cricketer, it was in Australia when his love for the game really blossomed.

He was selected for the state’s under-age programme in Perth, and starred in a few WA second-team games.

He was handed a new deal last year, and is now the state’s first-choice wicketkeeper - starring with both bat and gloves in WA’s Sheffield Shield campaign, where he hit 630 runs from his first nine matches at an average of over 50.

In contrast, Tim Paine and Matthew Wade - the other two wicketkeepers mentioned as successors to current Aussie ‘keeper Brad Haddin - failed to pass 400.

“Sam Whiteman is a star,” Langer told the WACA website recently.

“He is a fantastic cricketer and getting better every week.

“I know that the Australian selectors will be starting to look at him now because who knows how long Brad will go on.”

“We saw Tim here, Chris Hartley has done well in Brisbane and Matthew is doing okay. But Whitey is doing everything that we can ask of him of himself personally and for Western Australia.”

Asked about Langer’s ringing endorsement, Whiteman smiled: “It’s nice that someone like JL has said those things and thinks I am capable, so it’s a good compliment.

“But I’ve not really thought much about it, at this stage of my career.

“All I can do is keep doing what I’m doing, and see what happens.

“It’s hard to rate yourself against the likes of Tim and Matthew; we’re all different types of players, but they both have good records for both their state and for Australia.

“I’d like to say I’m close to those guys, and I guess I do have age on my side, but I’m just stoked to be playing for WA at the minute.”

But surely, as an English-born player, the idea of featuring in an Ashes Test series must excite him?

“It would be special to play in any Test series,” he replies.

“But I suppose there would be something extra in an Ashes series.

“I class myself as an 100% Australian, but I do have English roots - and maybe I can even one day play for Yorkshire as an overseas player!

“That would be pretty cool.”

See Friday’s Grass Roots for more stories from the local sporting world.