Photo Credit: Sydney Thunder
After signing a new deal which ties him to Sydney Thunder until at least the end of the 2024 KFC Big Bash League season, Matthew Gilkes said he wanted the club’s supporters – and his opponents – to see the shift in his mindset since last summer.
Gilkes, 23, said since making his Thunder debut in BBL|08 – when, as a teenager, he hammered an impressive half century against Perth – his game had developed an even harder edge.
“There has been a shift in my mindset, and I guess that has come with age,” said Gilkes, who hit his career high BBL score of 93 last summer.
“When you step up a level there is always some uncertainty, but, with age, I’ve developed the want to go out there and be the guy who gets a good score and who helps the team win. And that will be my intention this summer.”
Gilkes, who spent his off-season playing cricket in England to gain experience in different playing conditions, said his new mental approach was one of many improvements in his game.
“You need to work hard to get to the level I want to reach,” said the damaging left-handed batter.
“The work I did with our [wicketkeeper coach] Dan Smith last summer was so good, it was a huge help,” he said. “And while I think my batting has improved a lot, but it’s still a work in progress.
“I am fortunate because I’ve learnt so much since starting here at Thunder as a 19-year-old. I’ve learnt plenty from the coaches as well as the players I’ve played alongside.”
Gilkes, who will this season vie with Baxter Holt for Thunder’s wicketkeeping duties after Brisbane Heat signed English international Sam Billings in the draft, said he’d benefited from observing Billings’s approach to his profession during the two seasons he spent with Thunder.
“Sam is such a professional and personable guy, but what impressed me most is the way he goes about his cricket,” said Gilkes. “He’s very particular about his training and how he does it.
“And I liked the way how he structured his innings when he batted. He’s given me so much to think about. He has played on the world’s big stage… internationals, the Indian Premier League, and other leagues… so it was brilliant for me to be able to pick his brains; watch and learn from him.”
While he is competing with 22-year-old Holt for the ‘keeping duties, Gilkes said the pair shared a great friendship. He said they’re pushing each other to succeed despite competing to wear the gloves.
“I love Baxter – everyone does – because he’s such a good bloke,” said Gilkes. “We have grown up playing cricket together through Cricket NSW’s pathway and we’re great mates.
“The good thing is we’re similar ages, and we’re pushing each other to be better as we continue to learn our craft. That is healthy for both of us.”
Gilkes said he believed signing on with the Trevor Bayliss-coached Thunder would be beneficial for a career which some critics have said is looming to be ‘exciting’.
“Sydney Thunder is a great set up, I love the place and the people – I’ve made strong friendships here,” he said.
“But, just as importantly, the coaches I’ve worked with over the years – especially ‘Winga’ [Shawn Bradstreet] and ‘Chandi’ [Chandika Hathurusinghe] – have all been great. It means a lot for me to know that they want to see me succeed.
“Besides them I have learnt plenty from all of our coaches, and the teammates I’ve played alongside. I’ve learnt to get to this level you need to work hard and to be disciplined, and I aim to keep improving.”
Head of Thunder Andrew Gilchrist said Gilkes had been identified as one of the club’s many young players – including Tanveer Sangha, Jason Sangha, Baxter Holt and Ollie Davies – with great futures at Sydney Thunder.
“We’ve invested a lot of time and energy into Matt, and all of our young players for that matter, because we want them to be at Sydney Thunder for the long-term,” said Gilchrist.
“After having Sam Billings in front of them for the last two years, there is a terrific opportunity for Matt and Baxter Holt to take the wicketkeeping gloves.
“Matt is a player who continues to prove himself behind the stumps, in the outfield, and at the top of the order. His 93 against Adelaide Strikers at Sydney Showground Stadium last summer really catapulted his BBL career, and he’s seen as a crucial part of our squad’s makeup.”
Sydney Thunder BBL|12 Squad
Head Coach: Trevor Bayliss
Contracted Players: Ben Cutting, Ollie Davies, Brendan Doggett, Fazalhaq Farooqi (AFG), Matthew Gilkes, Chris Green, Alex Hales (ENG), Baxter Holt, Nathan McAndrew, Usman Qadir (PAK), Alex Ross, Rilee Rossouw (RSA), Daniel Sams, Gurinder Sandhu, Jason Sangha, Tanveer Sangha, David Warner (AUS)
Sydney Thunder BBL|12 Home Fixtures