This is uncharted territory. Undeterred by the fact that he may have rankled more than a few members of his fast-bowlers' community, Jason Behrendorff just completed a full four-over bowling spell without a single snarl at an opponent, without a barb at a non co-operating fielder or a show of dissent against an umpiring decision. He bowled 24 generally quick deliveries with a smile on the face and even enjoyed the occasional chuckle to return with bowling figures of 4-0-21-4 - the third best for Australia in T20I history.
"You don't have to be mean and nasty all the time," he said. "Generally I'd try and let my skills and the ball do the work and let that do the talking for me instead of getting into a verbal battle or anything like that . Some guys enjoy that and that's what fires them up and gets them going. But that's not really my style."
By the end of a memorable night of international cricket in Guwahati - the first in the city for seven years - the chuckle had grown into full-blown cackle. But that had more to do with being told that he resembled the pro-wrestler John Cena."From what I can understand, he's a fair bit bigger than I am. So yeah, I'll take it. Sure," he said.
There may have been a semblance of honesty to the comparison beyond mere facial resemblance. Fast bowlers mostly play heel - the bad guy in a wrestling storyline. They're the ones trying to knock the face - the good guys - over at the other end of the pitch. They're the killjoys trying to stop ball after ball from being sent into the stands. But Behrendorff, like the ultimate baby face Cena, is widely accepted as the nice man. The goody two shoes who calls his opponents "classy" and looks apologetic at having dismissed them.
Like Cena, Behrendorff has had to hustle and adjust his attitude to earn his breakthrough. Players, none lesser than the legendary Ricky Ponting, had marked him as an international grade fast bowler quite early by late 2014 yet injuries kept him tethered to the treatment table. Sometimes the back, the other times the leg, they took turns. Then against all odds, the face, began fighting the evil forces, sometimes through paths seldom taken.
He took up lessons in sports science at the Edith Cowan University in Perth to better understand the demands on his body and readied himself for the big grind. "For me, it's nice to have a bit of knowledge of what's going on. So I can talk to physios and the doctors and understand exactly what's going on and what I need to do," he said. If nothing, he could at least forge his way into the Australian team in the strength and conditioning department.
The international debut finally arrived in a highly emotional blink-and-miss performance in the rain-hit T20I at Ranchi. The usually outgoing Behrendoff Sr. had been rendered speechless for a good 10 seconds upon getting the news of his son's breakthrough. Behrendoff's contribution lasted all of two-and-a-half minutes in the game. He conceded a four off the first ball but generally showed he could swing the ball at appreciable pace.