If cricket players were stocks, you’d want to invest heavily in Aaron Hardie after the Scorchers all-rounder confirmed his status as one of Australia’s most promising young cricketers to help Perth move back to the top of the BBL ladder.
The Scorchers now control their own destiny and just need to win their final two matches to clinch the minor premiership and the chance to host this year’s final as they look to defend their title.
This is a team that suffered setbacks on the eve of the tournament, with Laurie Evans having his contract terminated after testing positive to a banned substance, while Mitch Marsh – the team’s leading run-scorer – was ruled out of the tournament after undergoing ankle surgery.
That opened the door for Hardie, who started the season in the middle order but has shifted to first drop where he’s emerged as one of the team’s most important players.
The 24-year-old scored 246 in his first 18 appearance but has piled on 369 runs at an average of 52.71 to sit fourth on the leaderboard after his unbeaten 90 against the Hurricanes on Wednesday night.
“I’m enjoying batting up the order (because) you get more balls and you can build an innings,” he said.
“Number six and number seven is obviously an important role and you can win games because it’s a super-important role, but I’m loving three because I have a bit more time and it allows you to be a bit smarter with the batting.”
Hardie’s breakout tournament comes after he hit an unbeaten 174 in last year’s Sheffield Shield final that made everyone take notice and led to some suggesting he was a bolter for future Australian sides.
The youngster isn’t sure what his preferred format is but he’ll get the chance to impress in the finals, with Hardie set to resume bowling in the coming days following a groin complaint.
“I don’t really want to pigeonhole myself into any format. Just being able to contribute in all the games possible (is my main goal),” he said.
“That all-rounder role takes its toll on the body in the four-day cricket sense, but I also love that challenge.
“This is the first season where I’ve been able to put together a full season so far in batting and bowling due to fitness and selection. I’m enjoying playing all three while I can.”
The Scorchers can wrap up top spot if they win their remaining games against the Strikers and Renegades, and a couple more dominant displays with the willow will help Hardie’s stocks rise with an IPL contract in his sights.
The all-rounder wasn’t considered for this year’s draft but that will change going forward after he saw good mate Cam Green get picked up by Mumbai for $3.16m.
“I’ve put my name in the draft before, but I didn’t put my name in this year for various reasons,” he said.
“If you put a number like that on the end (of course it’s tempting).”