Photo Courtesy: Lynn Kimber and Jarrod Kimber's Facebook account.
Evolution of Jarrod Kimber in pictures. (Photo Courtesy: Lynn Kimber and Jarrod Kimber’s Facebook account)

Prologue

It was the week after Christmas on the outskirts of Melbourne. Peter and Lynn Kimber went about their daily routines, wondering what was taking so long. They were expecting him at Christmas, but he was late. When it finally happened Peter was at work. He rushed to the hospital as soon as he could. At 7 PM on January 7, 1980, after 48 hours of labour, Jarrod Kimber was born.

Less than two weeks later, the baby watched his first cricket match. He has continued doing so ever since. And the cricketing world is richer for it.

Chapter One: Kimberfield

In his younger days, Peter Kimber used to be a serious club cricketer. As Jarrod puts it, At his best, he was a steaming fast bowler with a kick ass outswinger. Later in his career he was that old guy who would bowl medium pace outswingers for days on end. Peter once took 9 wickets in an innings. It remains a source of pride for both father and son.

It was because Peter had to open bowling in a match that baby Jarrod made his debut as a spectator at less than two weeks of age. Jarrod wrote in his blog, Having a newborn son didn t mean a week off. It was cricket. Nothing got in the way of cricket.

Jarrod vividly remembers growing up in a cricketing household: Most of my earliest cricketing memories are sitting down in front of the old cricket club where my dad played, Campbellfield. I think my earliest cricket memory is sitting there with an old cricket ball that had got wet and had opened up at the seam, and the string was coming out. I was playing on the grass while my dad bowled out on the ground behind me.

The Kimbers were a cricket-loving lot. Apart from his father, Jarrod s uncles Gary and Ross were also club cricketers, while his mother Lynn would often be the scorer. Auntie Mazz was also on the Campbellfield Cricket Club committee, and at one point the club s President, Vice-President, Treasurer, and Secretary were all Kimbers. It got to a point that people started referring to Campbellfield as Kimberfield.

For Jarrod there is no distinguishable moment where he realised he loved the game. I don t know if there was a moment in my life where I suddenly realised cricket was great. It s just been such a large part of my life from a young age and everything about it always interested me.

Despite his father and uncle being fast bowlers, Jarrod himself became a leg-spinner. By the age of eight or nine it was pretty clear that I just didn t bowl very fast. At that stage I was batting and wicketkeeping a little bit, and my cricket was coming on. Dad s big theory was, if you can t bowl fast don t bowl fast. There s a whole other art you can learn. So I became a leg-spinner.

Jarrod s spin turn (pardon the pun) was born as a result of his father being a bad batsman. Dad was the No. 11 in every side he played in, but he always felt like he could handle fast bowling. He could rock on the front foot and defend. But any time a spinner came on he would lose his mind and play these silly shots.

Spin bowling is a series of decisions. I picked up leg-spin far younger than most kids ever do. Occasionally I d have trouble landing the ball and I d get back to off-spin, but off-spin just didn t do it for me. Off-spin seemed boring. Leg-spin just seemed more fun. Jarrod s inability to deal with boring would shape his career as a cricket writer. But we will come to that later.

Jarrod was soon following in his father s footsteps as a serious club cricketer. He played for Campbellfield Cricket Club till the age of 16, an innings of 91 in a winning final being his crowning glory.

Chapter Two: The early heroes

Baby Jarrod 300
Jarrod Kimber as a infant (Photo Courtesy: Lynn Kimber)

Jarrod s first heroes were other club cricketers: My dad was obviously a big influence on me. There were a lot of club cricketers who were a big influence on me. We had a guy named Mick Gibbs who played at our club. He was like my dad, in that he could bowl endless spells of outswing bowling, but he could also bat so he kept dad out of the team. There was a guy called Westie. I used to love watching him bat. There was a guy called Zoran who was a Macedonian kid, who I once saw make 190 one day. In club cricket you don t usually see people do that. He was basically a T20 club cricketer before either of those things existed.

Interestingly, Jarrod s first memories of the Australian cricket team were underwhelming. I wasn t always massively keen on the Australian team; I followed the Victorian team a lot closer. I was from Victoria, so Dean Jones was sort of my first cricketing hero, and then Merv Hughes and Shane Warne after that. There were also the Victorian idols who weren t that good internationally, like Simon O Donnell. My parents still have a signed Ian Harvey shirt of mine. Matthew Elliott was a huge hero. He was probably the first player I really obsessed over properly, like fanboy over.

Part of Jarrod s indifference toward Australian cricket lay in his love of Martin Crowe and Mushtaq Ahmed. The first time I saw Martin Crowe play I knew there was something about him. My mate and I used to dress up like Crowe and play. So the first time I wore a helmet, I purposely wore a white helmet. And I used to get this big square thigh pad because I used to think it made me look like him.

Things did not quite go according to plan: Crowe was quite a well-built man and I weighed about four kilos at the time. I probably didn t look like him to anyone else, but in my mind I did.

Much as most young cricket fans do, Jarrod tried to emulate his idol s bowling action too. Mushtaq Ahmed was my first leg-spinning hero so I tried to bowl like him. I tried his action and more importantly his run-up.

It was only with the coming of a younger generation of Australian cricketers that Jarrod s interest in the team grew. It probably wasn t until Australia A played a series once against Australia, England, and Zimbabwe (in 1994-95) that I got a bit more into Australian cricket. Ricky Ponting, Greg Blewett, and Damien Martyn were the guys I really started to obsess over. I kind of grew up with Ponting s career and he was probably the person who made me follow the Australian team more than I ever had before.

Peter took Jarrod to watch his first Test live at MCG in 1990, when Australia took on the visiting Pakistan. The experience of the MCG stuck with Jarrod: he became a member of the Melbourne Cricket Club and used to watch the Victorian team practice.

Chapter Three: The second love

Jarrod s upbringing was influenced greatly by his father s affection for cricket, but he was equally influenced by his mother s flair for literature. Lynn worked as a librarian when Jarrod was a child, and she encouraged him to read profusely.

Jarrod paid tribute to his mother in a blog post dedicated to her, where he wrote that her real gift was making people love books. She would create these epic no-budget displays about a theme or genre, and sell the kids on books I know how well it worked, because she did it on me.

Young Jarrod 300 (1)
Jarrod Kimber took to writing at a young age. (Photo Courtesy: Lynn Kimber)

Among the books Lynn made the pre-teen Jarrod read were, Books about people with eyes like cows; people who ended up in video game worlds that could kill them; and Z for Zachariah, which was a book about a young girl who may or may not have been potentially raped by some nuclear guy who survived an apocalypse.

The exposure to literature at such a young age brought out a creative side in Jarrod. He started understanding narrative styles ridiculously early. By five he had already written out a screenplay to a Shirley Temple film.

It would have been essentially girl gets into trouble, girl might have been an orphan, girl gets out of trouble with a tap-dancing scene somewhere in the middle. I don t know how much of it I wrote down. I would have hand written it at five, and I don t think my mum kept it. I wrote a couple of Shirley Temple movies, says Jarrod.

Even at a young age I worked out what the structure was of Shirley Temple. I mean, they were 1930s children s films, they weren t supposed to be complicated. But I still went this is pretty easy, I get this. I mean I wouldn t say my scripts were very good, but I m sure it followed the Shirley Temple mould.

Jarrod s creativity found other outlets too. His mother Lynn relates a story about how as a kindergartener he and his friends would put up plays in the living room which Jarrod would direct when they thought no one was watching. Lynn sometimes hid and recorded their shenanigans to listen to later.

Jarrod s creativity was still untapped potential while he was growing up. The obvious talent was there, but there were not a lot of opportunities to showcase it. It was only in his early teens when a teacher excitedly told Lynn about his clever writing that she realised her son s potential. He would go on to write a play for his mother s theatre troupe, but it was deemed too risqu for them to perform.

Chapter Four: The journey

For the first two-and-a-half decades of his life, Jarrod was not quite the picture of success. He must have had 21 jobs by the time he was 21, says his father Peter. Indeed, at 27 he was parking cars for a living, having dropped out of high school after failing English, been fired from a job at a factory, left gardening school, and failed to finish film school.

In 2002, while working a desk job for Qantas he was on shift during the Bali bombings, and spent the night speaking to frantic relatives of people holidaying in Bali, and even a couple of people who were reportedly at the scene of the crime.

However, by then he had also written but managed to lose two books, three film scripts which he intends to incorporate into novels or memoirs later in life, and co-founded a production company. None of these ventures took off quite like Jarrod would have liked.

In 2002 Jarrod wrote a book based on his past relationships. Later, while backpacking across USA he wrote another book titled Search for the Perfect Cheeseburger. Sadly both books were lost: the laptop he wrote one of the books on belonged to his aunt, who sold it without informing Jarrod. There was no backup. The second book was lost when Jarrod was mugged in Durban during the 2003 Cricket World Cup.

It was in 2007 that Jarrod s life began to change. It started innocuously; he went to watch Collingwood play Brisbane in a football match with his friend Todd Spehr. After Jarrod advised Todd on his basketball blog, Todd suggested that Jarrod should start a cricket blog.

Thus was born the wonderfully named Cricket with Balls. The blog s masthead is a cricket (the insect) with two cricket (the sport) balls around its privates. In many ways, that quirky image perfectly describes the unique voice of Jarrod as a cricket writer. But he was still some distance away from making it to the mainstream.

CWB logo-land

When Jarrod was 25 he applied to a film school in Melbourne, and though he did not graduate he set up a film production company called Blank Suburbs with two of his friends. Jarrod s creativity finally found a much-needed outlet, but work was hard to come by for young idealistic filmmakers.

One of the projects he was working on was for the Catholic Church, which was ironic given that Jarrod and his partners were two atheists and a Presbyterian. The Pope was visiting Australia, and the Catholic Church wanted to make a few edgy videos. They wanted these edgy viral videos about young people getting excited about the Pope visiting. This was a very hard thing to do because young people were just not excited. Jarrod found this especially hard ( I m a full-on atheist heretic! ).

Around this time Jarrod was in touch with Ed Craig, deputy editor of Wisden Cricketer in England. Craig asked Jarrod to consider shifting to UK to become a cricket writer. Jarrod tried to get a job in Australia as a cricket writer, but had no success there.

It was while working on the video for the Catholic Church that Jarrod finally had an epiphany. I was working in a Catholic building, and there were all these Jesus statues and religious iconography everywhere. It was around 2 or 3 in the morning and I m editing this video which is supposed to show how excited young people are about Jesus, and it s just a bunch of old Italian women holding a cross. And I just thought this is ridiculous, this isn t why I got into filmmaking, this isn t what I want to do. So I decided to move to England and see how it goes. So I did, and it s gone quite well. Jarrod has been based in London for the better part of a decade.

Chapter Five: The writer

Most conventional forms of writing have a beginning, middle, and an end in that order. Most paragraphs are at least a few sentences long. Most articles feature the name of the protagonist prominently throughout.

But Jarrod is not like most other writers. He once wrote a 1,041-word article about Virender Sehwag in which the word Sehwag appears only twice: the first time was as a part of a made-up word Sehwagology, and the second time it was literally the last word of the article.

Jarrod takes conventional forms of writing and structure and throws them out the window. It probably helped me that I didn t finish high school, or even attend high school classes very often so I didn t learn much about writing there. I didn t go to University so I didn t learn much about the proper way to write.

So Jarrod ended up doing what came naturally. I wrote the way that I talk, which was most normal to me. When I talk I tend to go on long rants, or I m succinct. I sometimes write a paragraph that s just three words. Why can t a paragraph be just three words long? It didn t occur to me at the time that there were rules of writing.

Jarrod s style is far from the Gideon Haigh School of organic elegance. I don t really like big words. It s not that there aren t big words that interest me, and there are big words that sometimes are the perfect word. But generally I don t talk that way or write that way. I always thought that people put on an act when they wrote, and put on an act of who they weren t and they would try to sound more intelligent and more verbose or worldly than they were. And I kind of thought, there s something to be said about the other style of writing which is sort of the way I went.

Another prominent feature of Jarrod s writing is that he often moves around in time; his writing is often non-linear and told out of chronological order. Kimber claims that his love of films influenced his often non-linear stories. The most important things of a story don t always come in the order of which they happened in real life.

Chapter Six: The man

Jarrod is passionate and different, says his mother Lynn. He s very confident and intelligent, he has an analytical personality. He looks behind, under, and around things. There s always a background to his humour.

He was a bit insolent growing up, but he has become a touch more sophisticated with age. He has a sick wit. He s sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek. He takes after me, laughs Peter.

Jarrod s childhood home in Epping, North Melbourne, is around 35 kilometres away from the Central Business District. It takes over an hour to reach via train. The house is full of memorabilia from Peter and Jarrod s playing days. The walls of the living room are adorned with framed pictures of sporting heroes. Don Bradman stands proudly alongside some of AFL team Collingwood s finest.

Jarrod s room is adorned with posters of The Rolling Stones, Nirvana, Bob Dylan, and Donnie Darko evidence of someone who grew up in the 1990s. An extensive film collection proves Jarrod s claims of having watched an insane number of films.There is a whole bookcase filled with film DVDs. He took about three boxes worth of books and music with him to England, says Lynn.

Jarrod s love of the arts is so great he named his son Ezekiel after Jules (Samuel L Jackson) iconic Ezekiel 25:17 speech from Pulp Fiction. His other son is named Zachariah, partly after Zed from Pulp Fiction, and partly after Z for Zachariah, the book his mother let him read as a child.

Peter and Lynn are friendly, welcoming people, quite happy to talk about their son. Jarrod may have taken after his father in terms of humour, but he inherits his talkative side from his mother.

He was a moody teen and kept his feelings inside, but he s always been quite sensitive, says Lynn. He s more polished now though still rough around the edges. But he shouldn t change. He ll always be the working-class boy from the Northern suburbs of Melbourne.

Joel Kimber, Jarrod s best friend and cousin, agrees with his parents summation. Jarrod is brash, but he knows that he s talking about. He speaks with authority and confidence. He has always been devoted, reliable, and sarcastic.

With age and fatherhood Jarrod has also become more responsible, says Joel. He was selfish while we were growing up, but he has become quite selfless after having kids. Asked whether there were any memorable moments he could think of, Joel laughs and says there were a few alcohol-induced ones. It is a sentiment shared by former New Zealand pace bowler Iain O Brien.

Jarrod is pretty much as he writes and talks on video, but with more bourbon, says O Brien. He and Jarrod became acquainted during the former s playing days and have been friends since. Jarrod once got me so drunk I couldn t talk the next day. Although I think those days are past!

Jarrod used to use the blog I wrote while I was playing in articles; usually saying it s great that someone is doing something different. We got talking behind the scenes, and he then kept writing nice things, says O Brien.

O Brien believes that Jarrod s trustworthiness makes him stand out. “You believe him. There is no agenda about what he writes and says. That s definitely not saying that you don t trust others, but it is one thing that stands out about Jarrod.”

Jarrod also made quite an impression on Gideon Haigh, arguably the finest modern cricket writer. I first became aware of Jarrod in 2008, when I encountered Cricket with Balls in random surveillance of the web. His voice was immediately distinctive; but so, too, was his knowledge of cricket. His posts were more than random drive-bys. He knew the game, and I could tell, somehow, that he had played, of which I immediately approved.

Haigh is also complimentary about Jarrod s style: His work has changed a lot, in tone and in depth. But one thing has not: it s how closely he watches the game. So many cricket writers don t. Readers tend to fixate on Jarrod s style. But anyone can affect a style. He reminds me of Chesterton s response when accused of being too fond of jokes to be a serious writer: The opposite of funny is not serious. The opposite of funny is not funny. His career has given me great satisfaction. He s smart, motivated and deserving.

Chapter Seven: The Future

Jarrod has made up for lost time: in less than a decade after he started Cricket With Balls, he shifted base from Melbourne to London, became a published cricket author four times over, made a documentary dealing with corruption at the highest levels of cricket administration, hosted multiple podcasts, edited magazines, provided the cover photo to a P Diddy album, and is now a renowned cricket journalist and commentator.

He is currently writing a sitcom, and has his own radio show. He recently wrote a profile on golfing legend Greg Norman that was so good The Great White Shark personally phoned him in appreciation.

If Jarrod s life till this point seems a bit random it is because Jarrod s defining characteristic, both as a writer and a person, is his abhorrence of anything uninteresting like having a plan. Nothing I ve ever done is massively on purpose. I just like to work on things that I m passionate about at that time. I think I d get bored if I had a plan. I can t do boring.

More than any influence, it is this basic underlying factor that makes Jarrod the writer that he is. If something does not interest him, he will not be able to write about it because his creativity demands to be challenged. There is a reason Jarrod s voice as a writer is so unique: he thinks of things in ways others do not.

Having made his name as a cricket writer, Jarrod is keen on exploring all his options. At the moment I m working on a sitcom. My novella comes out soon. I ll finish my novel after that. There s every chance that in two years I may be a fiction writer and not writing cricket anymore. There s every chance that in five years time I m a general sports writer, or a screenwriter in America. I don t know, and it doesn t matter that much.

Adult Jarrod
Jarrod Kimber has come a long way from being unknown and slightly aimless. (Photo Courtesy: Jarrod Kimber’s Facebook account)

Jarrod has come a long way from being that unknown and slightly aimless 27-year-old. The boundless creativity took a while to find an output, but there is no stopping this Ace of Words any longer. Even Jarrod does not know what his future holds, and that makes it infinitely more exciting for the rest of us.