Ian Holland has had quite a journey in his cricketing career thus far.
Holland was born in Stevens Point, in the state of Wisconsin, USA. When he was two, he moved to Australia and grew up in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne.
Holland began his cricketing career aged seven at his local club, Ringwood, and progressed throughout the ranks, playing for his district and his state Victoria all the way up to under-23s level.
Stress fractures were a contributing factor to Holland feeling behind his peers while growing up, however, this was also a great learning curve for the youngster as he figured out he needed to protect his body to succeed in the sport.
In 2012 Holland’s life changed completely as he was fast-tracked into the professional game thanks to his victory on the Australian reality TV series, Cricket Superstar.
Speaking about his decision to go on the show, Holland said: “I thought to myself, why not? It was too good an opportunity to pass by. I’m grateful the way it all worked out the way it did.”
Being 21 at the time of the show, this wasn’t Holland’s last chance at being a professional cricketer but it was a great opportunity to gain some much-needed exposure to state sides as well as bagging his first professional contract.
“The show itself was an amazing experience,” he said.
“Some aspects were very challenging, and it was really weird to see myself on TV.
“But stripping all that back it was such a great catalyst for my cricket career and I got to train with and be coached by so many of my childhood idols that played for Australia and got exposed to experiences and opportunities I would have never otherwise got.”
Holland went so well he won the show and spent the next few years trying to break into a Victoria team which was already full of talent.
But the only appearance he managed was one Sheffield Shield game in February 2016.
However, while playing for Fleetwood Cricket Club, he found his saving grace in the professional game, former Hampshire and England allrounder Dimitri Mascarenhas, who recommended Holland to the English county.
“It was an easy decision to move to England an play with Hampshire,” Holland recalled. “I knew the rich history of the club and I knew that at the age of 25 I was only at the beginning of my career and I was really excited for the challenge to see if I could make it as a professional cricketer.”
As Holland held an English passport through his father, there was no problems with the all-rounder joining up with the Hampshire squad during the 2017 season, first featuring for the 2nd XI before making his debut for the 1st XI in all three formats during the summer.
Holland was a key contributor In the County Championship, where he claimed 19 wickets at an average of just 21.89, while also adding valuable middle-order runs.
Holland’s wonderful journey continued its upward trend towards the backend of the 2019 season after a wonderful campaign for Hampshire, the American-born Aussie was rewarded with his first international call-up to the USA national team to play in One-Day Internationals against the UAE.
“I was approached by cricket USA midway through the 2019 County season,” Holland said.
“Despite not knowing much about the journey of team USA initially, I have been very inspired by the team rising the ranking over the last couple of years.
“I am really honoured to play for USA. I was born there, and I have deep-running connections with my mother’s side of the family still all living in the country.
After eight matches for the USA, Holland has a fine international record, scoring 244 runs at an average of 30 including two 50s, while also taking seven wickets at under 30. This year Holland has become an integral part of Hampshire’s red-ball squad once again.
Reverting to a position in the middle order, one which would suit him more, Holland found himself doing lots of work with the ball for Hampshire.
In the first game of the season, Holland contributed four wickets for only 54 runs in the match.
He chipped in with two more scalps wickets against Middlesex and bowled with control and kept the scoring rate down.
This prompted the change in giving him the new ball and that paid dividends as the US international took 6-60, his best figures, to lead Hampshire to an innings victory against Surrey.
Holland had this to say about his campaign: “For obvious reasons it was a very strange cricket season but personally it was nice to play more of a senior role and have more responsibility within the team.
“I was happy to have a reasonably good season and contribute with the ball, I am sure we will be a lot better off for the experiences this year to build into our championship campaign next year.”
Holland’s story shows young players to not give up on their dreams.
It proves that with a bit of luck and a lot of skill, determination and self-belief, then anything is possible in the cricketing world.
Ian Holland does not bowl fast but has made himself un-droppable by Hampshire by using his skills and putting the ball in the right areas.
His love for the game and attitude in the field and while training is infectious, and going from reality TV show winner to international cricketer is a brilliant story, one which must be heard.