Michael Jonathon Slater was born in February 21, 1970, is a former Australian cricketer who played 74 Tests and 42 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) for his country between 1993 and 2001. An explosive top-order batsman, Slater was particularly impressive in Tests, where he opened the batting and scored over 5,000 runs. A destructive batsman, Slater quite ironically could not build a great career in limited-overs cricket. A prolonged form slump and a rare disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis forced him to quit the game early at the age of 34. He continued his association with the sport since then as a commentator. Slater is fondly known as ‘Slats’ and ‘Sybil’ by his teammates since his playing days.
He got selected in the New South Wales Primary School Sports Association cricket team and hockey teams by then, and continued to excel in both the sports. A left inner (an attacking player who helps out defensively), he made the state hockey team at Under–12, –13, −15 and −17 teams. Later, he turned his complete focus towards cricket. He honed his cricketing skills at the famed Australian Cricket Academy (now Commonwealth Bank Cricket Academy) and ready for the top flight.
At the age of 17, Slater hurt his Achilles tendon during an accident in school. The gravity of the injury was such that the doctors said his ‘dream of playing for Australia was over’. But after a successful operation, Slater made a surprising return to cricket and was selected in the Under–19 state team for the national championships in Brisbane. He scored over 1,000 runs in his first full season with New South Wales (NSW) in 1992-93, which led to his first national call-up.
Unlike others, Slater was lucky enough to get his Baggy Green after playing just 12 First-Class games. It was during the Ashes of 1993-94 that he was selected to play for Australia. Making his debut in the first Test at the Old Trafford, Slater went past fifty in his maiden outing. Opening the batting, he scored 58 and 27 in the match that Australia won by 179 runs. He did not take long to reach to his maiden Test hundred, as in the very next game at Lord’s, Slater etched his name in the history as well as Lord’s honours board by scoring a fantastic 152 in Australia’s win by an innings margin. Slater scored 416 runs at an average of 41.60 in the six-match series that Australia won 4-1.
On reaching to his first Test hundred, an excited Slater instinctively took his helmet off and kissed the badge — the Australian coat-of-arms engraved on it. This is the one ritual that he patented soon after would repeat it 13 more times in his career.
Slater was a victim of the nervous nineties syndrome and lost his wicket nine times in the 90s during his Test career. In this regard, he was second only to the likes of Steve Waugh, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, who lost their wicket in the 90s ten times during their respective careers.
Slater was dropped from the side in late 1996 after a one off poor outing against India, something which he found difficult to digest. In 1998, he made a successful comeback and things went well for a couple of years, the turn of the millennium spelled doom for him. He started having issues with his wife Stephanie and the couple split soon after, having a lasting impact on Slater. However, both tried to reconcile and Stephanie even joined him on Ashes tour to England in 2001, which eventually proved to be his last series. The team thought he needed a break, while Slater thought otherwise. Prior to the entire episode, the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) had also accused Slater of ‘taking drugs’. Slater came out with his autobiography in 2005, "Slats – The Michael Slater Story "which he used as a tool to express his anger on being dropped from the Test team. He made revelation and hold Steve Waugh, the then Australian captain, responsible for the end of his career. The book quotes Waugh as saying that he [Slater] was disorganised and a threat to team harmony before the last Ashes Test in 2001.
Besides being a commentator, Slater has since retirement tried a whole lot of things. He appeared as a contestant on the Australian version of Torvill and Dean’s Dancing on Ice, becoming the 4th contestant to be eliminated. He did reporting on Channel Nine’s health and lifestyle programme, What’s Good For You?. He is also a popular presenter and co-hosts rugby league’s The Footy Show besides hosting The Cricket Show on Channel 9.