“To say it was a tough week is an understatement. Every time I feel like getting upset I’ll think of Merryn and her giving me a kick up the arse because she never wanted me to be upset and made sure I was happy.”
Abbott said Merryn and her husband, Nigel, helped raise him, his younger brother and three older sisters when their father walked out on them. Nigel lost his battle with Parkinson’s disease 18 months ago.
“When Mum was left to raise five kids on her own, Merryn and Nigel stepped in and were unbelievable,” Abbott said.
“When I got to the hospital last week at Westmead, it was the same waiting room we were in for Nigel.
“At least Merryn got to spend the last few days holidaying with her daughter, best friend and her daughter. It was her first morning back at work when it happened.
“My brother [Ben] scored two hundreds during a double-header for Parramatta first grade the other day, and Merryn was in America and stayed up all night to get the results.”
As if losing someone so close to his heart was not enough, Abbott also spent time last week at his mother and stepfather’s home in Upper Colo on the outskirts of Sydney, where bushfires raged.
Every time I feel like getting upset I’ll think of Merryn and her giving me a kick up the arse because she never wanted me to be upset.
Of all the family’s prized possessions, Abbott’s mother Georgina made a point of packing all of Sean’s cricket memorabilia into the back of the truck in case the fires turned on them.
“The fires were pretty much everywhere, except their place,” Abbott said. “They wouldn’t let us through the other day and mum had to pick us up. [Step dad] Nathan had the fire hoses coming out of fire tanks, there were helicopters going over. It felt like a scene from a war movie.
“It was confronting just seeing the backburning across the road.
“Mum assured me earlier this week they were going to be fine and there were a lot of firies out there and why I didn’t need to hold off playing cricket.
“It can be hard to get the truth out of mum sometimes, because she doesn’t want me distracted from cricket. I have to remind her there are things more important than cricket sometimes.”
The bushfire scare and the tragic accident did not stop Abbott from posting his highest first-class score, 86, for the Blues at the SCG this week.
It came four weeks after his Twenty20 return for Australia, where he was man of the match for his two-wicket haul against Pakistan.
Abbott’s first stint in the green and gold came five years earlier, just weeks before the cricket world and his own were shattered by the tragic death of Phillip Hughes.
The international return could not have come at a better time for Abbott who, now 27, is ready to light up the BBL yet again for the Sixers and start his 10-month audition for a World Cup spot towards the end of next year.
Right now you’d imagine only injury or a shocking form slump would deny Abbott the opportunity to play for Australia in a home World Cup.
Nobody has taken more wickets for the Sixers than Abbott, and only Brisbane’s Ben Laughlin has taken more in the eight seasons of the BBL. Very few enjoy putting their hand up like Abbott and sending the white ball down in the final over. His eagerness to step up when the pressure is on has not been lost on those who have watched him develop.
“I’ve played my first game in five years for my country. I did pretty well, but I can’t rest on that, and there will be plenty of moments in the Big Bash to try and own the big moments,” Abbott said.
“That’s what the selectors look for, guys who put their hand up in the big moments in big matches.
“It’s not about getting a couple of wickets at a decent run rate, or hitting a few sixes here and there, you want to put your hand up and win matches for your team.
“I used to hope someone else would knock everyone over and we’d have an easy game.
“Now there’s no better feeling when you’ve been in a tight game, you’ve come out on top and you’ve played some sort of role in that win. I’ll look to do that this Big Bash season.”
When he does, he will feel Merryn watching over him, and mum could have some more memorabilia to load into the truck the next time bushfires threaten.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.