How an Italian passport is helping Aussie cricket player Ben Manenti's rise in the sport

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Australian cricket player Ben Manenti says his Italian heritage has given him the opportunity to play cricket all year round - a season in Australia and then another in England.

Manenti burst onto the scene late last year, taking two wickets in his Big Bash League debut for the Sydney Sixers against the Melbourne Renegades. 

The 21-year-old spin bowler has spent years honing his craft in a number of different ways. 

With his grandmother being born in Italy, Manenti was able to obtain an Italian passport as a teenager. 

For the past three years, it has allowed him to play county cricket in England.

"It's really something that I've probably taken for granted," Manenti said.

"A lot of the blokes that I play with actually can't go to England and play cricket because they are not members of the European Union."

Ben's father John played Rugby Union in Italy and is now coach of Australia's Women's Rugby Sevens team.

The Manenti family has a strong passion for sport.

It led them to building a cricket pitch in the backyard of their Sydney home for Ben and his siblings.

"It actually started because we were ruining the lawn and ruining the grass," Manenti said.

"Tennis balls were going over the fence and breaking windows.

"We ended up just getting a little bowling machine, not a proper one and used it to train for a while.

"It was a bit of a luxury to have that in the backyard and it did help my cricket growing up."

Years of practice have paid off for Manenti as he is now a regular in the Sydney Sixers line-up.

The 21-year-old is being mentored by Australian test players Nathan Lyon and Steven O'Keefe.

"For them to give a bit of time, help me and nurture me through the next few years is really good of them," Manenti said.

"It's something I don't take for granted at all."

With the Sixers on track to make the Big Bash finals, Manenti could be the player who makes the difference as the team looks to win its first title in seven years.

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