Cricket Australia Items/Blogs/greg-chappell/2012/12/21/talent-management-in-good-health

Greg Chappell

Chappell: Talent Management in good health

21 December 2012 13

The inclusion of Jackson Bird and Usman Khawaja in the squad for the Vodafone Boxing Day Test is validation that the Cricket Australia Talent Management structure is in good health, for slightly different reasons.

Khawaja was getting a game for NSW and had been chosen to play for Australia before, but he chose to move states to develop his game and to enhance his chance of a recall to the Test team.

Usman felt that a move to the sunshine state under the direction of one of Australia's most creative left-hand batsmen of recent times, would be good for his cricket development.

He also knew that he was more likely to play every game in both the four-day and one-day formats, which would help him to increase his versatility.

In his first foray into Test cricket, the smooth left-hander found that he was easily restricted by quality bowling and had been told to go away and learn to increase his range of strokes and his ability to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

It is one thing to survive, it is another thing to put the pressure back onto the opposition bowlers.

His new mentor was the perfect choice for him.

Darren Lehmann was one of the more difficult batsmen to bowl to so his knowledge and experience was what Usman was after.

Lehmann will also have been very useful in helping Usman to improve his play against spin bowling. They have also put some work into his fielding which has made him even more selectable.

It has been noticeable this season that he  has been more proactive at the crease and his success for his adopted state has encouraged the National Selectors to usher him back into the squad.

No doubt, Lehmann can take some of the credit.

While Khawaja has been in Cricket Australia's elite development pathway for sometime, Bird's trip to the Australian Test team has been more laborious, as well as much more circuitous.

Bird represented NSW at the Under 19 National Championships in Perth in 2005.

Working part-time in Perth for Cricket Tasmania was Michael Farrell who noted the presence of the tall fast bowler with the high action who hit the seam regularly.

Fast forward to 2009, and Farrell was successful in his application for the newly created, full-time position created by Cricket Australia, in conjunction with the states, as Cricket Tasmania's Talent Manager.

With a pace attack comprised of Hilfenhaus, Maher, Denton, Griffiths and Butterworth as well as promising left-arm swing bowler James Faulkner, Tasmania were not in the market for anyone else.

As Hilfenhaus began playing more Test cricket and James Faulkner's workloads were managed due to his still developing body, Tasmania began to look around for talent to bolster their stocks.

In discussions with coaching staff about possible candidates, Farrell recalled the tall young quick that he had noticed back in Perth.

At the time, Bird was not contracted by Cricket NSW and was trying to keep his cricket dream alive by playing grade cricket for Manly and working part-time.

The occasional game in the Futures League was only just keeping him interested.Farrell convinced his boss to let him go and see Bird play to refresh his memory.

He saw him play in a Second XI game in Melbourne and then in a Futures League game for NSW in Hobart.

Bird's wholehearted efforts in these outings convinced Farrell that Jackson was just the right type of bowler for the seam friendly conditions at Bellerive.

He also believed his personality would  fit well in the relaxed, but professional environment created by coach Tim Coyle and captain George Bailey.

Bird moved to Hobart in time for the 2011/12 season and made an immediate impact.

A successful first season that included the award as Sheffield Shield player of the season prompted the National Selection Panel to reward him with a tour of England with Australia A in the winter of 2012.

Bird struggled initially on the tour, but by the end had adjusted nicely to the conditions in England and proved that he could handle the demands of the touring life and playing at the higher level.

If Jackson gets the nod to make his debut in the Boxing Day Test, it will be great reward for the young man who never gave up on his dream of representing his country and who was courageous enough to move away from the comforts of home to make it happen.

If the selectors do choose him, spare a thought for the Talent Manager who backed his judgement and convinced others to take the punt to bring him to Tasmania.

He deserves a special mention as well and will, deservedly, get nearly as big a thrill as he watches his protege wear the Baggy Green cap out on to the MCG for the first time.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
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