West Indies v Australia ODIs - Men's
Ashton's turn: Mohali hero gets unexpected chance
With a sound body and mind, the WA batsman has been backed to take up a permanent position in Australia's white-ball set-up
Louis Cameron in Barbados
22 July 2021, 10:42 AM AEST
Ashton Turner has faced more setbacks to his physical health than most, but it is the recalled batter’s passion for improving youth mental health that has seen him help start a unique program for the next generation of Australian cricketers.
Overshadowed somewhat by Australia naming a new captain and three debutants in their comprehensive series-opening victory over the West Indies on Wednesday (AEST) was Turner's promising comeback for his first one-day international in 18 months.
Coming off a middling return to the T20I side during the 1-4 series loss in St Lucia, the 28-year-old put on a match-winning 104-run partnership with first-time skipper Alex Carey on a challenging Barbados pitch the hosts could only manage 123 on.
Turner fell one run short of his first fifty for Australia since his crowning moment on the international stage, a miraculous unbeaten 43-ball 84 in Mohali in 2019 that inspired a remarkable come-from-behind series win over India.
His hopes of securing a permanent spot in the national limited-overs sides have been hampered by four right shoulder reconstructions, including three in as many years between 2017-2019, after first hurting the joint playing football when he was 17.
"Touch wood, it feels as good as it has for a long time," said Turner, who was a regular off-spin bowler before his shoulder troubles.
"I'm four shoulder surgeries in so it's never going to be perfect. But I've had almost two years since my last operation and every day it feels stronger and stronger. I'm hoping all of my surgeries are behind me and the best of my throwing and bowling in the field is ahead of me.
"I'm available to bowl, I've been bowling as much I can in training (but) I haven’t bowled a lot in games the last couple of years. You always feel better for getting overs under your belt under pressure in match situations.
"I'm sure as these wickets start to deteriorate more as the series goes on, we might start to see spin have a bigger role and hopefully I can be a part of it."
Having been unfortunate to miss out on making Australia's 2019 World Cup squad, Turner is eager to push his case for this year's T20 showpiece event.
The right-hander conceded he thought he had little chance of being picked for the Caribbean and Bangladesh tours, instead preparing himself for a winter pre-season in Perth and looking after his three children under four after his partner Krystenna gave birth to twins in March.
He has in recent years been one of the KFC BBL leading lower-order finishers, a role Australia still need to fill even when the likes of David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis and Steve Smith (fitness pending) are available again.
Josh Hazlewood rates Turner as one of his harder teammates to bowl to, noting he hits the ball to different areas than most top-line players, while Carey believes he has a big international future ahead of him.
"He played one of the best innings I’ve ever seen at international level, in Mohali in India to keep the series alive," Carey said of Turner. "So we know what he can do.
"That’s a really, really good 49 he made (in the first ODI).
"He’s working really hard off the ground and as you saw tonight, with the quality of player he is, he’ll play a lot more games for Australia.
"He’s busy, he runs hard between the wickets, he’s got the ability to clear the pickets. Also captaining his team back at WA at times, he's got a lot of knowledge and standing next to me at slip tonight, he was great value."
Turner, along with current Western Australian teammate Cameron Bancroft and former teammate Simon Mackin, last year launched 'Gritfull', a junior sports well-being program that aims to help young players' manage their mental health.
All three players have previously detailed their own challenges they have faced managing their own mental well-being.
With Turner in the Caribbean (and then Bangladesh next month) with the Australian limited-overs teams, Bancroft in the United Kingdom playing county cricket for Durham and Mackin having permanently moved to Melbourne, the trio find it difficult to find a window where all three can be hands-on with the program.
But Turner feels strongly that a considerable gap remains in the junior cricket pathway between the quality of technical, physical and tactical coaching compared to mental guidance.
"It was something that was born during the middle of lockdown during the pandemic," Turner said of Gritfull, which he has helped run at numerous junior cricket clubs in Perth.
"We've been talking about our stories and some of the things we've learnt along the way, trying to upskill some of the kids with some strategies to make them feel more comfortable in their own skin and feel better about the challenges that they have faced, and the challenges they will face in the future.
"No one is immune to hardship and I think that's a gap in the pathway system, potentially.
"Growing up in Australia, coming through the pathways with Cricket Australia, there are some amazing resources to help us bat and bowl and field better, but quite often the other side of the game, the mental side of the game, does not get as well resourced.
"I know personally I didn't get to tap into (the expertise of) psychologists and well-being consultants until I started to get contracted as a professional cricketer.
"There's some great knowledge that a lot of people can share and the three of us are trying to do our bit at the moment."
Qantas Tour of the West Indies and Bangladesh 2021
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Wes Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (vc for ODIs), Dan Christian, Josh Hazlewood, Moises Henriques, Mitchell Marsh, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade (vc for T20Is), Adam Zampa. Travelling reserves: Nathan Ellils, Tanveer Sangha.
West Indies ODI squad: Kieron Pollard (c), Shai Hope (vc), Fabian Allen, Darren Bravo, Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Akeal Hosein, Alzarri Joseph, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Anderson Phillip, Nicholas Pooran, Romario Shepherd
T20 series: West Indies won 4-1 (all matches at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, St Lucia)
First T20: West Indies won by 18 runs
Second T20: West Indies won by 56 runs
Third T20: West Indies won by six wickets
Fourth T20: Australia won by four runs
Fifth T20: West Indies won by 16 runs
ODI series (all matches at Kensington Oval, Barbados)
First ODI: Australia won by 133 runs
Second ODI (D/N): July 23, 4.30am AEST (July 22, 2.30pm local)
Third ODI (D/N): July 25, 4.30am AEST (July 24, 2.30pm local)
T20 series v Bangladesh (all matches at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, Dhaka)
First T20: August 3, start time TBC
Second T20: August 4, start time TBC
Third T20: August 6, start time TBC
Fourth T20: August 7, start time TBC
Fifth T20: August 9, start time TBC