'Desperate' Shield aspirations impact Ferguson's big decision
South Australia batter Callum Ferguson aims to play on in 2020-21, becoming the longest-serving player in the domestic four-day competition
27 March 2020, 06:59 PM AEST
South Australia veteran and ex-Test batter Callum Ferguson plans to continue his playing career in the hope of capturing the Marsh Sheffield Shield title that has eluded the Redbacks for quarter of a century.
Ferguson, who turns 36 in November, played all but the first two of SA's Shield matches last summer and ended the season as his team's fourth-highest runs-scorer with 451 at an average of 32.21 and a highest score of 123 against Western Australia in Perth.
SA's contract negotiations for 2020-21 have yet to begin following the premature end to last season owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
South Australia Cricket Association has also temporarily halted its search for a new head coach after the COVID-19 virus placed unexpected financial pressure on the organisation.
Should Ferguson continue playing at first-class level next summer, the right-hander will be the longest-serving contemporary Shield player in terms of appearances (121 since his debut in 2004) and the second-oldest behind WA's Shaun Marsh, who turns 37 in July.
Ferguson also has a year to run on his contract with Sydney Thunder in the KFC Big Bash League and claims it is the promise he sees at the Redbacks – whose last title came in 1995-96, the longest Shield drought in the state's history – that serves as his primary motivation to continue in the red-ball format.
"I'll go around again," he told cricket.com.au of his Shield aspirations.
'I'm still enjoying it, and I feel like I'm batting well plus I really enjoy playing with this group.
"I feel like we've got a side here that can win something over the next couple of years, so I'd like to be a part of that.
"I'm desperate to win a Shield."
Ferguson admits the Redbacks squandered their best chance to achieve that ambition when they hosted the Shield final against Victoria in 2015-16, but chose to bat at a hectic pace in their first innings while the more experienced visitors ground down their opponents to claim an outright win.
He was forced to miss that game due to a season-ending knee injury sustained months earlier, but the veteran of 30 ODIs (as well as a solitary Test against South Africa in 2016) concedes the attacking way SA has played under outgoing coach Jamie Siddons is more often a strength than a weakness.
"If you look through our playing list, our way is to take the game on and it occasionally can be to our detriment," Ferguson said.
"I look back to the Shield final in Adelaide and wish that we might have gone about it in a bit of a different way – we were certainly a bit low on experience in the batting order in that game.
"But it's a trait of our side, and if you look at all the great teams across history they played to what their team was naturally adept at, in terms of mindset and style.
"Those Australia teams under Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, they were generally sides that took on the game and a lot of that was based on the natural inclination of their players.
"That's something we'll continue to try and embrace, but we want to make sure we're playing the game that's in front of us and not blindly playing the same way every time we go out there.
"It is a trait that held us in good stead in the two seasons when we reached the Shield final, it's just that we haven't been able to nail it in the last couple of years.
"But I believe it will continue to hold us in good stead going forward."
Despite collecting their third Shield wooden spoon in as many seasons, Ferguson claimed SA had shown significant improvement this year from 2018-19 and he genuinely believed they could challenge for the crown next summer.
The Redbacks batters scored more runs than any rival outfit in the Shield competition this summer, but also conceded more than any other bowling attack which proved a key factor in their bottom-placed finish.
Ferguson said the absence, through injury, of key seamers Daniel Worrall, Joe Mennie and Chadd Sayers at various times enabled rookie Wes Agar to step up and play a pivotal role, but also noted that continuity of key personnel was vital to any team's bowling plans.
"If you can get into a position where you've got guys playing together for long periods, you get a real feel for how each other react in different situations," Ferguson said.
"You also then know who's going to perform roles at crucial moments – who's going to land that killer blow, who are we keeping fresh for when we need a breakthrough, who's the most effective at bowling long spells and building pressure at the other end.
"So continuity is key, and that's something we probably did lack at times this season and maybe that was a contributing factor to not quite being able to bowl a couple of sides out on day four of matches.
"But I look at Frankie (Worrall, aged 28) and think he's still got plenty of years ahead of them, and now that he's back up and running that changes the game for us big time.
"I thought (left-armer) Nick Winter was fantastic this season, he had a bad foot for the majority of the summer but bowled some long spells with that.
"And to get a few more games into (leg-spinner) Lloyd Pope, I think there's plenty to get excited about with that bowling attack."