Kane's road: Richardson plots his Bulls, Aussie path
Australia paceman Richardson has relocated to the Gold Coast with his family, signed for Queensland, and is using the wisdom gained from 13 years of elite cricket to push him in a new direction in the next phase of his career
Even upon relocating to the Gold Coast in February, Kane Richardson didn't see himself ever entertaining the idea of one day playing for Queensland.
Richardson, who was about to turn 31, had played for South Australia since he was 17, and besides, he didn't much like many of the Queenslanders he'd come up against in the heat of battle.
But it was a chance meeting at the Gabba in March that gave the Australian paceman something to mull over, and prompted an eventual change of heart.
"The Redbacks were up here playing a Shield game, and I was rehabbing back from (a hamstring injury) so I went up (to Brisbane) to see the SACA physio," Richardson tells cricket.com.au.
"I was walking the corridors and I ran into (Queensland coach) Wade Seccombe, and I know 'Ryno' (Bulls assistant coach Ryan Harris) really well from some Australian bowling coach stuff, so there's a bit of a relationship there."
The three chatted informally about where Richardson's future might be headed. Then at season's end, he officially ended an association with South Australia that had lasted his entire adult life.
"It was gonna be hard to go back there," he says. "I think it's unfair on young bowlers in their camp if I'm not even living there, but flying back and playing.
"So we had the end-of-season meeting and I said, 'Look, I think it's time that we kind of tie this off and go our separate ways'.
"It was sad to do that, because I've played for them since I was 17. There's been some tough moments, no doubt, and times I've probably thought I'd love to be elsewhere, but when it finishes, you do reflect."
The clear air also gave Richardson time to reconsider his outlook moving forward. Part of that was a decision to look to say 'yes' to any opportunity that came his way, so when Seccombe reached out, that theory was put to the test. The pair met for coffee, and sounded each other out.
"I'd been on one (Australia) tour with him (to India in 2020) and was really impressed with how he went about it," Richardson said. "And I actually went and did some net bowling with Queensland, as part of my prep for Pakistan before I re-did the hammy.
"They were all training, it was before a Shield game, and I just heard the way he spoke to the guys. I was trying to keep my distance, but I got to see how he went about it, and he was really good.
"They'd had a tough year but he was still super positive about what they had ahead of them.
"When I moved up here, and I thought about Queensland, I was like, Nah – I couldn't see myself doing it.
"I think in the past month I've been like, Well, why not? It's a change of environment, and guys I've hated playing against, I might actually love playing with.
"I said to 'Chuck' (Seccombe), 'I actually am super excited to play one-day cricket with these guys', because their personalities, they shit you playing against them – and I'm talking about some of their batsmen – but I'd be jumping out of my skin to play cricket with them, because they're super competitive, they're always challenging, and they never go away.
"So it's probably gonna be more fun than I've had in the past, and I'm sure it'll build up inside of me, the excitement, once I start getting amongst the boys and get to know them more."
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Kane Richardson was born in South Australia and had, until now, spent his entire senior cricket career there, but it was a zig-zagging route across the country that he took in between.
The first of those legs was as a pre-schooling child and via a renovated school bus which, for him, his three siblings and his parents served as not only a mode of transport but home as well.
The Richardsons took themselves through remote Western Australia and the Northern Territory, and the adventures and the lifestyle planted a seed for an eventual move to Darwin, where they raised their children.
Kane's memories of that time, firstly in a caravan park and then on an expansive block in a suburb called Moil, all revolve around sport. Their home on Byrne Circuit was just a short bike ride from the Marrara Sporting Complex, which meant Kane could get home from school, drop his bag, and head straight to cricket training.
"It was all sport, really," he remembers. "Dad put a cricket pitch in the yard, and he planted two palm trees, which became goalposts.
"It was just random how we ended up there; we didn't have any family ties or anything. It was just somewhere Mum and Dad wanted us to grow up and so then it was just playing footy when it's bucketing down rain and playing cricket when it's 38 degrees and sunny."
From there a teenaged Richardson accepted a memorable if short-lived scholarship to Carey Grammar School in Melbourne, during which he recalls being mercilessly sledged by hundreds of schoolkids during high-stakes inter-school showdowns. And after that experience was halted by stress fractures and a yearning to return to the familiarity of home, it was onto South Australia, with whom he made his T20 and one-day debuts before his 18th birthday.
A year later, in just his sixth T20 match, he was enjoying a Twenty20 Big Bash triumph with South Australia, knocking over David Warner among figures of 3-31. Three more finals with SA followed across the decade (two one-day tournaments, one Shield as 12th man) though all ended in defeat.
More than 13 years on from his state debut, Richardson has seen trends and players and coaches come and go, and forged his own views on the game, and specifically the way it has evolved in his generation. With that experience, too, comes a comfort in sharing those views, some of which provide a more meaningful insight into the mindsets of today's professional cricketers than many of his peers are willing to offer.
Some examples: Richardson sees no issue nowadays with a professional Australian cricketer pursuing paths that lead them to a destination other than a Baggy Green, though he suspects others who believe the same fear it is sacrilege to say so; he thinks today's young brigade are in more of a hurry to play international cricket than ever before, citing his Renegades teammate Jake Fraser-McGurk as a case in point ("he wants to be in the Test team now"); and partly as a consequence, he feels coaches who are well equipped in the man management department, who can relate to – and find common ground with – their players, are likely to experience the most success, while on the flipside, he insists the game has passed by coaches of a certain ilk.
"It's a different way of coaching now than what it was 10 years ago, that's for sure," he says. "Like with the old-school (coach), you know, sprays aren't really gonna get the job done anymore – you need to build really strong relationships."
He feels new Australia head coach Andrew McDonald, with whom he won KFC BBL|08 with the Renegades, is the best he has seen of this new model mentor.
"I've never seen a coach have a whole dressing room like them (until McDonald)," he says. "And yeah, he's your mate, but once cricket comes there's ultimate respect for him as coach.
"It's emotional intelligence, and knowing how to communicate in different ways with people, and he's almost the best I've seen, but Wade Seccombe seems to be from that same mould, and it seems the same way in AFL now as well."
It is a mode of operation that seems to sit well with Richardson. Thoughtful and level-headed, he too has become adept at adapting with the times, learning to play to his strengths and working out the mindset that allows him to perform at his best. In those respects, he knows a team-first mentality is his trump card moving forward, and for Queensland and Australia, that will play out in different ways.
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There have been two seminal points in Richardson's career in the past six-and-a-bit years.
The first came in March 2017, when South Australia were beaten by Victoria in that summer's Sheffield Shield final in Alice Springs. Richardson had toiled hard for 18 months, putting his mind to becoming the best first-class bowler he could be. Asked to play an enforcer-type role through that season behind frontline pace trio Chadd Sayers, Joe Mennie and Dan Worrall, the right-armer delivered, taking 32 wickets at 25 in eight matches.
The team's second leading wicket-taker, he was nonetheless axed for the final, reduced to 12th man duties as the Redbacks spent days on end in the field in a high-scoring draw that meant the Vics claimed another Shield trophy and the South Australian drought continued.
"I never got a good run at Shield cricket when I was young – I was always injured, or I didn't play," Richardson says. "Then that year I was like, 'I'm putting all my eggs into this basket', just to see what would happen, see if I could prove people wrong, but also prove to myself that I could play it.
"I played eight games, and I did really well, but I got dropped for the final and it was like, 'Right, I'm no good at this format … (red-ball cricket is) obviously not my strength … if I can't stay in this team for the final after the year I've just had…'"
Richardson also felt the task of dropping the ball in short was neither suited to his skill-set nor healthy for his body in the long-term. At the end of that season he considered moving to Tasmania off the back of some gentle wooing from Matthew Wade and George Bailey, but he and his partner Nicole had just purchased a house in Adelaide and the timing didn't feel right.
"Looking back, just in terms of cricket, I probably should've moved – it would have been worthwhile," he says. "But you make the decision in the moment – you don't really think about years ahead – and it was never something that … I was never desperate to play Test cricket."
Instead, Richardson committed himself to following the direction he felt cricket was more naturally taking him. In five seasons since that Shield final, he has played just eight first-class matches, with his most recent now more than 18 months ago.
Through the same period, he has appeared in 40 white-ball matches for Australia, and 27 of those have come in the T20 format, where he has truly made his name.
It was an ODI series however, that marked the second key point in Richardson's career, and one that proved the catalyst for his shift in mentality.
In Justin Langer's maiden series as head coach, an under-strength Australia were swept 5-0 by a rampant England for the first time in their ODI history.
Statistically at least, Richardson emerged from the wreckage relatively unscathed, having taken six wickets at 26 in three matches, while conceding six runs per over.
But the resoundingly one-sided nature of most of the matches meant it was a line-in-the-sand sort of series for Australia. Pace pair Andrew Tye and Michael Neser haven't played ODI cricket since, and in the immediate aftermath, Richardson thought he was likely to suffer the same fate.
"I got dropped (during the series) and I thought that was probably the end," he says.
"And I remember Justin Langer saying he didn't think I was ever going to play again, so I was probably on the money at that stage, feeling that way."
Up until then, Richardson had sweated on the outcome of every ball he bowled, on every squad that was selected, every contract list picked. He would get home from a game, watch back the recording, and listen to the criticism or advice or compliments from the commentators, and turn it all over in his mind.
But the reality that his international cricket career might all be over at 27 gave him some clarity, and he was smart enough to consider his situation with context.
"It definitely helped put things in perspective, just of life," he continues. "I'm definitely not Gandhi, like I'm not making out I'm this motivational speaker, but I think I just learned that you're still pretty bloody lucky to play state cricket and you're still making a living, it's an amazing lifestyle, you can go play overseas still – all these other opportunities are there.
"So I think it was just that small tweak in mindset."
It led to another. Freed somewhat from his post-match introspection and never-ending push for national selection, he turned his attentions towards his younger teammates.
"Coming back from that (England tour), for some reason I felt like I was about 35," he remembers. "I'd been around for almost 10 years, I'd just been dropped again, and I was like, 'Where am I at now?'
"And that was probably the first time in my career where I thought, This could end. It was the first time I realised I needed to start thinking about other things, and how I go about it as well.
"So I made a decision to try and help people around me. And that's where I was like, 'Look, if I don't play a lot of Shield cricket because these other guys take my spot, that's great'. Again, I just changed my mindset."
And as Richardson points out, within (mostly) ailing South Australia and Melbourne Renegades squads, it was an attitude that suited the climate; a seasoned international working with two groups high on hope and ambition but low on experience and knowhow.
"Because we haven't been super competitive, the way you approach training and games has changed," he offers. "You're trying to help, trying to up-skill (young players) as quickly as you can.
"It'd be different when you're in a Sydney Sixers or in state cricket, WA – you probably don't need to worry about that because those teams are littered with stars.
"But it's trying to help those younger guys coming through so when you're playing, or even if it's two or three years down the track, you see the benefit. That's been a big part of it for me."
Richardson said as much to Seccombe, who was receptive to the idea that he could well have as much to offer off the field as on it, particularly given the young crop of quality fast bowlers at the Bulls.
As Richardson puts it: "When you're 31, yeah you're still trying to keep playing for Australia as much as you can, but you also have to know your place; you almost have a little bit of a service to the people around you to try and help."
With Australia, as he looks ahead to this year's T20 World Cup as a likely back-up pace bowler to the 'Big Three' who have dominated his generation, he has also worked out how to contribute to team success in more ways than simply taking wickets (he has been effective there, too, taking 28 wickets in his past 21 matches, while boasting a superior strike-rate to Pat Cummins and conceding fewer runs per over than Mitchell Starc).
"The beauty of T20 is you don't need to bowl 145kph," he says. "It doesn't matter what you look like, what your strengths are, or what people watching on TV think, there's always a role for someone if you're really good at it.
"My niche in the last couple of years has been doing things that those guys don't need to do. If there's a tough job that 'Cummo' and 'Starcy' don't need to do, I'll do it.
"And the viewer at home would probably think, This guy's average – he's bowling half-trackers at 130, but it's about trying to find what's working in that game and doing it.
"Those guys (Cummins, Starc, Josh Hazlewood) are going to be effective on any surface against any opposition, whereas for me, if there's a certain role that needs to be played that I'm going to be good at, then I'll do that.
"I think in the last couple of years that whole group has come together and really found an identity as a group, and within that each guy has his role."
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As he settles into his new home in Miami on the Gold Coast, with his wife Nicole, their baby boy Jules and their two dogs, Kendrick and Kendall, even a bout of COVID-19 nor missing out on a Cricket Australia contract hasn't been able to dampen Richardson's enthusiasm for what lies ahead.
He has spent some time training at the Gold Coast Suns' base, courtesy of a relationship with former CA strength and conditioning coach David Bailey, who is now with the AFL club.
With a Sri Lanka tour on the horizon, he is more comfortable than ever touring internationally now that his wife is just a short drive from her side of the family, and part of him wishes they made the move north sooner for the same reason; it might have saved him from having to make some difficult decisions around withdrawing from IPL and Australia tours in recent years.
And while the cricket in front of him will invariably skew heavily towards the white ball, the new environment in which he has found himself – with new people, and new conversations – does have him pondering what it might be like to have another crack at first-class cricket. He again casts his mind back to the summer of 2016-17, and that 32-wicket Shield campaign, before throwing forward.
"That was probably as close as I've ever gotten to being like, 'Yeah, I can do this'," he says. "And that's what I'm thinking about Shield cricket now – I think I'm skilful enough, but it's probably one or two games just to help, it'd never be anything more than that, unless, who knows? You never know, but it would surprise me, that's for sure."
And while there is still a chapter or two to be written in cricket, he is also looking at life more broadly. The dual challenges of being a dad and completing a post graduate degree in high performance keep him busy, while when his playing days are over, he is interested in staying in sport in some capacity, whether it be cricket, Aussie Rules or potentially even an opportunity that arises in South-East Queensland in the build-up to the 2032 Olympics.
Then there is the unknown element of his close mate Adam Zampa, who has embedded himself in the Byron Bay community about an hour down the road from Richardson.
"That's something I'm interested in seeing, is what he's going to be doing in five years," he laughs. "I'm sure he'll be up to something, and maybe I can tag along."
For now though, there are more immediate matters to consider. Like Queensland, and Australia, and taking the first steps of a new adventure.