Vodafone Test v Afghanistan
Bird eyes hometown comeback against Afghanistan
Veteran seamer Jackson Bird is hoping for a return to Australia's Test team this summer if the first-choice quicks are unavailable
8 September 2021, 05:30 PM AEST
Having conceded less than two years ago that he was “probably done in international cricket”, veteran seamer Jackson Bird is eyeing off a fairy tale Test comeback on his home ground this summer if Australia’s harsh quarantine restrictions bring the country’s leading fast bowlers unstuck.
Bird, who will turn 35 in December, has taken more wickets than any other bowler in the past two Marsh Sheffield Shield seasons and is hoping to add to his nine career Tests in November’s match against Afghanistan in Hobart.
It remains unclear whether leading fast bowlers Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc will be available for the opening Test of the summer, which could potentially clash with the end of their two-week quarantine period following the T20 World Cup.
Should Australia reach the World Cup final on November 15, all-format players like the three quicks as well as David Warner and Steve Smith (also members of the World Cup squad) would require a Tasmanian Government exemption to train before and play in the Hobart Test, which begins on November 27, during their quarantine period.
In June, CA said a number of options were on the table as part of their discussions with federal and state governments, including playing the Hobart Test under the same hard quarantine restrictions as last summer's Gabba Test against India, or for Australia to pick a Test XI without their World Cup stars.
Should the latter scenario eventuate, Bird is confident he can join the likes of James Pattinson, Michael Neser and Jhye Richardson in the fast-bowling group to take on Afghanistan.
“If there are four fast-bowling spots up for grabs, I feel like I’m in the next (group of) four fast bowlers in the country,” Bird told cricket.com.au having signed a two-year contract extension with the Sydney Sixers.
“I know where I sit in the pecking order with the fast bowlers around at the moment. Even if I did get picked in that Test match, I’m under no illusions of where I sit for the Ashes.
“(But) there’s obviously an opportunity there if you start the season well. You never know. Whether or not the selectors see that the same way that I do, I’m not sure.
“Deep down I’d love to play for Australia again. I’m still coming to training each day to try and get better as a cricketer, and I think that’s a good sign in terms of where my head’s at.
“It’s probably not something that I’m thinking about all the time like I used to when I was younger. But I feel like if I got picked in international cricket, I could still do a good job.”
Bird was infamously named 12th man for Australia’s most recent Test in Hobart, against South Africa in 2016, when Joe Mennie was picked ahead of the Tasmanian purportedly due to his superior batting ability.
But the right-armer is hoping that if the stars align and he is to win a recall, his local knowledge might work in his favour this time.
“It’d be awesome to get picked and potentially play a Test on my home ground,” he said. “Whether that holds any favours for my selection, who knows.
“If I can get another game for Australia, that’d be the icing on the cake.”
Bird’s new deal with the Sixers, which he says was a “no brainer” as the club chases a third consecutive title this summer, will see him through until the end of the 2022-23 season, when his current deal with Tasmania will also expire.
While confident he can play on beyond that point, he’s also picked up the coaching bug after taking on more responsibility with Tasmania’s young fast bowlers in recent years, which has opened his eyes to his life beyond playing.
“Younger guys look up to the senior players so having that extra responsibility of being a leader in the group changed my mind a little bit in terms of coaching,” he said.
“You don’t really know if you’re going to enjoy it until you get that practical experience, but I really, really enjoyed last year.
“I’ve had a lot of ups and down in terms of injuries and selection and technical changes … so a lot of the questions the younger guys come to me with, I’ve experienced before.
“(But) I haven’t thought about retiring yet. I’ve looked after myself pretty well over the last couple of years and been relatively injury free.
“While I’m still performing, I’m definitely not going to hang up the boots anytime soon.”