Marsh Sheffield Shield 2019-20
Rejuvenated Richardson reveals injury fears
Paceman hitting top form after long winter in Perth, but says stint on the sidelines had him questioning whether he'd return to his best
9 October 2019, 08:46 PM AEST
Young pace star Jhye Richardson concedes there were times during a frustrating off-season when he feared he would never fully regain the pace and zip that helped him burst onto the international scene last summer.
Richardson will make his return to first-class cricket this week in Western Australia's Marsh Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania in Perth, his first red-ball game since the Canberra Test against Sri Lanka last February.
The 23-year-old had been expected to play a role in Australia's World Cup and Ashes campaigns during the winter, but instead spent a long off-season at home in Perth rehabbing a badly injury right shoulder.
The right-armer was back to his best during the recent Marsh One-Day Cup, including a lightning spell in the tournament opener that Victoria's Glenn Maxwell – who did club Richardson for three consecutive sixes – said was "as fast as I've faced in a long time".
But as he battled through almost six months on the sidelines, Richardson conceded there were moments where he worried about what the future held.
"When you're going through rehab, you have moments when you're never really sure if you're going to get back to where you were," he told cricket.com.au.
"The rehab process … was probably as smooth as it could have gone. I didn't necessarily take backward steps, there were a few plateaus along the way, which is pretty normal.
"There were periods of two to three weeks where nothing was getting better. It was still really sore, and I was off half my run, just trying to get faster and better and stronger. And nothing was really happening.
"I had people around me saying 'It's OK, you'll get past it, just keep trucking at it, just keep doing what you're doing'.
"There were a few moments where … you don't know what's next. You hit this level where you haven't gone up, you haven't gone down, and it's really frustrating because you're doing all the work but nothing's happening."
Having initially held out hope of a speedy recovery that would have allowed him to play in Australia's World Cup campaign, Richardson concedes those plans were quickly scrapped.
"I gave myself eight weeks to get up for it and looking back, that was probably very ambitious," he said.
"When it first happened, I probably didn't completely understand, I was maybe a little bit naïve, how bad it was going to be.
"But I've been playing competitive cricket again for a little while, which has been fantastic, and falling in love with the game again."
The two pivotal moments in Richardson's rehabilitation came away from Perth; the first was when he played a one-day game in Darwin in late July, and then when he joined Australia's National Performance Squad on their tour of India in August.
It was at the famed MRF Pace Academy in Chennai under the watchful eye of Glenn McGrath that Richardson pushed the speed gun beyond the 140kph mark for the first time since he's dislocated his bowling shoulder in late March.
"That was the turning point from a mental point of view," he said.
"To know that I'm back, I can start to bowl fast again and probably back to where I was before.
"That's a positive sign that everything's moving forward."
Having watched Australia's long winter of cricket in the UK from home, Richardson's next task is to regain the Test and ODI spots that he held before injury struck on Australia's tour of the UAE six months ago.
Overlooked this week in Australia's T20 squad, his main focus now is to re-establish himself in the fast-bowling pecking order for the five Tests this summer, against Pakistan and New Zealand.
"The way I'm going to get back to Test cricket is by having fun playing cricket," he said.
"When you're having fun … you're not over-thinking, you're not trying too hard. When you try too hard, you're going to perform too well because you're putting too much pressure on yourself.
"If I have fun and play with a clear mind, hopefully the performances will come. Whatever comes after that is a bonus."
Western Australia will host Tasmania in the Marsh Sheffield Shield opener at the WACA Ground from 10:30am local time (1:30pm AEDT) from Thursday, October 10 with a free live stream via cricket.com.au and the CA Live app, including Apple TV
Western Australia squad: Mitchell Marsh (c), Ashton Agar, Cameron Bancroft, Hilton Cartwright, Cameron Green, Josh Inglis, Matt Kelly, Shaun Marsh, Joel Paris, Josh Philippe, Jhye Richardson, Marcus Stoinis, Sam Whiteman.
Tasmania squad: Matthew Wade (Captain), George Bailey, Jackson Bird, Alex Doolan, Jake Doran, Caleb Jewell, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Lawrence Neil-Smith, Tim Paine, Alex Pyecroft, Sam Rainbird, Jordan Silk