Pakistan v Australia Test - Men's
Hazlewood aims no higher than deputy
NSW quick and new co-vice captain believes he is well placed to improve communications between bowling group and captain
27 September 2018, 06:11 PM AEST
Josh Hazlewood has acknowledged that a key reason underpinning his appointment as one of Tim Paine's two new deputies is that he harbours no aspirations to take on the top job.
Hazlewood was today named alongside his long-time friend and former junior cricket teammate and rival Mitchell Marsh as joint vice-captains of the Australia men's team in a restructure of leadership roles following the sandpaper scandal in South Africa.
The 27-year-old becomes one of the few fast bowlers to earn a formal leadership role within the national men's outfit, and it's the combination of physical workload plus historical precedent that he happily cites as justification for not wanting to take on captaincy.
It also led him to concede that, should Paine be forced to relinquish on-field leadership due to injury or some other unplanned occurrence, it is likely that Marsh will fill the breach in the interim.
Not that Hazlewood is opposed to the idea of holding the reins "for a session or two" should necessity dictate.
"I guess that's an interesting one, once that does happen we'd obviously have to talk about it," Hazlewood said today in Sydney, where he is continuing his recovery from a back injury that has sidelined him from next month's Qantas Tour of the UAE including two Tests against Pakistan.
"Mitch has done a lot of captaincy in the past for Western Australia, and even through the junior levels.
"I wouldn't mind filling in for a session or two here and there, but I think it's tough on a quick to be full-time captain."
Another vital element of his new rank will be to ensure the player charter, drafted during the cultural review undertaken in the wake of the South Africa series that saw then-leaders Steve Smith and David Warner banned for 12 months, is observed on and off the field.
"It's not just words on a page, it's about living those day-in, day-out, and holding each other accountable to those behaviours as well," Hazlewood said of the values that will be finalised prior to the start of the men's international season later this year.
"Hopefully that creates an environment where everyone is comfortable, and everyone can play their best cricket."
Hazlewood claimed a few subtle changes might be required to enable him to maximise the leadership qualities recognised by his peers within the team, who voted him as one of the broader national squad's six best candidates to guide the re-cast outfit into its new era.
The others to share that recognition were Paine, Marsh, and uncapped (at Test level) trio Aaron Finch, Travis Head and Alex Carey.
Hazlewood indicated he might need to spend more time fielding inside the inner ring rather than recuperating on the boundary in order to act as a liaison between the bowling group and the inner sanctum of leadership, which traditionally gathers close to the centre-wicket.
A demarcation that Hazlewood believes might have aided a breakdown in recent on-field communications.
"I might stay in the ring and talk to the bowlers, and be that link that maybe could have been better in the past between the bowling group and the captain," he said.
"To really help facilitate that and get that in a good position.
"It's probably no secret that the relationships between captain and vice-captain haven't been great in the last 10 or 12 years.
"So maybe having someone as vice-captain who's not necessarily aspiring to be captain, that's the position that I find myself in and I can really contribute as a leader and a vice-captain without ever really pushing that next level.
"Then Mitch and myself can do everything we can to make Painey's job as easy as possible."
Marsh, who is currently in the UAE preparing for the first Test that begins on October 7, revealed earlier today that he and Hazlewood's relationship extends back to their first meeting for Western Australia and New South Wales respectively, at a national under-15 carnival.
Although Hazlewood suspects they might have come across one another even earlier.
Whatever the timeline, the pair hold a strong historical bond that was recognised by their peers, by the panel to whom they recently presented their leadership credentials – which included coach Justin Langer, national selectors, and ex-Test skipper Mark Taylor – and by each other.
"We know how good he is, he always steps up with the ball whenever required," Marsh said of Hazlewood when interviewed by cricket.com.au recently.
"He's an extremely level-headed person, professional, he's humble, he ticks all the boxes of a good leader so if Josh Hazelwood is my vice-captain I'd run through a brick wall for him.
"I think that's how you define leaders."
Hazlewood was similarly effusive about Marsh, who took on his first senior leadership role last summer when Langer installed him as veteran Adam Voges' replacement to lead Western Australia.
"I think he's just a great team man," Hazlewood said of his fellow vice-captain.
"He'll do anything for the team and he's a great character that the team needs, he's one of those guys that can lift you when you're down and just brings that energy with him.
"He's done a bit of leadership stuff with Western Australia obviously and he's still quite a young guy.
"He's still got a lot to learn, and he's quite open about that so he's a big one for the Australian cricket team."
Hazlewood found the formal panel presentation, in line with Langer's plans to revamp the leadership structure within the Australia men's teams, "a bit daunting".
But the coolness of demeanour and clarity of thinking that led to his peer-group endorsement clearly served him well under that pressure, and he believes it is a quality that both he and Marsh possess.
And from which their teams might demonstrably benefit.
"I've seen some leaders around the world, in the past and even in the present, they're very emotional and up and down," Hazlewood told cricket.com.au recently.
"The team sort of rides with that sometimes, and it's good to have a few players like that but I think you need those level heads as well.
"Those consistent behaviours, those consistent people that hold the team nice and level whether you're winning all the time, or you're going through a tough time."
Qantas Tour of the UAE
Australia Test squad: Tim Paine (c), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc
Sep 29 - Oct 2: Tour match v Pak A, Dubai
Oct 7-11: First Test, Dubai
Oct 16-20: Second Test, Abu Dhabi