Proof positive: Philippe sets himself for UK mission
Explosive young 'keeper-batter enthused by potential opportunity to tour with Australia in September after proving himself to Justin Langer
31 July 2020, 01:41 PM AEST
Earmarked as Australia's hottest rising talent in white-ball cricket, Josh Philippe has come a long way since he had to convince Justin Langer he was better than a No.11.
The youngest member of Australia's 26-player preliminary squad for a series of white-ball games against England, currently slated for September, Philippe has already been singled out by national captain Aaron Finch as a key player with the 2023 World Cup in mind, while Langer has highlighted his knack for turning in match-winning performances.
But Langer hasn't always been as sure of the capabilities of the 23-year-old, who is the only uncapped batsman in Australia's expanded squad.
Cast aside after his season as an Under-19 player with Western Australia, Philippe spent two years in a cricketing wilderness, forging his own way outside of the state system.
Consecutive winters playing club cricket in the UK proved instrumental, and in 2017 he plundered 900 runs in England's North East Premier League, played second XI cricket for Durham, and earned an invite to WA's pre-season intra-squad matches, cutting short his UK summer.
Rushing home eager to showcase his skills, Philippe found himself quietly stewing on the bench as he was shunted further and further down the order by then WA coach Langer.
Promised a better crack at it next game, he was due to come in when a wicket fell in the 30th over of the 50-over game, but was again demoted by Langer, twice.
"I was spewing by this point, and not terribly impressed," Philippe recalls.
Finally, his opportunity came at No.11 where he promptly unleashed with a flurry of sixes and boundaries in a rapid-fire innings that left the state coach gobsmacked.
"Everyone was a bit shocked," he adds. "I don't think they realised I could bat."
A week later he opened the batting for WA's second XI, scoring 93 and 64. A week after that, he was smashing an England attack featuring James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes all around the WACA in a tour match ahead of the 2017-18 Ashes.
Now Philippe is hopeful of a return to the UK in Australian colours, and his glovework may help him earn a spot in a touring party that could be as large as 22, given replacements will not be able to be flown in for the three T20s and three ODIs.
"I'm obviously super excited and super proud to be included, even though it is a larger squad, and it is going to get cut down," Philippe told cricket.com.au this week.
"Fingers crossed I can get on the plane.
"My first question to (national selector Trevor Hohns) was, 'What does this mean?' because it was quite a big squad and often there's training camps or that sort of thing.
"It's always been a dream to get picked and play for Australia, but I'm quite aware I'm still quite young and I'm raw and probably not as consistent as I want to be.
"It's just really nice to be thought of and included, and to potentially get the opportunity to be in that environment and really see what it takes, and see if I can maybe get an opportunity and do well at that level."
Philippe's meteoric rise is a tale of chances grabbed by the scruff of the neck, and big-game performances.
Another opportunity to showcase his talents up a level came early in the 2018-19 summer, when picked in the Prime Minister's XI match against the touring South Africans.
Facing the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi, Phillipe thrilled with eight fours and a six in a rapid half-century, while also taking two handy catches and a stumping.
Soon after, the Sydney Sixers came calling with an offer too good to refuse for the proud Perth boy: regular BBL cricket, and the chance to open the batting and keep wicket.
The rest is Big Bash history, the latest chapter of which was a star turn in last summer's KFC BBL final where Philippe's fifty helped the Sixers secure the title and earned him player-of-the-match honours.
Now he's waiting to hear if his ticket is booked to the UK, while he is also bound for the Indian Premier League after being picked up by Royal Challengers Bangalore in last December's auction, with the prospect of a large chunk of the early season away from Western Australia.
"I'm not sure how many players they're going to take (to the UK) … and there's not much I can do between now and then, just keep training well," Philippe said.
"It's not like there's any games I can prove myself in – I'll just be as ready as I can be and just wait and see what happens.
"I was hitting them pretty average that week (before Hohns called), then on the Friday session I absolutely smashed them. I don't know if that was related, or just a really nice positive reminder.
"But it's been quite interesting training, not really knowing how it's going to look. Certainty is a great thing, you just want to know what's next and what's going on.
"But it was a nice little reminder of the potential of something really exciting coming up, and just to be ready."
With the prospect of a maiden international cap on the cards, or several weeks in close confines with his RCB teammates like Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers as well as Aussie white-ball stars Finch and Kane Richardson, Philippe knows he's on a steep learning curve.
"It's going to be an amazing opportunity to mix with some of those players and come out learning heaps from them and bring some of that stuff into my own game," he said.
"The players they have in that team … far out, if I was picking the team I don't know if I'd pick myself.
"I'm just hoping I can get an opportunity at some point to play a couple.
"It's looking like I'll miss a whole patch of the first half of the season and unfortunately that's just what it's going to be for a few of us."