Marsh One-Day Cup 2021-22
Philippe pulls trigger on Root-inspired technique tweak
Struggles on Australia's winter tours prompted Josh Philippe to make significant changes to his batting technique
16 October 2021, 02:02 PM AEST
Josh Philippe has faced endless comparisons to Steve Smith but it's his Ashes rival Joe Root who the emerging batting star is drawing inspiration from in a renewed push to transfer his white-ball success to the longest format.
Locked away in an Adelaide hotel room for two weeks to mull over a T20 World Cup audition gone wrong earlier this year, Philippe spent his nights taking in Root's batting mastery during England's home Test campaign against India.
The England captain's dream run – Root will enter this summer's Ashes having already scored 1,455 Test runs this year, including six centuries in 12 matches – has coincided with a much leaner 2021 for Philippe, his first year as an international cricketer.
The 24-year-old, who will take the gloves in Western Australia's Marsh Sheffield Shield match tomorrow in the absence of Josh Inglis, admits Australia's limited-overs tours of the Caribbean and Bangladesh were steep learning curves.
Having impressed with brisk knocks of 45 and 43 in his maiden international series against New Zealand in February-March, Philippe struggled in the ensuing T20 campaigns in St Lucia and Dhaka with scores of 2, 1, 13, 0, 9 and 10.
He only fared a little better in three ODIs against West Indies in Barbados, managing a top of 39.
It came as little surprise to him that Inglis leapfrogged both him and Alex Carey to be the back-up 'keeper in Australia's T20 World Cup squad.
But Philippe's tough introduction to the top flight, and an extended opportunity to reflect on those difficulties, prompted a moment of realisation.
Coaches had previously warned Philippe his 'trigger movement', the term used to describe the deliberate shuffle of a batter's feet in the moments before the bowler releases the ball, was causing him to become more front-on in his stance.
"I've had a really big and pronounced trigger (movement) across the stumps and I had a quite open stance," the reigning BBL player-of-the-season explained to cricket.com.au.
"It probably works in flat conditions and on flat wickets, but I found when I when I was over there (overseas with Australia) in some challenging conditions, I felt like I was getting in some awkward positions.
"I got into some challenging positions which challenged me in defence, and I was struggling to score in some areas I'm predominantly pretty strong in."
Watching Root dominate India's world-leading Test bowling attack in his unbeaten 180 at Headingley, played during the nights of the Australian T20 squad's quarantine period in August, proved instructive for Philippe.
Root's own trigger movement, which he says was inspired by watching Michael Vaughan and Graham Thorpe bat when he was younger, sees him take a small step back towards his stumps in an effort to ensure he doesn't feel "static" when the ball is released.
Some critics suggested Root's struggles during the 2019 Ashes (summarised somewhat by the above dismissal to Pat Cummins) were caused by that step becoming too exaggerated back and across his stumps, making it difficult for him to move his feet decisively.
By contrast there is a view that a key part of Root's success this year has been his ability to remain side-on.
That is of course not necessarily the only way top batters set up, with Smith being the most notable current example of how a more front-on technique can be successful at Test level.
But when Philippe got out of quarantine and back into the nets in Perth, his resolve to follow Root's lead (rather than Sydney Sixers' teammate Smith's) had been crystallised.
"When I got home I caught up with Beau (Casson, WA's batting mentor) and chatted with Vogesy (head coach Adam Voges) and said 'I want to start really side-on and I want to trigger a lot smaller'," said Philippe.
"I was watching a lot of Joe Root bat, especially in quarantine. I know he changed his trigger – he used to trigger back and across quite big and he changed it to going straight back and stayed really side-on.
"I looked at that and thought, that's the sort of position on I want to try and get in more."
Phillippe's struggles abroad helped him realise the need to make the changes, which he says are gradually becoming more natural to him.
A match-winning century in WA's season-opening Marsh One-Day Cup victory over South Australia was followed by scores of 77 and 25 in the ensuing Sheffield Shield game, where his balance and timing at the crease was noticeable, although he fell for a seven-ball duck in Friday's Marsh Cup game against Tasmania
"The coaches were saying 'I think it (his trigger movement) is getting a bit big' and I was always just telling myself 'Nup, it's all right, I'll get consistent with it,'" said Philippe, who went 18 months without playing first-class cricket before his Shield return last month.
"But I felt like over a period of 12 months, the bigger it got the harder it was to be consistent with it on a consistent basis.
"Hence why I really tried to break it down simply and tried to almost go back to complete basics – start really side-on and try to just (make the) trigger (movement) as small as I could."
"Six months ago I thought what I was doing was going to work, but I think … those failures in those challenging conditions, I needed that for me to go 'Okay, I need to I need to change something here'."
A further change for Philippe over the coming weeks will be his assuming of wicketkeeping duties while first-choice gloveman Inglis is away.
Unlike state teammates Cameron Bancroft and Sam Whiteman who have put their keeping ambitions to one side given their success as top-order batters, Philippe is eager to show he's capable of standing behind the stumps in all three formats.
"It's been a big part of my game throughout my whole career," he said.
"I definitely think it's an asset to my game. I would love to keep in all formats.
"It's hard with 'Ingo' around, no doubt, he's a bloody good player as well. If I'm not keeping, I hope we're both playing in the same team.
"For now I'm more than happy to take the gloves when he's not here and hopefully still make lots of runs as well."
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