Australia A v India A

Richardson's return the ideal first step

Australia A quick implements new approach, takes four wickets and makes important strides towards summer ambitions

Adam Burnett, at Allan Border Field, Brisbane

18 September 2016, 02:35 PM

Amid all the excitement of a new-look pace attack graduating from Australia A representation to the national side's ODI tour of South Africa, Redbacks quick Kane Richardson was left to ponder his position in the country's fast-bowling pecking order.

Joe Mennie, Chris Tremain and Daniel Worrall are all set to board the plane with Steve Smith's Australians this week, the trio building on hugely productive Sheffield Shield seasons with impressive showings in the winter 'A' series.

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Richardson, who played just two Shield matches in an injury-ravaged 2015-16 season, understandably felt the disappointment that all cricketers on the periphery feel when they miss out on higher honours.

"I'll be honest – it was pretty tough the other day when I missed that trip to South Africa because I feel like my one-day performances in the past four or five years have been good enough to get picked," Richardson, who played four of his 12 ODIs earlier this year and took a maiden five-wicket haul against India, told cricket.com.au.

"But in saying that, I completely understand because those three guys have done really well in domestic cricket and they were all bowling well at the time.

"So you're happy for those guys but it's always tough; it hits you a little bit because you're competitive and you want to be doing well and you want to be playing for Australia."

Richardson snares four for Aus A
 

But Richardson insists any hint of regret or self-pity evaporated after "about half an hour"; the 25-year-old has been around long enough now to understand how the selection game works, and he knows that matches under the belt and wickets in the scorebook are fundamentals to that game.

"I don't want to be one of these guys that comes out in the media and says 'I should be playing for Australia', because I feel like I've got a lot to prove in domestic cricket, so that's the goal."

Richardson elaborated on that point earlier this month when he spoke on cricket.com.au’s The Unplayable Podcast ahead of the coming season.

"I haven't played a lot of four-day cricket and that's something I really want to nail down," he said.

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"I've probably got a reputation at the moment of not being a good four-day bowler or a good four-day cricketer, so I really want to play a lot of red-ball cricket this season and do really well.

"That's a real ambition of mine."

Across the first three days of Australia A's clash against India A at Allan Border Field in Brisbane this past week, the paceman took his first steps towards fulfilling that ambition.

It was a return to first-class cricket for Richardson, who hadn't played the longer form of the game since last November, following a torn quadriceps and a back stress fracture that put a considerable dent in his campaign last summer.

It was a painfully familiar tale; this Australia A fixture was just his 18th first-class match since his debut for the Redbacks in February 2011.

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More encouragingly, he took the bowling honours with 4-37 from 17.4 overs when the Australians dismantled India A for 169 in the first innings.

Second time around, he conceded an economical 0-14 from 10 overs before play ruined day four of the contest.

"Coming into the game I didn't really have any goals or expectations wickets-wise,” he explained.

"I just wanted to get through the game, and just probably prove to the selectors as well that my body can get through a four-dayer at this time of year without much preparation, and I think that's what they wanted from me.

"I've played 17 (first-class) games and I haven't performed that well. Good cricketers perform in first-class cricket and that's something I really want to do moving forward.

"The three blokes who got picked for South Africa (Tremain, Mennie, Worrall) all did that last year, so there's obviously a fair bit of weight in that when it comes to selection."

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Heeding some recent lessons of retired Test paceman Ryan Harris, the 12-time ODI rep made some adjustments at AB Field that he hopes will aid his transformation from economical paceman to genuine wicket-taker.

"A big thing for me is the length I bowl in four-day cricket has to be a bit fuller than what I usually do in one-day cricket – so pitching the ball up, making it swing and getting blokes out," said the paceman, who has 49 wickets in his first-class career to date.

"In the games I've played, I've kept it tight but I haven't got wickets. Even in the second innings yesterday I probably went back to back-of-a-length, which keeps it tight but you don't get a lot of wickets.

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"So that's a focus going forward, and Ryan Harris has been big on that. He was at training the other day and he said it's all about the length you bowl – that's what people want to see.

"When that's not natural … I've always tried to bash the ball into the wicket and get up people with a bit of pace.

"But watching Jackson Bird go around, Josh Hazlewood, they're just on the spot every ball and the length they bowl they get wickets with.

"And that's your job as a bowler – it's all well and good keeping it tight for long periods, but in the end you have to try to get people out.

"So that's a big thing I'm learning, and something I'm going to be learning for a while yet, but it's an area I'm looking forward to working on."

The understanding that there's room for growth and specific plans around achieving those improvements must be music to the ears of the national selectors, who already have one eye at least glancing in Richardson's direction.

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It's not difficult to see why.

In an era in which the 'complete cricketing package' is cherished, the lithe South Australian fits the bill nicely: his gifts as a fast bowler are complemented by an obvious ability with the bat that has to date been under-utilised. In the field, Richardson has excellent hands, a strong arm, and is one of the fittest men in the game; his two-kilometre time trial effort of 6:39 puts him in the top handful of Australian cricketers.

But he also knows none of that matters if he can't stay on the park, and that's his focus for the season ahead.

"There's no goals to get into Australian teams this summer," he said. "I just want to play as much as I can for the Redbacks and do well.

"Hopefully we can win a lot of games and have a good time doing it."

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