JLT One-Day Cup 2018
Inside Word: New Blues set elite standards
NSW coach Phil Jaques declares a lack of experience does not mean expectations will be lowered this summer
5 September 2018, 12:07 PM AEST
It's back to the future for NSW this summer after refreshing their squad with a host of talented youngsters this off-season, but inexperience will not stand in the way of excellence according to head coach Phil Jaques.
NSW handed full-contracts to five rookies at the end of last summer – Param Uppal, Jason Sangha, Dan Fallins, Mickey Edwards and Liam Hatcher – as they seek to reverse poor team performance, build for the future and produce national players.
In charge of molding the new-look batch of Blues is Jaques, the former Test opening batsman who is in his first season as coach at Moore Park having replaced Trent Johnston this off-season.
While the Cricket NSW board is committed to the youth policy that's been installed and the potential mixed results that come with blooding green players, Jaques still expects his troop to perform at an elite level.
"There's still going to be an expectation with NSW cricket, we're not going to shy away from that," Jaques told cricket.com.au.
"We want to see improvement, we want to see a sense of learning within the team and that they're learning from mistakes that they're making.
"There will be mistakes made, there's no question about that with a younger group, but that's not to say we're expecting mistakes.
"We expect excellence from our group.
"We're the NSW men's cricket team, there's always going to be a level of being elite.
"From my perspective it's about everyone in the squad expecting to be elite and doing everything, whether it be training or matches, in an elite way."
The new era
Coaching a diverse group of cricketers at varying stages of their careers and without senior heads like retired duo Ed Cowan and Doug Bollinger could be daunting for Jaques, but the overwhelming feeling the 39-year-old is experiencing mentoring this group is excitement.
"It brings a level of energy having a larger younger presence in the team," he said.
"They're all trying to prove themselves and trying to show that they're worthy of positions within the side.
"And the older heads bring a sense of calm and help educate the youngsters to understand what it takes to be a good cricketer. They've been living it for 10 or more years.
"It's good to have a real mix of age, which I think we've got pretty well right.
"It's just trying to empower the older guys to impart that knowledge and then the youngsters open to wanting to improve.
"We're really trying to create an environment where everyone is trying to get better whether they're young or old and try and impart as much of each other's knowledge on the other people within the squad."
Game sense makes sense
One of the big changes Jaques has implemented has been in the way the Blues go about their training.
Each session thoroughly planned to mimic game situations, from T20 Tuesdays to being thrown scenarios, taking preparing how you play to the next level.
"It's how we're setting up practice, shifting the mindset away from normal practice to try and problem solve and work on the tactical side of the game a little bit more," he said.
"Which with a younger group of guys is really important."
Shift in culture
As a youngster in a squad that features the likes of Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, it could be easy to shy and keep your comments quiet around the senior players.
But Jaques wants all voices to be heard, regardless of matches played, runs scored or wickets taken.
"We've been working really hard on the environment in the team," he said.
"I think it's important to make everyone in the group feel a part of things. We’re a team.
"Whether we're young, old, middle-aged in regards to cricket, it's important that everyone feels a part of what we're trying to build.
"We’re really trying to build a sense of togetherness amongst the group and to do that they've got be comfortable speaking, making mistakes and then learning from those mistakes."
Where are all the Blues
While the Blues have been toiling away in pre-season, an Australia A team has been playing in India ahead of the forthcoming Test series against Pakistan.
In years gone by, the Australia A team would be littered with NSW players, but this year, out of the one-day and four-day squads, batsman Kurtis Patterson is the sole Blues representative.
It's a result of poor results in seasons past, says Jaques, who very much wants to restore the Blues dominance in national teams.
"It's always been a very important thing," he said.
"We've been the biggest producer of talent historically in Australia since domestic cricket started.
"It's always going to be a driver. We're always going to want to produce Australian players and we want to do well as a state as well.
"We're in a performance environment, we live by our performances and the team and individual accolades come by performing.
"Everything we do from a training perspective into a game perspective has that in mind."
"You've only got to look at the representation of sides like Queensland have got at the moment because of the success they had last season.
"When you're winning you're getting selected.
"I think from an individual perspective it's important that we're performing on the park as well as a team."
What to expect this JLT One-Day Cup
The Blues finished fourth in last year's competition, beating the teams below them and losing to those above.
But the team of 2017-18 will look vastly different to the squad selected this year, and once again, it's got Jaques feeling excited.
"We'll be looking at forging our own identity," he said.
"There's some big changes squad-wise to the side we had last year.
"We'll be looking to play to our strengths and setting up our team according to the way that's going to be effective for the people we've got playing.
"It's an exciting looking squad of players that we've got.
"We really are trying to build a squad of players that can take the team forward over the long term.
"There should be some exciting talent coming through."