A successor to Phil Jaques is expected to be named before the end of the season in order to expedite the state’s progress towards a “strong direction.”
The new appointment as the men’s head coach of New South Wales will have the responsibility of rejuvenating the state’s senior players to revive the domestic cricket powerhouse’s performance after an unsatisfactory summer.
(Photo credits: cricket.com.au)
With four games remaining in their 2022-23 campaign, the Blues’ season seems to have already ended as they are at the bottom of the Marsh Sheffield Shield table without a win. To secure second place in their final Marsh One-Day Cup match, they would require an extraordinary outcome.
The men’s program of the state has had a turbulent season, beginning with a disputed Duckworth-Lewis-Stern loss to Victoria in September and culminating in the departure of the coach – a prominent figure of the state – Phil Jaques before the KFC BBL|12 hiatus.
Despite the guidance of experienced coach Greg Shipperd, Michael Klinger, who holds the position of Head of Male Cricket at Cricket NSW, is eager to have a replacement for Phil Jaques appointed by the end of the season. Klinger hopes that this new coach will help the team move forward swiftly and in a positive direction.
Cricket NSW’s Head of Male Cricket, Michael Klinger, shared with cricket.com.au that parting ways with coach Phil Jaques was a tough decision. Klinger had worked closely with Jaques for a few years, focusing on enhancing his coaching skills and collaborating with players and other staff members.
According to the spokesperson, “We had prior knowledge that Phil’s contract was set to expire at the end of this season, and we had already made the decision not to renew it before the midway point. To ensure fairness to Phil, the organization, and the players, we believed it was appropriate to notify him of our decision at that point.”
When Klinger initially joined Jaques at NSW two years ago, the state was in a vastly different position.
Just two months after leaving his position as head coach of the Melbourne Renegades in February 2021 to become the Head of Male Cricket at NSW, the team won the Marsh One-Day Cup for the 12th time and made it to the Sheffield Shield final, playing just four days later.
Currently, the team is confronted with the possibility of a rare 84-year occurrence in the Sheffield Shield, a tournament which the state has won a record 47 times.
NSW has gone winless in a Shield season only once in its history, which was in 1938-39. At that time, the competition had only four teams and NSW lost four out of their six matches.
If the Blues draw or lose their match against Queensland at the Gabba, it will match their longest streak without a win, which is currently at nine matches dating back to the same period last year.
Despite their 2022-23 season being plagued by bad luck, with all four of their draws being weather affected, last week’s game against Tasmania at the SCG was particularly disappointing as the final day’s play was washed out due to rain just as the hosts were poised to push for their first win of the season.
Captain Kurtis Patterson had maintained until then that the team’s top priority was to qualify for the Shield final this season, despite not having won any games. However, with only three matches remaining, the chances of achieving that goal are slim, as they would need to secure convincing victories in all three to have any hope of making it.
After the draw with Tasmania, Patterson said, “We still have a lot to play for this year, and we are determined to earn respect and play a style of cricket that we are proud of.”
“We made progress in the right direction and showcased a commendable style of cricket during the initial three days,” Patterson expressed after the draw with Tasmania.
Klinger, who made his debut for Australia at the age of 36 and played three T20Is, acknowledges that NSW’s lack of success with no wins from seven Shield games and just two victories in six 50-over matches is far below the potential of a state that consistently produces new talent.
The focus of this season has been on the experienced players just as much as it has been on the comeback of their young talents.
Only two batsmen from NSW have managed to score a century in the Sheffield Shield this season, with Moises Henriques coming the closest with a score of 99 not out. Furthermore, their average runs per wicket, which stands at 25.82, is almost three less than that of every other team.
In addition, the NSW team has recorded the lowest number of wickets taken among all teams, and only Chris Green has taken a five-wicket haul, which coincidentally occurred on his first-class debut. However, it should be noted that NSW has also bowled the fewest deliveries among all teams, and their strike rate is better than that of Tasmania and South Australia.
When selecting a new coach, ideally by the end of next month, CNSW and Klinger will prioritize the ability to reinvigorate stalled careers, among other criteria.
He said, “This has occurred in our team with certain senior players.”
Another trait that they are looking for in a new coach is the ability to expedite the development of their young players, which they feel has been slow in recent years.
Klinger noted that some of their players have played around 20 Shield games but haven’t progressed as quickly as their counterparts in other states.
It is undeniable that the state’s pathway program is producing talented players, as evidenced by the fact that six members of Australia’s U19 squad, who recently won a 4-2 multi-format series against England, are from NSW.
While six members of Australia’s U19 squad that recently won a series against England are from NSW, not all of them will secure state contracts, and they may need to wait in Premier Cricket or explore opportunities elsewhere. This has been the path taken by recent NSW natives Henry Hunt, Tim Ward, and Ben Manenti, as well as cricket legends Adam Gilchrist and Adam Zampa in previous decades.
Klinger said, “It’s not possible to offer contracts to all of them. The rookie list works in a way that if six players are already on the list, the club cannot remove all six or promote all six to the main squad in every season and add another six players.”
“So, it’s likely that we’ll have only a few spots available this year,” Klinger said.
“We shouldn’t be concerned about losing talent. Instead, we should view it as a testament to our system of player development,” said Klinger.
“We can’t fit 30 players into 20 contracts or so. Our responsibility is to recognize who we believe will become the best long-term high-performing players for NSW.”
“We will inevitably lose some players, and it’s important for us to have honest conversations with those who may be in limbo about the opportunities available to them,” said Klinger.
Klinger acknowledges that having such a wide range of young talent can make some experienced Premier cricketers feel disadvantaged, but he assures them that those players who consistently perform in the grade competition will have opportunities to play Second XI matches, regardless of whether they have a contract with NSW or not.
According to Klinger, they have arranged an extra Second XI match for this season, which will take place between NSW Metro and ACT/NSW Country at the new Cricket Central venue in Sydney Olympic Park, to offer chances to those players persistently striving in the Premier competition.
Klinger explains that while some Premier Cricket players may feel overlooked, the selection process for Second XI games is based on a subjective evaluation of each player’s performance and potential to represent NSW. Those who demonstrate the necessary characteristics will be given the opportunity to play.
“If players continue to perform consistently like Blake Nikitaras, Hayden Kerr, Liam Hatcher did in the past, and Mickey Edwards did this year, they’ll get opportunities to play in Shield cricket,” said Klinger.
Klinger noted that in the past couple of years, due to Covid, there has been a lot of white-ball cricket in Premier Cricket. However, he emphasized that there is a significant difference between playing a 50-over Premier game and a four-day Sheffield Shield game.
According to Klinger, playing 50-over Premier Cricket is vastly different from a four-day Sheffield Shield game, so the next step for players is to dominate in Second XI cricket to earn opportunities to play for NSW in Shield cricket. He added that even contracted players are not guaranteed Second XI games if they are not performing well in Premier Cricket.
The biggest challenge for the state is to support the continuous flow of Under-19 players to achieve their maximum potential for NSW.
Klinger believes that the state’s main challenge is helping the continuous flow of Under-19 players to realize their full potential and become long-term state cricketers over a period of six to ten years.
“And to bridge that gap of Under-19s transitioning to long-term state cricketers, we need to ensure our pathway program and senior program work together seamlessly, and once the players enter the state system, our coaching staff – under a new head coach – should focus on developing them at an acceptable rate to become long-term NSW cricketers.”