Red-smacked, But It’s Not All Doom And Gloom

Western Australia defeated South Australia by 205 runs to open the 2020-21 Sheffield Shield season. Picture: AAP

For many Redbacks fans, Tuesday afternoon felt like Groundhog Day.

Humiliated on a bat-friendly deck, South Australia failed to match WA’s batting prowess who used the conditions perfectly, declaring their first innings at 5-481.

From there, South Australia lost all 20 wickets for 491 runs.

Trying to find positives from a heavy loss in any season opener can be difficult, but fans must be urged to be patient.

In July, the SACA released it’s external review report, led by Test great Michael Hussey, outlining the recommended steps to help South Australian cricket get back on it’s feet.

However there are many who have been quick to label the review a failure, and the induction of new head coach Jason Gillespie the same.

Those critics should heed the message – ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’.

Much of the Hussey review focused on rekindling a relationship with Premier Cricket in our state, to rebuild the pathway for strong cricketing talent to move appropriately toward the state system.

The pathway starts in schools, up to juniors, to Premier Cricket, then to state cricket – this pathway doesn’t get fixed overnight.

Much like any relationship in life, whether it be business or personal, invested time is at the heart of a strong bond between two parties.

This, along with other tweaks listed in the review, is what will rebuild South Australian cricket into a successful institution once again.

It was never going happen at the flick of a switch.

But while we wait, don’t lose hope for this summer, the wheels are already in motion.

The review noted that the Redbacks’ environment had induced a long-standing “culture of mediocrity” which has been quickly scrapped.

The glaring omissions of Callum Ferguson and Jake Lehmann for the first round has injected a dose of fierce hunger and drive into the two usual constants, while opportunities were given to those who deserve them.

19 year old all-rounder Liam Scott and 30 year old batsman Brad Davis were both given a chance to prove that their form at grade level could translate to the state level – and overall, it did.

Davis was in the top four highest scorers in both of SA’s innings against WA (57 & 20) demonstrating maturity at the crease at crucial times, while Scott showed incredible promise with both the bat and ball, scoring 34 and 23* and bowling 23 pressuring overs without reward.

Young leg spinner Lloyd Pope also starred, taking 5 wickets on the opening day, his second five-wicket haul in only his sixth Shield match.

This leaves players like Lehmann, Ferguson and others who may have grown comfortable in their involvement in the state team to refocus and get re-disciplined.

And with players of their calibre breathing down the necks of those clinging on to keep their spots, it only heightens the standards, which in turn heightens performance.

Rewarding great form at grade level (such as Davis who averaged 73.8 last summer for Sturt) gives hope to others knowing they’re also within reach of breaking through to the state system if they can consistently perform – a link that’s been missing in recent times.

The review suggested that the focus on coaching and developing players will be intensified, and the need to associate itself with state cricket as a true stepping stone competition is a must.

So it’s time we took a step back, as this summer will be more of a learning curve than anything. 

It will be clunky with untraditional scheduling, players unavailable due to constant conflicts internationally and otherwise, plus the fact their head coach Jason Gillespie will only join the team for the first time in person in the middle of the second round.

Keep the faith, and stay patient Redbacks fans, the mountain climb has only just begun.

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