The Steve Rixon Ashes Diary 2013 – Chapter 2

Boof & Pup after hearing Ian Healy has called for Steve Rixon to be sacked.
Clarke & Lehmann after hearing that Ian Healy called for Steve Rixon to be sacked.

Chapter 2

Boof is back & Rogers & Haddin & Watson is back opening

The Ashes tour begins

Me: Good morning Steve. How are things?

Steve Rixon: What do you want, you little runt? I’ve been working my ring off under Boof. I’ve had to shred all the documented team rules that we had under Mickey. Tough work, anyway I did hear a little whisper that Mickey Arthur actually quit his post but Cricket Australia acted quicker and announced he was sacked to the press before Mickey could. Apparently the final straw for Mickey was when John Inverarity told him Steve Smith had been added to the Ashes squad. He said he couldn’t take it working with a bunch of talentless hacks anymore and stormed off.

The final straw: “Fark Invers, Steve Smith again?”
The final straw: “Fark Invers, Steve Smith again?”

I’ve been working on some drills to develop the player’s awareness. I quietly sneak up behind a playerwith my trusty stump until I’m really close and I mean really close – invading their personal space ,just about pressing on their sphincter with the stump, and see how long it takes them to notice I’m there. I’ve copped quite a few “Piss offs ” and “Why are you getting up my @rse ” and almost got in a fist fight with Phil Hughes but generally the players responded positively and I certainly enjoyed doing it. Unfortunately it has no practical application to a cricket match

Another time I got all the players to line up in a circle at square leg as I wanted the players to develop an awareness of where they are fielding, an awareness of where they are positioned in relation to one another on the field . So I blindfolded the players and using their awareness of where the pitch is I got them to walk to their preferred fielding position. It worked pretty well except that Rogers, Khawaja, Siddle and Starc all went to mid off. I quickly stepped in and sorted out that problem – every good fielding team needs their ball polishing captain at mid off and Rogers is right up there with some of the best in the world at ball polishing so he got the gig at mid off. All of us gained an awareness of where their team mates want to field and an awareness of who they don’t want in the team stealing their fielding position. I think it was mainly positive.

Once I’d sorted out the polishing captain we moved into stage 2 of the drill: awareness of where the ball is, awareness of how you are going to field the ball, awareness of how you will catch the ball. Your awareness of these factors is very much heightened when you’re blindfolded and I’m smashing around 156 grams of Duke leather, batting with my trusty stump.

Awareness that a stump is not as good as a bat
Awareness that a bat is better than a stump

Anyway it was all going swimmingly until I hit a catch to Watto and clearly he wasn’t focusing on his awareness of where the ball was, probably picturing himself shirtless, and copped the ball right in the face, breaking his nose. After all the guys stopped laughing we got Watto some ice. That drill definitely had positives

Awareness has become a real buzz word on tour. Boof has really run with it: Awareness of what we are here for – to play cricket. Awareness of who we are playing against – England. Awareness of what you have to do – make runs, take wickets. Awareness of where you are batting has been Boof’s top priority. Cricket Australia love to have countdown shit on the website, if they are not getting you to vote for the greatest Australian Test player of all time [ie Steve Waugh v Doug Walters – vote now] then they are doing a countdown of the top 20 best free agents of the Big Bash. Who gives a fig about that when the Ashes is about to start? Anyway these countdowns and vote offs are about connecting with young audiences through social media or something or other that Mick McKenna and his marketing gurus at HQ talked to us about for nearly 8 hours the day Mickey was sacked. Announcing the XI on the morning of the Test match after you’ve assessed pitch conditions etc is too old school instead Boof has been told he needs to release the order from openers down to number eleven over about 15 days so the CA website and social media guys’s can do an Ashes First Test XI countdown . It’s been painful, Watto hasn’t shut up about how he loves Boof and how he’s going to go out and score a heap of well crafted half centuries now that he’s back in his rightful spot opening . Spare me Watto, he’s like a spoiled little child.

Me: How is your awareness of your job security going? Ian Healy has called for a clean out of the coaching staff.

Steve Rixon: Ian Healy’s commentary on coaching is about as good as his commentary for Channel 9 – shithouse. If he reckons Wade can’t catch why doesn’t he coach him full time?. Heals is so full of shit and always ready with advice from the Channel 9 commentary box yet he’s never coached anyone to keep or coached a team. The day any of us coaches take advice from Ian Healy well… just put it this way it’s not going to happen. All the coaches and support staff have been getting along great with Boof. We both enjoy a dart and a beer and the odd, strictly non-cricketing, punt. After play we get together as a playing group and a coaching unit and debrief on the days play around an esky. It’s what Boof calls ‘esky time’ and he has made it very clear how highly he rates ‘esky time’ and how important it is for all players and coaches to participate fully in ‘esky time’

Esky time: A critical part of the Australian Cricket team under Boof’s leadership
Esky time: A critical part of the Australian Cricket team under Boof’s leadership

The first time Boof wheeled out the esky at the end of the day’s play I think a lot of the players were stunned – they didn’t know what to do. They’d already packed their bags and had their iPods in their ears ready to hop on the coach and do their own thing – they just stood around looking at each other in silence. When Boof saw this he cracked it and banned iPods from the sheds and made all the boys sit down and showed them the esky contained a slab of West End and slab of diet coke Boof and I had  a West End while most of the players had a diet coke except for Cowan who pulled out a bottle of red from his bag and poured himself and Rogers a glass

Nath Lyon is really hoping the iPod ban continues during the Test matches so he can lead the team in the traditional ‘Under the Southern Cross’ after a win rather than the 8 and a half minute dance remix that Wadey & Patto put together last year.

The best thing about esky time is the players have to talk to one another about how they think they played that day. It’s really challenged some of the blokes like Khawaja ,Watto, Wade and Warner that aren’t exactly skilled in the art of conversation. Or the art of thinking to be honest – they’ve found it really challenging. Particularly Warner given he hasn’t been playing but gee he’s been dominating the throwdowns from the batting coach, Michael Di Venuto. I saw him crack a 50 off just 22 throwdowns the other day – he is a talent. I’ve put the wicket keeping on hold so Warner can focus on his throwdown batting –I reckon he could become the best throwdown batsmen of all time if he keeps this up

Me : Right so Warner is going to make his way into the Test lineup by dominating throwdowns. Hmmm. Are any of the other coaches worried about their jobs? Craig McDermott has said he’s available again?

Steve Rixon: Ali de Winter, the fast bowling coach, isn’t worried as far as I know – he hasn’t changed anything since McDermott left. McDermott revolutionised fast bowling coaching by introducing two rules:

  1. Don’t bowl short shit
  2. Pitch it up

Fast bowlers are a simple lot aren’t they – imagine if I tried that with Wadey. Ok you see the ball so move your feet and your gloves so you can catch the ball and remember don’t drop the ball. Ok we are done. Haha – if only it were that simple

Wicket keeping is a lot more complex than that. It’s about Awareness. Awareness of where the ball is coming from  the bowlers hand,  awareness of what you need to do – catch it, awareness of what you don’t want to do – drop it. Already we are seeing three awareness levels and that’s not factoring in the batsmen: Awareness of what the batsmen is doing – playing a shot or leaving the ball, Awareness of where the stumps are – in front of you.

Me: What about Michael Clarke’s back, how is that going?

The team physio, Alex Kountouris, has been working the hardest of the lot of us doing double shifts with Kyly working on Clarke’s back. They are doing 12 hour shifts, Alex from 9am to 9pm and Kyly is doing the overnight shift so Clarkey can get round the clock treatment. Clarke was pretty happy when Boof said WAGs were allowed on the whole tour as he was concerned who was going to work on his back overnight….

Overnight shift? My back hurts too...
Overnight shift? My back hurts too…

Me: Ok so Clarke is in good hands and Rogers is the polishing captain but who is the Australian team’s fielding captain?

Steve Rixon: That’s Brad Haddin.

Me: Seems pretty obvious – he is the wicketkeeper.

Steve Rixon: Righto you little upstart let me explain. Haddin wears many hats not just the baggy green. He is the team vice captain and the fielding captain and he’s also the off field captain. With Clarkey banged up in a hotel room with Kyly most of the time… due to his bad back, Hads has been running the show off the field. Here’s an example of the sort of important work Hads is doing. After the win in Taunton Cowan, Rogers and Lyon wanted to have Indian while Watto, Pattinson and Wadey wanted to go out for Chinese. Haddin was able to bring both parties together and suggest Malaysian – it combines the best of both Chinese and Indian cuisine you know. Admittedly the guys sat on separate tables but they were at the same restaurant – Hads has really brought the team closer. The best thing about Hads is he talks to everyone in the team – that’s a rare commodity these days even with Boof’s enforced esky time.

I’m not just some crusty old blighter you know I have a great awareness of statistics, an awareness of what we can learn from history, an awareness of what has happened in previous Ashes series. In the last 4 Ashes series in England there’s been a massive collapse on the first day of the first test.

1997 – At Edgbaston, Australia were 8/54 until Warney helped them to 118 all out in 31 overs. England were 3/200 at stumps

2001 – Again at Edgbaston, England were 9/191before Alec Stewart & Andy Caddick (of all people) helped them to 294 all out in 65 overs. Australia were 2/133 at stumps.

2005 – At Lords Australia were bowled out for 190 in 40 overs and then had England at 7/92 at stumps before bowling them out for 155 on Day 2.

2009 – No collapse but it doesn’t count as the Test was in Cardiff, Wales

So can you put $50 on the team batting first to make less than 250 runs.

Me: Can do see you mate.

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Ross Slater

Blogging about the important things - AFL and cricket

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