Rocket science: Jhye returns after stop-start summer

Richardson reveals his challenges in Test return

Those prone to unfair stereotypes may assume a young, well-paid athlete with a passion for a high-paced video game that features flying cars and exploding soccer goals may lack the resolve, fortitude and staying power required to master his chosen sport’s toughest format.

Yet despite a summer during which Jhye Richardson could have been forgiven for showing impatience, the fast bowler could hardly be accused of lacking drive and long-term thinking.

Although he enjoyed the elation of a long-awaited, match-winning return to the Baggy Green when he blasted out England in the day-night Ashes Test in December, Richardson’s 2021-22 season was soured by injuries to four separate parts of his body .

His horror run came after a succession of right shoulder-related setbacks since he first underwent surgery on the joint in 2019 – only weeks after his first taste of Test cricket and when he was on the brink of seemingly becoming all-format regular for Australia – had restricted him to a stop-start diet of only white-ball cricket for nearly two years.

The 25-year-old instead found stimulation in pursuits outside of cricket.

In February, he became the first Australian international to become a part-owner of a leading Esports organisation, Ground Zero Gamingwhich runs a professional team in Rocket League, the hugely popular video game described as an “unbelievable, high-octane re-imagining of association football” that has become Richardson’s favored pursuit (outside cricket).

While a keen gaming contingent of Aussie cricketers includes Mitchell Starc, Mitch Marsh and Andrew Tye, Richardson admits his enthusiasm for the virtual world is on “another level”.

He takes multiple monitors with him on tour and occasionally live-streams his gameplay on Twitch, and says he now wants to bridge the gap between sports and Esports.

“I’ve always had a good interest in gaming … I decided it was going to be good to buy into the company,” Richardson told the Unplayable Podcast from Colombo ahead of Australia’s first training session of their Qantas Tour of Sri Lanka.

“It’s something different, outside of cricket, (I) learn more about business and see how things work. So far it’s been a really good experience.

“I know a lot of parents nowadays aren’t too keen on their kids sitting behind a computer screen. But the way it’s heading, it can be a genuine career path.

“I see gaming as a really good escape from the stresses of cricket and travelling. It’s still a brain stimulation thing – I’m super competitive, so to be able to be competitive in a casual sense rather than a professional sense is really good for I.”

On the cricket field, Richardson will vie with the likes of Sean Abbott and Kane Richardson for the right to partner pace mainstays Starc and Josh Hazlewood for the three-match T20 series against Sri Lanka, beginning Tuesday evening at the R.Premadasa Stadium.

His selection for only the T20 leg of the all-format tour comes with the caveat from selection chief George Bailey that players who impress in the concurrent Australia A series on the island could still be considered for the two Tests in Galle, beginning later this month .

The ultra-competitive Richardson will join the ‘A’ squad after the T20 series and expects to play his first long-form matches since snaring his maiden Test five-wicket haul in Adelaide in December.

Richardson marks Test return with five wickets

But with both Hazlewood and Scott Boland currently warming the bench in the Test squad behind Starc and Pat Cummins, he’s aware that winning back his Test spot on this tour will be a challenge.

“That’s what they’ve gone for and I’m happy with that, to be honest,” he said of missing selection for the senior ODI and Test squads.

“If I’m looking at the all the positives of playing the Australia A four-day stuff, it’s a great (re)introduction for me. This period I’ve had over the last couple of months of building up and bowling a lot of balls, it just looks like the next step of progressing with this conditioning block.

“I do love long-format cricket, so it’s just another step to getting back from my hamstring and getting back to playing good consistent cricket.

“I think it is (as hard as ever to win a Test fast-bowing spot), especially with Scott doing as well as he did. He’s another great option. While it is hard to crack in and get a consistent spot, it’s a wonderful problem for Australia to have.”

Richardson is eager to put his fitness troubles behind him after a stop-start 2021-22 season. An abdominal strain and a rolled ankle interrupted his preparation for the Test campaign against England (he nonetheless starred for Western Australia with 23 wickets at 13 in four Marsh Sheffield Shield games to begin the season) before a shin complaint kept him out of the final three Ash Tests.

Richardson concedes the subsequent hamstring injury he suffered in the Marsh One-Day Cup final in March, which ruled him out of Western Australia’s drought-breaking Shield final victory, essentially vindicated the national selectors’ call to leave him out of the Pakistan tour in March and April due to concerns over its durability.

Richardson injured, exits Marsh Cup final

“It got to a point where I never had really good block (of time) to really get conditioned,” he said of his summer.

“Playing a Test match, it got to a point where I was trying to condition with game time and it’s never ideal when you’re trying to do that at maximum intensity.

“Everything just sort of broke. So that was the whole idea, especially with (missing) the Pakistan series, to try and increase my longevity.

“When you look back at it, I was closer to breaking down than I originally thought. And in the end, it happened.”

Qantas Tour of Sri Lanka, 2022

Sri Lanka T20 squad: Dasun Shanaka (c), Pathum Nissanka, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Charith Asalanka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Nuwanidu Fernando, Lahiru Madushanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne, Dushmantha Chameera, Kasun Rajitha, Nuwan Thushara, Matheesha Pathirana, Ramesh Mendis, Maheesh Theekshana , Praveen Jayawickrama, Lakshan Sandakan. Standby: Jeffrey Vandersay, Niroshan Dickwella

Australia T20 squad: Aaron Finch (c), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner, Matthew Wade

June 7: First T20, Colombo

June 8: Second T20, Colombo

June 11: Third T20, Kandy

Sri Lanka ODI squad (provisional): Dasun Shanaka (c), Danushka Gunathilaka, Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis, Charith Asalanka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dhananjaya De Silva, Ashen Bandara, Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella, Janith Liyanage, Dunith Wellalage, Dhananjaya Lakshan, Sahan Arachchi, Wanindu Hasaranga, Chamika Karunaratne, Lahiru Madushanka, Ramesh Mendis, Dushmantha Chameera, Binura Fernando, Dilshan Madushanka, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha, Jeffrey Vandersay, Maheesh Theekshana, Praveen Jayawickrama

Australia ODI squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Pat Cummins, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Marnus Labuschagne, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner

June 14: First ODI, Kandy

June 16: Second ODI, Kandy

June 19: Third ODI, Colombo

June 21: Fourth ODI, Colombo

June 24: Fifth ODI, Colombo

Sri Lanka Test squad (provisional): Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Pathum Nissanka, Kamil Mishara, Oshada Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dhananjaya De Silva, Kamindu Mendis, Niroshan Dickwella, Dinesh Chandimal, Chamika Karunaratne, Ramesh Mendis, Mohamed Shiraz, Shiran Fernando, Dilshan Madushanka, Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha, Vishwa Fernando, Asitha Fernando, Jeffrey Vandersay, Lakshitha Rasanjana, Praveen Jayawickrama, Lasith Embuldeniya, Suminda Lakshan

Australia Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner

June 29 – July 3: First Test, Galle

July 8-12: Second Test, Galle

Australia A fixtures

Squad: Sean Abbott, Scott Boland, Pete Handscomb, Aaron Hardie, Marcus Harris, Travis Head, Henry Hunt, Josh Inglis, Matthew Kuhnemann, Nic Maddinson, Todd Murphy, Josh Philippe, Matt Renshaw, Jhye Richardson, Tanveer Sangha, Mark Steketee

June 8: First one-day game v Sri Lanka A, Colombo

June 10: Second one-day game v Sri Lanka A, Colombo

June 14-17: first-class tour match v Sri Lanka A, Hambantota

June 21-24: first-class tour match v Sri Lanka A, Hambantota

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.