Jason Gillespie

Jason Gillespie is now the coach of the county side Yorkshire © Getty Images

By Saj Sadiq

Former Australian fast bowler Jason Gillespie played 71 Test matches for his country, taking 259 wickets at an impressive average of 26.13. Gillespie played his cricket from the mid-90s into the mid-2000s, during Australia‘s absolute domination of the cricketing world. Starting as a genuine express bowler capable of bowling at 90mph, constant injuries eventually forced a drop in pace, but his ability to test the batsman remained.

Gillespie is also well known for his batting exploits — where a rock solid forward defense proved to be more than useful down the order. His determination at the batting crease was seen in full force in 2006, when he made a record 201 not out after coming in as a night watchman. That innings capped off a wonderful international career and fittingly, it came in his last Test match for Australia. After retiring from all forms of cricket, Gillespie took up coaching and started with roles in Zimbabwe and as a bowling coach at the Indian Premier League (IPL). In 2011, he was named coach of English County side Yorkshire.

In an exclusive interview with Saj Sadiq of PakPassion.net, Gillespie spoke about Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris’ impressive form in the Ashes 2013, offered some advice for Pat Cummins to help him overcome his injury problems, Australia’s domestic cricket structure, Yorkshiremen in the England team and his opinions on the Pakistani spot-fixing trio’s possible return in 2015.

Excerpts from an interview:

PakPassion.net (PP): What is tougher, playing cricket or coaching cricketers?

Jason Gillespie (JG): As a coach, I’m watching every single ball. Playing is obviously tougher from a physical point of view. I think once you prepare the guys the best you can and give them your best, then they are out there playing and you have no control over how the game goes, so that can be quite difficult. But, I always tell the players to trust us — support staff — to prepare you and we will trust you to perform. The players put their faith in us to prepare them as best we can and we put our faith in them to get the job done. That’s the way we approach it at Yorkshire and it seems to be going okay.

PP: There are a few guys out there who are older than you still playing First-Class cricket and in T20 tournaments around the world. Ever wish you were still playing?

JG: There is not one day that I think I want to play. I had a fantastic career, I loved every minute of it and when I finished, I knew it was time. I’ve tried a few different things since I stopped playing. I’ve enjoyed the media work, which has been fun and I am still dabbling with. I think it is fantastic. I really enjoy coaching though. Coaching is my passion, cricket is my passion. I couldn’t think of a better place to continue my coaching education than the Yorkshire County Cricket Club (YCCC).

PP: Australia’s pace bowlers seem to be suffering a lot of injuries in recent times. Looking specifically at Pat Cummins’s injury woes, why do you think he is incurring regular niggles and what can be done about it?

JG: I really feel for the lad. it’s tough and I’ve been through it myself. It can be very demoralising and demotivating. Pat’s growing into his body and from time to time, your body lets you down, but he will heal and his body will get stronger. He will have people around him to give him the best advice and get back to playing.

I don’t think Twenty20 leagues and One-Day Internationals (ODIs) are the way to get back to full fitness for a young bowler. Whilst in the twenty-over format, the work management data might say a bowler is only bowling 24 balls in a match, but those 24 balls are bowled at 100%. Instead, I’d like to see Pat playing for the New South Wales second XI and gain some experience there, bowling in different conditions, spending a lot of time on his feet. He can bowl there a little bit below full tilt to get that “bowling back into his body” and under less pressure and scrutiny — to build himself up that way in conjunction with his strengthening and fitness programmes.

I think over time, Pat’s body will fill out so that injury management needs to be spot on. I’d like to see Pat avoid T20 leagues and ODIs and he should even avoid domestic cricket for a while to get his body on track. People have got to remember Pat’s only played a few First-Class games and I’d like to see him learn his trade, spend some time playing club cricket and second eleven games and to develop his skills in an environment where he’s not being scrutinised during every single ball he bowls.

PP: Do you think there is an over-emphasis on twenty-over cricket domestically in Australia, which is causing so many fitness issues to the fast bowling reserves?

JG: In twenty over matches, a bowler is obviously only bowling 24 deliveries and in the fifty-over format you are bowling a maximum of 60 deliveries, but you are bowling every one of those deliveries at full tilt. Whereas when you are bowling for your state in a four-day game you might bowl twenty overs in a day, which is 120 balls and people might argue that’s a greater workload as the numbers suggest it is, but a lot of that bowling can be done at less than full pace.

I believe that learning skills such as swinging the ball, keeping the ball shiny and to reverse swing the ball are much harder to do in the shorter formats of the game and are skills you learn by playing the longer version of cricket.

PP: Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris have really impressed during the Ashes 2013. You must be proud of the efforts they’ve put in this summer in England?

JG: Without a doubt. It’s a testament to their attitude and their efforts towards their career. They’ve had their injury problems in the past and for them to come through and take responsibility for their diet, health, nutrition and their cricket is a testament to them. It shows how much they want to represent Australia. My case in point and as mentioned earlier in the interview is that Peter Siddle isn’t playing T20 cricket or fifty-over cricket and is concentrating on the longer format of the game and that’s certainly helping his body.

PP: Continuity in selection certainly boosts the confidence of cricketers. However we’ve seen the likes of Mitchell Starc being in and out of the Australian Test side this summer. What are your thoughts on the selection policies that have been adopted by the Australian think-tank during the Ashes?

JG: I’d like to see Australia pick their best eleven. It’s a tough one because when you are losing, the selectors are trying to find the right formula to win a game of cricket, but at the same time it’s good to give a young player confidence. The selectors probably feel that with Mitchell Starc he bowls too many four balls and sometimes gets a little bit “floaty” with his bowling and overpitches. He’s trying to swing the ball so I can understand that, but it would be nice if the selectors pick a group of players and stick with them through thick and thin. With the bowlers you are going to have injuries from time to time, but with the Australian Test line up it is important that the selectors pick a top six and stick with it.

PP: The Australian cricket domestic structure has been criticised recently. Do you think the criticism is warranted or unfair?

JG: I think having two months of T20 cricket at the height of the domestic cricket season and having no four-day games during that period is the wrong call. Cricket Australia (CA) obviously wants to maximise its revenue and that’s the reality of the situation. But, it’s at the expense of Sheffield Shield cricket. It’s very difficult for Cricket Australia to be too critical of their Test side when they have two months of the summer where lads that aren’t in the Test side can’t play four-day cricket because of the Big Bash.

I understand the market and the commercial aspect of this and it’s here to stay, but Cricket Australia needs to find a way to make it all work. This was the problem that was going to happen when the franchises came in and I don’t see an answer in the horizon. The short answer should be that the Sheffield Shield should be played at the important parts of the season and you find a window for the Big Bash.

Cricket Australia actually identified that the Big Bash was too long and then they go and extend the Big Bash! I’m not sure why that decision was made, I guess it was commercial because they want to make more money. We all understand that Cricket Australia makes more money out of the Big Bash than the Sheffield Shield, but how important is the Test side winning to Cricket Australia? They’ve got to back this up by getting the scheduling right at Shield level.

PP: What do you make of Darren Lehmann’s recent comments about Stuart Broad and have you ever wanted an opposition player to cry?

JG: No, I’ve never wanted an opposition player to cry. I know Darren (Lehmann) very well and I think a lot of what he said in that interview would have been tongue-in-cheek to be perfectly honest and I wouldn’t read too much into it.

I think people are looking too much into the whole Stuart Broad incident. He hit the ball and he openly admitted it, but at the same time he was within his rights and within the Spirit of Cricket to wait for the umpire to make a decision. Part of respecting the umpire’s decision is waiting for him to actually make a decision, so if the umpire makes a decision that goes your way, well and good, but you don’t complain when you don’t hit it and are given out; you can’t have it both ways.

I don’t have a problem with players not walking. It’s a personal choice and I think everyone should respect that.

PP: Jonny Bairstow was dropped for The Oval Test. England’s loss is obviously Yorkshire’s gain. What advice would you offer Bairstow as he looks to establish himself in international cricket?

JG: I’m a massive fan of Jonny and I was disappointed for him that he isn’t playing in the Test match at The Oval. He’s lost his spot, but I hope he can get it back soon. It’s not for me to make comments on England’s selection and we were more than happy to have Jonny back and playing for us against Nottinghamshire. He’s a wonderful lad and a wonderful player. Him being in our side doesn’t do our chances any harm.

I said to him that yes it’s disappointing to be left out, but all you can do is to go out there and show the selectors and everyone else how good you are and make big runs for Yorkshire and show them what they are missing. He will do that as he’s a wonderful player and we will do everything we can at Yorkshire to help him achieve his dream of getting into the England side.

PP: You must be very proud of Joe Root and how well he’s taken to international cricket?

JG: We’re all very proud of Joe at Yorkshire County Cricket Club and absolutely chuffed for him. He’s a wonderful lad who works hard and my advice to Joe is to simply keep level-headed, because there are going to be times when you do wonderfully well and you get a lot of applause, but there will be times when you don’t do so well and you get criticism. That’s part and parcel of being an international sportsman. Knowing Joe, he’s a very level-headed guy and disciplined in everything he does and will continue to work hard on his game and maintain those high standards.

He had a great innings at Lord’s and he’s missed out a couple of times, but he’s learning about the highs and lows of international cricket at the moment. He’s a strong enough character and a good enough player to have a long career with England.

PP: Despite his consistency and tremendous attitude, Tim Bresnan still has his critics. What are your opinions on Tim and his role in the England Test side?

JG: The statistics don’t lie — when Tim Bresnan plays for England, they win a lot. That’s all that really needs to be said and that’s what England look at. He is the “go-to” man. He bowls the spells when nothing is happening in the game. He makes important runs and he’s a leader within the side and is a popular member of the side and a great tourist. He’s one of those guys who’s just a really good lad and these are the type of people you want around your side. Whenever he’s with us at Yorkshire he’s absolutely brilliant and we love having him, but we don’t want to see him too much because if he’s not with us he’s with England, which is a good thing.

Tim’s obviously injured at the moment, but he’ll be back in the fold very quickly and I’m looking forward to him continuing to have a great career. He just needs to make sure he continues being consistent in everything he does and I’m sure he’ll be absolutely fine and will have a long career.

PP: In a recent tweet you criticised Mohammad Asif’s belated apology for spot-fixing. As a former cricketer who is still involved in the game, how does it feel to know that the Pakistani trio that were found guilty of spot-fixing could be playing cricket in under two years time?

JG: What disappointed me the most, particularly about Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt, is that they denied it all and then as soon as all the evidence came out, they said oh yes, in fact we did do it and we are sorry. That doesn’t wash with me and it’s really disappointing and I don’t think there’s a place in our sport for these people. Part of me does think that if you do the crime, you do the time and if you’ve served your ban you come back and play, but what’s to say that they won’t do again what they did previously and what’s to say that they aren’t still involved in such activities in some capacity. They lied before and only because they got caught and the evidence was so strong did they in fact say they did it, which disappoints me.

As a cricket lover and as a passionate cricket fan, that disappoints me. The fact is that they are probably going to come back and play in a couple of years time so if that’s the case, that’s for the authorities to decide. I certainly won’t be going out of my way to watch them playing cricket, that’s for sure.

PP: You’ve specifically mentioned Asif and Butt. Do you feel the same sentiments for Mohammad Aamer?

JG: I’m still very disappointed with the young man. I think people tend to have little bit more sympathy for him because of his age and he openly came out quite quickly and admitted his involvement and co-operated with the authorities, ICC (International Cricket Council) and ACSU (Anti-Corruption and Security Unit), so I think there’s a little more sympathy towards him.

There was probably a bit of naivety on his part, but with Butt and Asif, they should have known better and they knew they did wrong and tried to get away with it. That was very disappointing. I think everyone will move on from it and I hope we don’t hear of any more instances of this sort of corruption again because it is a taint on our great game and we want this rubbish to stop.

PP: On a lighter note, have you ever faced a 7’1″ fast bowler?

JG: No and I’m glad I didn’t. Irfan’s a very imposing character. He’s that big, he looks like a WWE wrestler and he wouldn’t be out of place in the ring with the other WWE wrestlers. He’s a very skillful bowler and when you are bowling at that pace from that height, you’re a difficult customer. I’m very glad I’m retired and don’t have to face him.

(Saj Sadiq is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net, from where the above article has been reproduced. He can be followed on Twitter at @Saj_PakPassion)