Tasmania coach Adam Griffith holds reservations about this season’s new-look domestic one-day cup format.
The 50-over tournament has long been considered a Cricket Australia afterthought and has played second fiddle to the more profitable Big Bash League.
It was announced last month that the JLT Cup would revert back to a six-state competition, excluding the CA XI, and be hosted in Queensland, Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria with all sides to be contentiously involved in a knockout finals series leading into the October 10 decider – a concept Griffith remains unsure about.
“It’s interesting and they seem to change it up every year, which doesn’t give you a lot of continuity,” the second-year boss said.
”The difficult thing for us is that it’s all in one hit and you don’t get a chance to blood young cricketers throughout the season.
“Also this year with everyone playing finals, I’m not sure how to read that at the moment, but it sort of gives it a bit of a pre-season feel early in the tournament.
“Because whether you win or lose you’re still a chance to play finals and we will wait and see on that – I’m still not sure to be honest.
“We will experience it this year and see how it goes.”
The Tigers first face Victoria in Townsville on September 19 with the tournament to build towards six Sheffield Shield rounds before Christmas. Tasmania finished sixth last season with two wins and four losses.
Tigers in a great position
A state-of-the-art marquee over Bellerive Oval’s practice wickets is giving Tasmania a pre-season advantage it has never had before.
Cricket Tasmania has installed a 45-metre long and 25m-wide cover over the outdoor training area – much to second-year coach Adam Griffith’s delight.
“We’ve been on turf for four weeks now, which is unheard of for us at this time of year and has given us an extra bit of a boost this year,” Griffith said in his home-town of Launceston last week.
“We finished the season off on a high last year [making the Sheffield Shield final] and we wanted to carry that momentum on to not only how we’re going to play our cricket, but to keep on developing our players.
“And when you’ve got facilities like that it’s easy to teach them.”
Last season Tasmania struggled in the one-day cup, drew with Queensland in the Shield final and the Hurricanes made it all the way to the BBL decider after several lean years for the Apple Isle.
Several players stood out. Young Jake Doran and Beau Webster came of age, Matthew Wade led from the front, Jordan Silk recaptured his form, Tom Rogers proved a likely sort with the ball and Jackson Bird dominated opposition batsmen.
George Town’s Gabe Bell was also lethal with 24 first-class wickets at 19.97 before injury ended his year.
Griffth puts the change of fortunes down to all his charges harbouring a desire to learn and improve – a key indicator he looks for as coach.
And the impact of having 2018 domestic cricketer of the year and skipper George Bailey, 35, on a full-time basis could not be underestimated.
“He didn’t go to England this year so he has been with us during the pre-season which has been outstanding,” Griffith said.
“The wealth of experience he brings and the passion I can see back in his eyes again, he’s enjoying his time and starting to talk about how long he’s going to play for, that’s exciting for us.
“We want to keep him around for as long as we can and having him for the full season last year and again this year will be excellent for not only us as coaches but the young blokes as well.”
The Tigers recruited former Australia ODI paceman Gurinder Sandhu from NSW, 19-year-old quick Lawrence Neil-Smith and promoted three local prospects during the off-season.
In the process they waved goodbye to experienced trio Cameron Boyce, Ben Dunk and Andrew Fekete along with Jake Hancock, Corey Murfet, Andrew Perrin and Cameron Stevenson.
Tasmania’s quest to go one better in this Shield season starts at the Gabba against the Bulls with six rounds to be played before Christmas – giving players a chance to stake claims for Test selection.
“Our first three games are away and then we have three at home – we don’t mind that because it gives you an opportunity to get on the road as a group and start to gel and drive the way we want to play the game,” Griffith said.
“The Gabba and WACA will suit our quicks well and then anytime you get the chance to play on the SCG is really good.
“Last year when we played there it was the first time for a lot of our guys, which is pretty exciting, and like last year when we were able to play some games at home in a row we were able to build some momentum.
“If we can do the same thing this year before the Big Bash we will be happy.”
Plenty of talent to look out for: Griffith
Adam Griffith says he is buoyed with the plethora of youth coming through Cricket Tasmania’s ranks.
One of them is Mowbray Cricket Club’s Jarrod Freeman, who made his first-class debut last season at the SCG.
The 17-year-old state and Australian representative has been handed a Tigers rookie contract and Griffith can see a long-term future for the off-spinning all-rounder.
However, Griffith, who worked one-on-one with Freeman in Launceston last week, said he still has a long way to go.
“The [under-19] world cup and his first-class game last year are steps in his career but he has still got a lot to learn,” Griffith said.
“Not only about his own game but about preparation, getting his body right and all those types of things a young cricketer goes through.
“I’m excited to see what he can give us, not only this year, but in the next five to 10 years. He puts some good work on the ball which is first and foremost what we are excited about.”
Griffith said he also expected Gabe Bell, Jack White, Riley Meredith and Sydney’s Lawrence Neil-Smith to press for first XI spots.
“[Neil-Smith] he’s got huge upside. He’s still quite raw with a lot of development to go,” Griffith said.
“A young bat Jack White is coming along in leaps and bounds and Riley Meredith was promoted off the rookie list which is great for him.”
Griffith said he hoped Northern Tasmania’s foray into the Cricket Tasmania Premier League via the Tim Coyle-coached Greater Northern Raiders will continuously produce state representatives.
“Hopefully having Tim on board will help us recruit some really talented players from this region,” he said.
“It will give us a real clear pathway in the North of the state for our talented juniors and give them an opportunity to play at a higher level, and then for us with the state team.
‘We’ve seen over the years the talent that has come out of the North… and we need to give them that drive and direction to play at the highest level.
“Jarrod is an example but we want to see one, two, three or four players every year putting their hands up for those opportunities.”