World Cricket Badger caught up with South Australia and Adelaide Strikers batsman Michael Klinger ahead of the start of the Australian domestic summer this weekend. It kicks off with the Ryobi Cup one-day competition in Sydney. We talk to Klinger, who has just spent the English summer captaining Gloucestershire in county cricket, about all things South Australian cricket.
How do you assess last season’s Sheffield Shield?
“It was a very close fought campaign. Going into the last game, if we had have won it, we would have been in the final. But pretty much all the teams were in the same boat. We ended up losing it to New South Wales and finished last. They were coming last with two or three games to go by a long way and ended up winning their last few games to finish third.”
That must whet the appetite for an exciting season this time?
“Yes. I have been saying it was the closest Shield season for a long time – certainly that I’ve played in. This season’s going to be a bit different because all the one-dayers are in October. We’ll be playing that competition over three-and-a-half weeks all in Sydney. That gets the one-day competition of only six games out of the way. Then we have six four-day games before Christmas, Big Bash and then the last four-day games after that.”
Are you as players happy with that structure?
“It will be interesting to see how it works because it’s untried. I suppose as a player the only disappointing thing is that you only play six one-day games now. In a couple of years, it’s gone from ten to eight to six. For me, that’s not enough one-day cricket if you’re trying to produce the best Australian team.”
Australia are not so far off being top dogs in one-day international cricket, so you need to strike whilst the iron’s hot at domestic level in a sense. On the face of it, that doesn’t look like it’s a step forward?
“I think it’s a three-month break or something like that between our domestic competition and the one-dayers against England in January. There will be no one-day cricket leading into that. Whether it makes a difference, I’m not sure.”
Are you happy with the Ryobi Cup being in one place? One negative of that is that teams apart from NSW will lose out on home advantage and their members seeing them play one-day cricket.
“It doesn’t affect me as a player much or the team, but it will be interesting to see how the members react to it. They are not going to see any one-day cricket. I’m sure that will be disappointing from their point of view. It is a trial in a sense, and it will be certainly be different. Hopefully it goes well.”
Do you believe that as a state you are well placed for silverware in four-day and one-day cricket?
“Yes, definitely. We made huge improvements in four-day cricket last year. One-day cricket, we probably went a little bit backwards after winning it the previous year. We’re certainly confident we can have positive results. We’ll have new wickets at the Adelaide Oval because it’s the first year we’ll have had drop in pitches since they’ve redone the whole stadium. We’re not 100 percent sure how the surfaces will play, but we’ll see once we get started.”
Is winning the Sheffield Shield the primary goal for South Australia this summer?
“It’s probably the most prestigious competition. If you ask a team these days if you prefer the one-dayers or the four-dayers, they would probably say the latter. Big Bash now is different because it’s franchises. The big lure of the Big Bash is making the Champions League, which a state association can make a fair bit of money from. It would be interesting to see what they would say if you asked an association if they preferred winning the Shield or making the Champions League.”
Looking at the Redbacks’ squad, you have made a few changes with Nathan Lyon and Dan Christian going but Adam Zampa coming in.
“Zampa’s a young leg-spinner who’s very promising. He’ll certainly add to our squad. Andrew McDonald as well. That’s almost a direct replacement for Dan, who’s gone to Victoria. It will be interesting to see how they both go.”
Do you feel that you’re stronger as a result of those changes?
“We’re certainly not weaker. I don’t want to put down anybody who’s left us. Dan Christian, for me, is a very good cricketer. He will be a loss. But if Andrew McDonald can stay fit, he’ll be a huge asset for us having moved from Victoria.”
Concentrating on Zampa for a minute. He looked promising in the Big Bash for Sydney Thunder last year. Straightaway, a young leg-spinner who does well draws comparisons to Shane Warne. What do you make of him?
“It’s a certainly a tough ask being a young leg-spinner, or any spinner. Any spinner in Australia since Warney’s finished seems to have been compared to him. Adam certainly gives it a rip, and he has had some success in his short career so far. The Adelaide Oval in the past certainly has turned a fair bit. With the new wickets, we’re not sure how they’re going to play. But it will be interesting to see what they’ve decided whilst I’ve been away. There is a definite chance Johan Botha and Zampa are going to play together.”
Is it important not to put too much pressure on Zampa to work wonders straightaway?
“Certainly. He’s only played a handful of first-class games. Leg-spin is obviously a hard art to nail. Certainly for Adam, he’ll need time to find his way. But from all reports, he’s been bowling well through the winter. The squad has just been to Brisbane and Darwin to do some training outdoors.”
What would be a successful summer for South Australia and Adelaide Strikers?
“Firstly, I don’t see a reason why we can’t win all competitions. We’re in a position now where we’ve got some experience with some good youth. I strongly believe we can certainly win the two Redback competitions. The Big Bash, we’ll certainly go in thinking we can win. Twenty20 is a bit more unpredictable, and not necessarily the best side on paper always wins.”
In the Big Bash, you’ll hope that Alex Hales has a similar impact for you as he had for Melbourne Renegades during that short stint last year?
“Yes, definitely. Without being involved in our recruitment and looking from the outside….we’ve obviously had Kieron Pollard in previous years, but the West Indies players this time round could only play in two of our games I think. I can understand why we were reluctant to do that. Certainly not because of the quality of player because Polly’s been fantastic for us. But I think it’s a huge advantage for us to have a player for the full tournament. That way, you don’t have to change any game plans. Hales, I’ve seen him bat really well in a couple of Twenty20 games for Notts. He also got 90 against the Aussies. It looks like I will be opening the batting with him, so that’s exciting.”
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