After losing the last two Sheffield Shield championship games, Victoria’s young players give reason for hope.
Chris Rogers, the coach of the men’s team, is optimistic that Victoria is moving towards greater success, despite traveling from Perth to Melbourne for the second consecutive summer without a Marsh Sheffield Shield in tow.
Western Australia won their second consecutive Shield match with only one change to their lineup from the previous season, replacing retired Shaun Marsh with player of the match, Ashton Turner. In contrast, Victoria had almost half of their starting XI replaced from the previous summer due to injuries to Nic Maddinson and Travis Dean, and Will Pucovski’s mental health break. Additionally, they chose to leave out veteran spinner Jon Holland and allrounder Jon Merlo.
Chris Rogers’ hopes for future success are based on the relatively young age of the team that Victoria fielded in the final, except for the current Test players Peter Handscomb and Scott Boland.
The other important players are season-leading wicket-taker Will Sutherland (aged 23), Mitch Perry, Fergus O’Neill, and Test spinner Todd Murphy. These guys are crucial, too, even if Boland continues to lead a bowling assault that was primarily responsible for the team’s five straight victories that got them to the final (all 22).
Yet even with left-handers Ashley Chandrasinghe and Campbell Kellaway being put into crucial positions against an almost Test level opponent in the biggest game of their first-class seasons, Victoria’s batting lineup is also being drastically changed.
The last time a side entered a Shield final with a younger duo than Kellaway (20 years 142 days at the start of the game) and Chandrasinghe (21 years 96 days), it was South Australia in 1988–89, when they faced WA at the WACA, when they had 19-year-old Darren Lehmann and 20-year-old Joe Scuderi.
Young gun Kellaway Shine in Victoria’s Shield Final Loss
Kellaway was promoted to the crucial number three batting position for the first time in his young first-class career upon Handscomb’s arrival from the Qantas Test tour of India. Despite scoring 6 and 7, he faced over 100 balls against Western Australia.
The former Australia under-19 representative, who, with his flowing curls and superbly upright posture, resembles former England opener turned ICC match referee Chris Broad, might have been dissatisfied with his single-figure scores, but his coach was anything but.
After spending an hour talking with Kellaway about his lessons learned from competing in his first Shield final, Chris Rogers remarked after the game, “A lot of older people do not have these opportunity, and he is figuring out the responses to inquiries he is lucky to have the privilege of getting right now.”
“I see at a young player who presumably gave this game his or her everything.
He almost did not give himself a chance at victory because he was battling so hard, and that is wonderful learning. He is going to benefit much from that.
“He is going to be a key player for us for a while, and I think he has a tremendously bright future.”
Despite being only the second opener in the season finale (after Tasmania’s Jamie Cox) to carry his bat through an innings, Chandrasinghe was unhappy with his own performance.
Chris Rogers had informed him a few days prior to the match that he would not be a part of Victoria’s starting XI. However, Chandrasinghe received a sudden call-up just before the game when Travis Dean injured his shoulder while attempting to take a diving catch during outfield practice (which was hit by Chandrasinghe).
Chandrasinghe’s unbeaten knock of 46 runs in Victoria’s first innings lasted for 400 minutes and 280 balls, which polarised reactions. However, Chris Rogers was amazed by the commitment shown by the rookie opener against the potent pace attack of WA on a challenging day one pitch. Chandrasinghe had been informed by Chris Rogers that he would not be included in Victoria’s starting XI days before the game, but he received a last-minute call-up when Dean injured his shoulder while attempting a diving outfield catch during training on the day before the match, coincidentally hit by Chandrasinghe.
The last visiting opener to bat on day one at the WACA after his side was sent in was Jimmy Maher of Queensland, who finished the last season of his long 14-year first-class career with an unbeaten 111 in 2007-08.
Chandrasinghe failed to regain the form he shown during his arduous 119-run first Shield innings against Tasmania in Hobart in October as opposition bowlers exploited his straightforward batting style
Chandrasinghe’s perseverance earns praise from coach despite late call-up and lackluster performance.
Chadrasinghe was initially left out of Victoria’s preferred starting XI but was given a late call-up just before he went out to bat on Thursday. The decision was based on his recent lackluster performance and the team’s reluctance to have three left-handers opening against Joel Paris, the renowned left-arm swing bowler from WA.
According to Chris Rogers, Chandrasinghe was most likely dissatisfied in his own performance during his maiden innings, which saw a scoring rate of 16.42 per 100 balls faced.
“He doesn’t want to play that style of cricket, he wants to be scoring runs.
“He still has areas of his game that can be improved, but I believe it’s commendable that he managed to bat for an entire day,” the coach remarked. “Many young players in his position might have felt self-conscious and given away their wicket, but he persevered and didn’t lose his wicket. I believe this quality is innate and cannot be taught.”
“You can teach him the technical things and assist him with all of that, but that resolve and willingness to never give up are things that are fairly in-built.” I am extremely proud of him because of how he approached the situation.
“I believe it is a remarkable attempt, and he has qualities I believe we can build on,” the speaker said.”
Chris Rogers expressed his disappointment in watching WA win the Shield for a second consecutive season and emphasized the importance of not making a habit of finishing second in grand finals. However, he also mentioned speaking to his young team after the mid-season BBL hiatus. He reminded them of the collective journey they were undertaking and advised them to focus less on winning and more on improving their game. He commended their exceptional performance in winning their last four games, five in a row with a predominantly younger team. Chris Rogers was proud of their discipline and teamwork and believed that they would continue to improve as a group.