CAPTAINS Peter Handscomb and George Bailey have expressed concern about Cricket Australia’s language around the state one-day competition ahead of the JLT Cup final between their respective states.
Handscomb’s Victoria, featuring Nowra’s Nic Maddinson, and Bailey’s Tasmania will fight for the title at the Junction Oval on Wednesday, the last domestic one-day match of the season.
Having long been played as a home-and-away league around the Sheffield Shield, the one-day competition became a stand-alone, early-season tournament five years ago, which CA said would help prepare players for high-stakes play at the World Cup.
The format was tinkered with again this year, with all six states making the knockout phase. CA has unashamedly referred to the JLT Cup as a “pre-season” competition, and neither Handscomb nor Bailey like the phrasing.
“I think saying that this is some pre-season tournament is just wrong,” Handscomb said on Tuesday.
“There should be so much riding on this. This is the domestic competition, people are putting their hands up to play one-day international cricket for Australia, and people should take notice of what happens here, so there’s still a lot riding on it. The players understand how important it is, and everyone’s out here trying to do their best.
“I haven’t won one for Victoria. [So] it’s exciting to get out there and hopefully the boys will turn it on again, and we can come away with the trophy.”
Bailey echoed Handscomb’s sentiments.
“I think we’ve got a rich history in World Cups, in one-day cricket, and I think the way the one-day competition over a number of years, particularly over those years where we won World Cups, has been really important,” Bailey said.
“It’s worrying, I think if that tournament is just being viewed as [a pre-season tournament], and performances aren’t being looked at in terms of players who dominate this competition, you want them to be getting opportunities to play for Australia, and on that front you want to be playing on the best grounds, at the best possible time, to ensure those performances do mean something, and we continue to perform in the really big one-day tournaments around the world.”
Bailey said ideally there would be more domestic one-day cricket played over the summer.
“I certainly don’t want to be in charge of scheduling. [But] I think it’s important to be playing some one-day cricket around when one-day international cricket is being played. I think it’s dangerous to start picking your one-day team on the back of who is doing well in the Big Bash.
“In an ideal the tournament block, I think it’s important for players to understand what that feels like and how that goes, but I think there’s an opportunity to play some more one-day cricket at another stage of the season.”
The Vics are expected to name an unchanged XI for the final, with Seb Gotch understood to again be unavailable after a recent tooth infection.
One man who should play for the Vics is veteran seamer Andrew Fekete, who moved back to Victoria in the off-season after six years in Tasmania to be closer to fiance Pip.
“I remember telling the guys in the [Tasmanian] change room after the [Sheffield] Shield final [in March], it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” Fekete said.
Fekete, 33, perhaps best known for being named in Australia’s squad for the aborted Test tour of Bangladesh in 2015, isn’t contracted with the Vics, but was invited to train with the squad during the winter, having previously played a single one-dayer for the state in 2012. Called up to the Victorian squad mid-tournament, he took 2/59 and made a useful 12 not out at number 11 in Sunday’s semi-final win over Western Australia.
While mindful of not denying opportunities for youngsters, he remains keen to keep playing at state level for a bit longer, before pursuing a career in the accounting and finance sector.
“It’s a bit uncanny. I wasn’t expecting to play any one-day cricket for Victoria,” he said.
Victoria last won the one-day title in 2010/11, their sole crown in the competition since the turn of the century.