Perth Scorchers v Sydney Sixers, BBL 2016-17 final January 28, 2017

Richardson to Klinger: Langer's Perth dynasty

The punt on young Jhye Richardson in the final gave a peek into coach Justin Langer's broad vision, which has made Perth Scorchers one of the most formidable BBL outfits
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Meditation key to Langer's success?

"There's not much I don't decide over my morning meditation," laughed Justin Langer, shortly after Perth Scorchers won their third BBL title in four years. That's half the titles ever. "It's a good time to organise my thoughts."

This has been Langer's morning ritual since 1993, the year of his Test debut, and the burning issue on the morning of the final was simple: should he pick Jason Behrendorff or Jhye Richardson? Behrendorff had more wickets for the Scorchers than anyone else, had proved himself time and again at the WACA. He was also a left-hander, and was well suited to bowling at Sydney Sixers' all-southpaw top three. But he was returning from injury.

Six weeks ago, no one had heard of 20-year-old Richardson. But he had impressed in the seven games he had played, and even clocked 149kph on one occasion. It couldn't have been an easy decision.

"It was such a dilemma. I reckon I asked at least 50 people their opinion whether we should go Jason or Jhye," Langer said. "So I'm in my backroom at 6.50am, doing my meditation, and it was crystal clear. So I sent a text to the selectors at about 7.20am. I said this is the decision, we are picking Jhye, and they said 'yeah, fair enough'."

He then made three phone calls: To Richardson, Behrendorff, and Cameron Bancroft, who played a T20 for Australia a year ago but could feature in just two games this season. "I have to admit I wussed out and did the easy one first. I could hear it on the other end - he was so pumped!"

A week ago, Richardson sat out a game in Hobart with a rib injury. There have been ankles problems lately too. "I have had a lot of soreness throughout my career already. So I know my body pretty well," he said. Before the Hobart game, Langer asked Richardson how he was feeling. "Ah, a bit sore," he replied.

Langer told Richardson he was going to walk away and return in five minutes and ask again. When he did, Richardson replied: "nah, I'm going good". Langer asked again on Friday evening, to scope Richardson's availability for the final. "I'm going brilliant, feeling good! Can't even feel it," said Richardson. "The young fella is getting a bit streetwise," said Langer.

In terms of his cricket, streetwise is an understatement.

Jhye Richardson impressed with his pace and athleticism this season © Getty Images

Richardson hails from Wandi, 45 minutes south of Perth "in the bush" and learnt "everything I know from my brother Tory playing backyard cricket". He is short, lean, has a whippy action and is mighty quick through the air. He hurries batsmen with pace and lift and may perhaps be the only fast bowler on the planet to utter: "I love fielding the most out of the three disciplines of cricket."

In the third over of the final, Richardson brilliantly ran out Nic Maddinson from fine leg on the second. In his second and third overs, he dismissed Brad Haddin, Moises Henriques and Jordan Silk, just as Sixers were getting back in the game. With 11 balls left in the innings, his safe hands, again at fine-leg, dismissed Johan Botha, as he threatened to pocket handy runs. This was a telling contribution that helped restrict Sixers to 141.

Afterwards, he was articulate, but operated solely in simple sentences. "At the start of the season I wouldn't even have dreamed of this," he said. "Unbelievable. Perfect result. Speechless. I had one focus, just trying to bang it in and use the pace of the pitch and luckily they hit it in the air!"

Richardson is the baby of an experienced squad. Six of the XI for the final were over 30, and the other five were products of the Western Australia system (all under 24), which Langer finds "hugely satisfying." Mitchell Marsh and Shaun Marsh were absent, injured and on international duty respectively. Nathan Coulter-Nile and Joel Paris were injured too, Behrendorff and Bancroft couldn't get a game. Yet, the squad's depth emerged.

Mitchell Johnson, who Langer thought had lost his hunger for the game when they met just before the tournament, was a revelation. "All the guys have looked after me perfectly, you can go to them and ask the questions that you're not sure about and get the answer that you need," said Richardson. "Guys like Mitch have played Test cricket for years and have so much knowledge up there. Being able to ask him questions, and even guys like Behrendorff on the sidelines, you get little things that you wouldn't even have thought of."

"To think he was only borderline playing today," said Langer. "Then to go out and do that, it's a huge credit to what we do here."

What Scorchers do here is win titles.

When Richardson's work was done, out strode Michael Klinger and Sam Whiteman. Whiteman, the first Western Australian Yorkshireman (Tim Bresnan is the second), swung from the hip, broke the back of the target, and then got out. But Klinger batted through, hitting Johan Botha down the ground for six to win the game. He had 71 by then. No one has scored more runs for Scorchers ever, no one has more runs in the BBL ever, and by making 334 runs this summer, he was prolific once again.

Next month, Langer will coach Australia in the T20s against Sri Lanka, and Klinger is one man he would dearly love on his team sheet. "I really hope he gets picked," he said of Klinger, who will turn 37 in July. "I know it would be a dream come true for him. Even if it's just for three games, he deserves it. He's an outstanding person, an outstanding professional and deserves to be enjoying the success he's getting now. He's just shown over so many years what a champion he is."

Klinger is a bashful, charming type, but he will not hide his desire. "Hopefully he's [Langer] a selector! I don't think he is," he laughed. "He needs to have a word to the other four! I hope so, mate, I hope so… It would be a dream come true, but I don't know what their outlook is."

Langer laughed off the idea that what Perth has, with all these titles, classes as a "dynasty", a phrase that is totally at odds with T20. Most of us own socks older than the sport, so how can it have dynasties? But the link from Richardson to Klinger through Whiteman and Ashton Agar and Turner (three players the coach identifies as standouts this season), via Langer, the paterfamilias running things from his meditation mat, shows that is exactly what Perth Scorchers have.

Klinger agreed. "I don't see why not. Wait till next season, we'll have four titles by then." Do not bet against it.

Will Macpherson writes on cricket for the Guardian, ESPNcricinfo and All Out Cricket. @willis_macp

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • hiperr3474848 on January 31, 2017, 0:33 GMT

    @JACKIETHEPEN: To combine two players to make one super-bowler isn't exactly reasonable. If we're doing that, the Adelaide Strikers bowler Ish Laughlin took 18 wickets from his ten matches, and Ish Jordan took 18 wickets from only eight matches. In any case, your statistics are incorrect - Sean Abbott took 20 wickets in his ten matches, considerably more than Bresnan and Willey combined.

  • GeoffreysMother on January 31, 2017, 0:27 GMT

    Jackiethepen : good point but I'm not sure you will be thanked for it. The Big Bash is all about Aussies and a sprinkling of over hyped superstars. It sells well though! Seriously though, it does show that a domestic competition can be hugely popular and attract new spectators to cricket without having to stop the international game around the world and have all those international 'superstars' playing in it. It is like the circuses of old, if you simply want the thrill of someone putting their head in a lion's mouth it really doesn't matter how big the lion is.

  • David on January 29, 2017, 21:20 GMT

    @CRICFAN82041322, "Jhye" rhymes with "eye".

  • Jackie on January 29, 2017, 19:39 GMT

    "After Whiteman got out, Klinger batted through and got a six to win the game." Amazing all by himself! Before that final six, the Klinger-Bell partnership was exactly equal on 31* each. You wouldn't think so. You might be forgiven in thinking Klinger hit all the runs or most of them. Richardson at least gave credit to Bell for coming in and carrying on. Bell ended up second in the team run scorers. And where in any report is credit given to Willey and Bresnan, the English bowlers? Their combined total - 5 matches each - comes to 16 wickets - more than any other bowler. Bresnan took 9 and Willey took 7.

    In the match report the game was done and dusted apparently when Whiteman got out in the 8th over when the Scorchers were on 75. I've seen a few T20 matches and anything can happen to a team that appears to be cruising and a wicket falls. The Sixers reckoned the loss of the Marsh brothers and Voges out of form left a hole in the middle. T20 is a game you don't take for granted.

  • GeoffreysMother on January 29, 2017, 18:08 GMT

    Very good article. Nice to see a team winning with such a focus on developing their own players: it gives the team a great identity with the fans.

  • Terry on January 29, 2017, 17:36 GMT

    If Richardson, Paris, Tye, Behrendorf & Coulter-Nile stay fit they may just use Johnson in games at the WACA ... sorry Perth Stadium. Still have M Marsh, Turner and Agar to get through some overs. In that case they might look at a another batsman as an overseas player

  • dsnotr1737293 on January 29, 2017, 15:13 GMT

    I think problem will be when all richardson,paris,behrendroff and coulternile will be fit.Plus johnson and wiley/bresnan.I think one of the above will change BBL team in future.

  • kgvenk5079052 on January 29, 2017, 12:24 GMT

    Very well coached Langer that is one expected from you , you did it very well and took best out from the players

  • Jonathan on January 29, 2017, 10:55 GMT

    Hats off to Langer but Jhye bowled well the whole tournament so I think in the end it was probably an easy decision. He does look pretty slippery and I won't be surprised if he find another yard of pace as his body fills out a bit. Hopefully he'll get a Shield game or two before the season is out. I hope Paris is back soon!

  • rob on January 28, 2017, 22:48 GMT

    I wonder if in 20 years time we'll be looking back at this as the formative years of THE great T20 coach? Langer, with his combo of mysticism and hard nosed practicality, has established himself as the pre-eminent coach in Oz T20 now. I just wonder how far he can go. All the way to the very top is a definite possibility. Even if that doesn't happen it's still a good idea to put him in charge of the national side. He has his finger on the pulse far more than Boof does I'd say.

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