Elliott backs his kids to be on Waugh path for U19s World Cup
WANT to feel old? Think about what you were doing on January 1, 2000. Then consider the bulk of players in the Australian U19s weren’t born then.
You know all about Generation X and Y so now welcome Generation Z, Generation Next for our purposes. Last week they wrapped up a 4-1 series win against Sri Lanka. And one of them has the surname Waugh. Look out.
In a two-part conversation, their coach, former Test opener Matthew Elliott, gave The Cricket Paper insight to his group as they progress through the Cricket Australia pathway to professional cricket, via an U19 World Cup next January. This week: the batsmen. “It’s a pretty good group,” Elliott opens understatedly. On the available evidence, that it is, with seven Australians reaching halfcenturies in challenging Hobart conditions. “It’s been a long season for some of these guys and we got results that reflected the effort they put in.”
Will Pucovski was a lock to captain the side after rattling off four consecutive centuries for Victoria at the U19s carnival in December, landing himself in the Sheffield Shield side by the New Year. Regrettably, the fourth concussion of his fledgling career came on senior debut.
It shifted the attention from the young man assessed to be the carbon copy of Ricky Ponting to another inescapably compared to his father – Austin Waugh. Plucked from U17s cricket after a century in the national final, the Son of Steve hasn’t looked back. A vital chasing 60, after Australia lost three early wickets confirmed he’s inherited a cool head.
“They are like twins born 30 years apart,” says Elliott of Waugh Jnr. “It is scary how similar he walks and moves like Steve. But what I love about Austin is he is his own person. He has to deal with a lot of comparisons but he is strong-minded.”
Cricket Australia have been careful not to overexpose the 17-year-old, but when he did speak to media, reiterated a focus on his own game rather than replicating his Dad or Uncle Mark. “I’m playing my own cricket actually,” he said.
Waugh identifies as a “very attacking” and “unorthodox” batsman, evidenced when tennis-serving a bouncer in a Big Bash curtain-raiser at the SCG, headlines following. But Elliott says Waugh’s main strength is that he is technically competent first and foremost. “There are no gimmicks. He has a good, sound game.”
Waugh’s NSW teammate Param Upal earned player of the series honours with 189 runs. That included the only ton from either side, in a fixture where no other player topped 45. The right-hander now moves to the National Centre of Excellence from where have come many a baggy green champion.
“He’s very elegant and easy on the eye,” says Elliott. “He plays spin and pace equally well and it showed when they went to spin in the middle overs.”
Another Sydney-based batsman with plenty of tricks is Jason Sangha. Co-captain, despite still being just 17, he already has a New South Wales contract.
Tall and correct, Sangha clocked a matchwinning century against Pakistan as a 16-year-old on U19 debut. List A opportunities have already followed.
“He’s textbook correct with exciting flare,” is Elliott’s assessment. “And very good at hitting the spinners over the top. He’s prepares really well.”
Chris Rogers, working with Australia’s U17s, described Victorian Jack Edwards as “a freak”. The youngest member of the side at 16, he’s also the tallest at 6ft 5in. A total of 155 series runs in the white-ball series complemented a century in the three-day match.
“Jack’s has a real point of difference,” Elliott says of his height and reach. “I was impressed how he was able to adapt his game from the three day to one-day format, and different positions. I rate his cricket IQ.”
Elliott reiterates the importance of the journey rather than that destination, telling this group there are “no guarantees” of progressing without continued hard work.
With that said, of the squad only one is ineligible for World Cup duty, giving Australia their best chance of winning since 2010. Either way, with the investment in this group, there is plenty to be excited about. Or worried about if you're not Australian.