EXCLUSIVE: Australia's Josh Hazlewood opens up on England and India series, IPL 2020, injuries and more

WION Web Team New Delhi, India Jul 28, 2020, 02.47 PM(IST) Written By: Subhayan Chakraborty

EXCLUSIVE: Josh Hazlewood on resumption of cricket, England and India series, IPL 2020, CSK and more Photograph:( AFP )

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As Australian cricketers gear up to get back in flow, pacer Josh Hazlewood, in an exclusive interview with WION, spoke about a lot of things ranging from the cricket post-COVID-19, England series, Indian Premier League (IPL) ambitions with Chennai Super Kings, playing under MS Dhoni, the much-talked-about India series, injuries and much more.

Australia are looking to get back to action with the upcoming limited-overs series lined up against England after a prolonged three-months break due to COVID-19 pandemic. However, the biggest challenge for the Australian side will be the Test series against India, scheduled to start in December. While preparations are set to take off in the Australian camp for the England series, all eyes will be on the much-awaited series against India with Australia eyeing redemption following the 2-1 defeat in 2018-19 series. 

As Australian cricketers gear up to get back in flow, pacer Josh Hazlewood, in an exclusive interview with WION, spoke about a lot of things ranging from the cricket post-COVID-19, England series, Indian Premier League (IPL) ambitions with Chennai Super Kings, playing under MS Dhoni, the much-talked-about India series, injuries and much more.

 

Subhayan Chakraborty: Josh, how has been life for you in these past three months. Things have been pretty difficult for everyone it feels. 
 
Josh Hazlewood: Thank you for having me. Yes, I think it has been different, it has been difficult. We are just doing our business here. We are training four-five days a week in smaller six-eight a person group, enough for couple of net sessions. The weather here has been pretty good for winter. So I have been getting outdoors quite a fair bit. So all’s going well and we are sort of getting whatever comes our way like the tour to the UK next month. 

SC: Australia have a tour to England lined up. Have you been following the England versus the West Indies Test series?

Hazlewood: Yes, I have been watching it a little bit. There’s no such sport going on so it is good to have international cricket back. I am sure a lot of eyes have been there on the Test series and now England looking good in the last Test. Everything seems to be going pretty well off the field as well with the isolation and hubs (bio-secure bubble) in the ground. Promising signs for us. 

SC: There has been a lot of talks around the Dukes ball moving around for the entire five days in the ongoing Test series. But the Kookaburra is completely different. Brett Lee, in a recent interview with PTI, raised his concerns about the saliva-less Kookaburra. What’s your take on it? Tough on the bowlers?

Hazlewood: I think it is going to take some time to get rid of that habit – shining the ball with saliva. But I think sweat will work pretty well. Obviously, the Kookaburra is not going to do as much as the Dukes be it off the seam or in the air. So it is difficult here in Australia to get wickets. But giving right conditions – maybe the ground staff can leave a bit of grass on the wickets – such as Adelaide or Brisbane can make a difference. But I think we will be okay. We will work out a solution to get that ball nice and shiny and hopefully swinging throughout the innings. But yes, I certainly enjoyed bowling with the Dukes ball in England. It always keeps on doing something and keeps you in the game. 

SC: Josh, 51 Tests - 195 wickets, 48 ODIs - 78 wickets and an economy rate of 4.74. What has been your key to success? What does a top bowler need to do to improve every day? 

Hazlewood: Firstly, I try to keep my game very simple. It is about hitting the top of the off stump with an occasional bouncer. It’s pretty much down to that. It is a simple plan but to execute that plan is probably the hardest thing. Just because of what the Test wickets are, and how good the batsmen are, so it gives a small margin for error. Especially in Australia, the wickets are usually good for batting. I have always been a line and length bowler; I don’t have express pace like Mitch Starc. So I know my game well and stick to that. Over the years, I have played Test cricket all around the world and it is about learning with each experiences. So the next time you tour there, you improve every time. Hopefully, my bowling will improve as I get older. It has certainly happened in the past in tours, you seem to get better and better.

Josh Hazlewood

You have to enjoy it as well. Enjoy the challenge of getting wicket of batsmen. You have certain tussles with certain guys. It’s good competitive stuff, good fun.

SC: What has been your toughest battle in your career?

Hazlewood: There’s been a few over the years. Obviously, Pujara couple of summers ago was quite tough work. He had a really good series, and probably was the standout batsmen from both sides so he was really hard work. There’s always that group we talk about – Virat Kohli, Joe Root and Kane Williamson along with Stevie (Smith). That group is always the key wicket for each team. AB de Villiers was always a tough battle, pretty happy he has retired from international cricket (laughs). So different team has different players and it is ultimately about adapting to each team. 

SC: Another part of your career has been injuries. You suffered from back stress fracture early in your career and were withdrawn from the 2010 Australia’s Test tour of India. And since then you have missed a couple of series due to it. So I have two points: 1) How have you dealt with back injuries. 2) What will your tips for the younger players and their coaches who can possibly avoid it in the future?

Hazlewood: It’s a tough one the stress fractures. Happens to a lot of fast bowlers. It’s about getting a good natural action with nice rhythm that is easy as possible on your body and suits your style. I have made changes from last 18 months to now. And my action is in a much better position now taking a bit of stress off the back. So the key is to get a nice action which doesn’t put much stress on the lower back.

I think dealing with injuries is tough, mentally tough as well. You know, doing rehabs all alone, missing those games for Australia. I think I have been lucky. I have played 51 Tests as you mentioned and I have missed only six or eight since I started. I have had early troubles before I started Test cricket but I think I have an action to withstand the rigors of Test cricket and it is always evolving and try and get to perfection or as close as you can. For youngsters, it is about realizing that it is going to happen at some stage that you are going to get injured and it is about doing all that hard work off the field, be it in the gym or running, working with the coaches to try and minimize the risk of having a big injury. And keep a positive mindset even if you get injured and try and come back stronger. 

Josh Hazlewood

SC: How are you looking at the upcoming training camp? Perfect way to get back to rhythm and fitness back

Hazlewood: We are doing as much as we can here in Australia. It is winters here now so it is probably tough to go outside every time. We are doing to a lot with the bowling workloads to get ready. Obviously, we will have to complete our quarantine in England before we start playing and I am assuming that will be close to two weeks. If we have a good 20 guys there and play cricket among us to get prepared because we haven’t played cricket in long time. This has been my longest break since I started playing for Australia so I might be a bit rusty and England obviously are playing at the moment. So they have a bit of a leg up on us. So we will try to create an atmosphere as close to a real match as possible. That’s probably the key.

SC: You mentioned about England already playing. I was watching their intra-friendly matches and the likes of Moeen Ali, Tom Banton, Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, everyone was smashing it all over the park. So what will be the biggest challenge against this white-ball England team, the world champions?

Hazlewood: England are obviously one of the best sides if not the best, especially at home. It will be a huge challenge for us. One thing as a bowling group, we have talked of taking all 10 wickets rather than building pressure in the middle overs and hoping to keep the runs down. We want to be as attacking as much as we can and taking wickets throughout. And then bowl to the lower order in the last 10-15 overs. That helps in being top of the target. As you mentioned those guys are already playing, so it will be about preparations and get match ready quickly. 

Josh Hazlewood

SC: After the England series is the Indian Premier League (IPL). You will be playing for Chennai Super Kings (CSK) – one of the most successful franchises in the history of IPL. How much are you looking forward to IPL?

Hazlewood: I am pretty excited actually. It’s been a while that I have been in the squad. I haven’t played a game yet but I was with Mumbai Indians squad in IPL 2014. I have been using this time – April and May – for rest, preparing for other Test tours for Australia. And now it is a good opportunity to play some T20 cricket and put my name up in that format of the game, in which I haven’t played too much. As you said, it is the best T20 competition in the world. So looking forward to it and hopefully to do well for CSK.

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WION: Did you follow the auction? Because Pat Cummins was over the moon after it. How were you feeling after CSK got you?

Hazlewood: I was ecstatic to be picked up by CSK. Pat was obviously different, and he is pretty excited to be out there and do well for Kolkata. I haven’t played a lot of T20 cricket in the last five years but I am happy CSK gave me an opportunity and hopefully, I can reward them.

WION: And are you looking forward to playing under the leadership of MS Dhoni?

Hazlewood: Again, I am excited! I think he is a pretty similar player to me – very relaxed and calm – and that’s how I play my best cricket, that’s when I enjoy my cricket. Hopefully, we are a good match. 

Josh Hazlewood

SC: You haven’t played much T20 tournaments in last few years but you have good numbers in whatever matches you have played for Sydney Sixers in Big Bash League. So how are you looking to crack the IPL? Bringing something special in your armory?

Hazlewood: I am always working on different deliveries, different change-ups and slower balls. Hopefully in the next couple of months, I can work on settling in and deliver in the IPL. Under a lot of pressure but it is always good to try things. 

SC: After IPL, the biggest task for Australia will be the India series. The entire world has its eyes on that series. So what do you think will be the biggest challenge for Australia, particularly against the likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara?

Hazlewood: Obviously we have got Steve (Smith) and David (Warner) back and Marnus (Labuschagne) has come leaps and bounds. The bowling attack is similar to what it was but it is the batting which now has a lot more depth and experiences from the last time India toured. India’s bowling attack got us last time and that is what we don’t like to happen on our home soil. So we want to get India in that department. But as you said, everyone is going to watch this series. It has almost reach the point where it has reached point like the Ashes now. It is a huge series for both teams and we need to give a payback to India after last time. 

SC: Any specific plan for Cheteshwar Pujara this time?

Hazlewood: (Laughs) Nothing yet. We need to have a few team meetings, bowlers meeting to come up with something. Because obviously, he is a key along with Virat and a few other guys. But if you focus too much on a player then others can hurt you. So the top 6 is always important. 

Josh Hazlewood

SC: And how big will the pink ball Test in Adelaide?

Hazlewood: That’s probably huge for us the pink ball Test. We obviously play a lot more Test in Adelaide. We have got some good experience with the pink ball. That’s probably a big positive for us. But again you have to play good cricket. And we are playing in Brisbane as well. We love playing there. So we have got a few things going are way already. It is about executing on the day as well. Things can move pretty quickly in pink ball Test and India have a great pace attack as well. It’s going to be good fun. 

SC: Coming to the pace attacks of both the teams, how do you compare and differentiate these two pace line-ups?

Hazlewood: I think both teams have pretty good depth. We have our three guys who play most of the Tests and then James Pattinson, Jackson Bird, Michael Nesser, Jhye Richardson. We have good depth there, same as India. The variety in both the sides is pretty good, to be honest. Jasprit Bumrah is different to Ishant Sharma and vice-versa. It is a top attack and our batters would want to get their hands up against that attack, which didn’t happen last time (laughs). Hopefully, we will keep them out there for long and wear them down. 

SC: Do you think it is important to evolve with time and learn new craft such as wobble seam, reverse swing or say knuckle ball in T20s?

Hazlewood: Conditions play a big part. If one place is swinging more then it is about is about controlling that swing but if it is not swinging but seaming then it becomes an entire different story. So that happens over time by playing in different grounds in different conditions. Calling that arsenal and bring it on and perform in each and every game. International cricket is a tough game. As you said, it is about evolving with time and improving. 

Josh Hazlewood

SC: What will be your combined India-Australia Test XI?

Hazlewood: Starting from quicks, I will have myself in (laughs) with Pat Cummins and Jasprit Bumrah. In Australian conditions, I will have Nathan Lyon and in Indian conditions, Ravichandran Ashwin. Openers would be Mayank Agarwal – taking future in consideration – and David Warner. Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara are automatic picks at three, four and five. At no. six…I will have Marnus Labuschagne or Rohit Sharma given their ability to change the game. 

Josh Hazlewood’s India-Australia combined Test XI: Mayank Agarwal, David Warner, Steve Smith, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Marnus Labuschagne/Rohit Sharma, Tim Paine (wk), Nathan Lyon/Ravichandran Ashwin, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Jasprit Bumrah.

SC: What will be you message for fans who are supporting the Sport from home?

Hazlewood: Hopefully, we can get some crowd, maybe in the IPL or definitely in India series here in Australia. Football is getting 30,000 audience here in Perth. So I guess there’s a possibility of getting a good crowd in. Obviously, great atmosphere with Indian fans, they a make a lot of noise and they love cricket. And if they are watching it from their couches, then I hope we play some really entertaining cricket for them and hopefully they will enjoy it.