Ashes close-up shows Barsby the best
Trevor Barsby was a free-spirited opening batsman during a 12-year first-class career and is intent on allowing his Queensland charges more scope to stick to their natural instincts instead of following pre-programmed paths. While Barsby, who is guiding the squad for the second season, has toned down his playing aggression in his off-field role, he doesn't get bogged down in opposition videos and avoids team meetings.
During the winter he spent a couple of months with the Australian squad during the Ashes as a guest assistant and saw close-up how structured things could get. In the national squad it seems as though every session is planned months ahead. Barsby didn't go to sleep during the hours of team meetings, but has returned home convinced of his strategy for Queensland.
"I'm not one of these people who will sit down and go over realms of stats or ask what's our end target? Our end target is to be competitive," he said. "If we do that all the trophies will look after themselves. I try to give everyone free reign to play whatever way they want to play. If they can do that I find they are going to enjoy the game more, they're playing naturally, not the way I want them to play."
It worked for Queensland last year, when they won the FR Cup, finished second in the Sheffield Shield and were third in the Twenty20 competition. This summer they face a tougher assignment after losing Martin Love, Shane Watson and Ashley Noffke, but Barsby, who has also received a two-year contract extension, came back from England with a few new ideas.
Barsby, who scored 6913 runs in 111 state matches, met up with his former team-mates Matthew Hayden and Ian Botham in England to gain their updated thoughts on the game and also spent time with Tim Nielsen, the national coach, discussing Australia's first class-system. "His view is similar to mine," he said. "Improve their skill, get them fitter, and put them under pressure."
In England Barsby saw Flintoff dismantle Australia in the second Test and the performance convinced him he needed to get more out of his players. "There was a big step between Shield cricket and Test cricket," he said. "To watch Flintoff run in at Lord's and bowl at 144ks, just being ruthless, well I just sat there and thought, these [state] guys sit down when we do our interviews and they say they want to play for Australia. That's the pinnacle, and I've seen what it takes.
"I've seen Freddie Flintoff bowl an outstanding spell, and we've really got to test our players, our batsmen especially, so they can achieve. Our guys here wouldn't be able to cope with that [spell]. One or two probably would be able to, but not week to week."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo