Sheffield Shield 2010-11 October 9, 2010

Copeland builds on natural instincts

Trent Copeland was a wicketkeeper-batsman until five years ago as he juggled the roles in St George's third grade side. Last season he was the bowling find of the domestic summer after storming to 35 wickets in his first five Sheffield Shield games for New South Wales.

As Copeland, 24, prepared for his second campaign as a first-class paceman, his initial aim was to get a game. During the winter that seemed like a particularly tough assignment, but the Blues start the season with Nathan Bracken and Josh Hazlewood injured, Brett Lee focussing on limited-overs games, and Doug Bollinger, Mitchell Starc and Shane Watson in India with the Test outfit. That leaves Copeland with an early chance to impress in Monday's Sheffield Shield fixture against South Australia.

"It was beyond my wildest expectations," he told ESPNcricinfo of his debut summer. "I never expected to play for New South Wales last year, let alone do so well. I was over the moon. Looking forward, if I can do half as well as that for the rest of my career I'll be pretty happy."

The late start to bowling came because Copeland was sick of breaking fingers while keeping and didn't want the injuries to hurt his batting. He started grabbing the ball in the nets, helped the team to a third-grade trophy and the following season was a fixture in the firsts. Now his worries are hamstring strains and stress fractures.

"If you look back now it's a great story, but to me it's been a natural progression," he said. "I started to bowl because I didn't want to get a duck and do nothing for the rest of the game. Since then the bowling has been such an enjoyable thing because you have so much control over what happens."

Copeland runs his own coaching business so was always talking to his charges about the best method to deliver the various options and on the way taught himself. "I haven't had any bowling coaching until I came into the state squad," he said. "There are guys that I've played with at St George who have helped me, but never really specific one-on-one coaching."

In an era where technique rules, Copeland is a natural player from another age. He likes to swing the ball but at 195cm can also pull back his length and hit the pitch hard. During his half-season last year he showed his flexibility by collecting five-fors in Adelaide and Hobart after his stunning 8 for 92 on debut against Queensland at the SCG. That was his first eight-wicket return since his third-grade days.

Copeland has just completed his first pre-season with the Blues, replacing his usual method of keeping fit in winter by playing hockey. Bowling has been his focus but he is desperate to improve his batting. He said he scored 80s and 90s in first grade during his time as an opener, but only managed a top of 9 for his state.

"My record from last year doesn't say I can bat," he said. "But in myself I know I can." A lack of runs won't worry his team-mates, as long as he keeps taking wickets.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo