No contract, no problem
Once a regular member of Australia's Test and ODI sides, Simon Katich lost his Cricket Australia contract during the 2007 off-season. He responded with a sensational Pura Cup campaign for New South Wales, scoring 1328 runs at 94.85 and captaining the side into the final starting on Saturday against Victoria. Katich, 32, was also named Pura Cup Player of the Year and captain of the Australian Cricketers' Association's all-star Pura Cup team. After receiving the awards he spoke to Cricinfo about his time away from international cricket and his desire to win back his position.
Your form this year has been outstanding. What do you put that success down to?
I've had a lot of help from Bob Simpson and Matthew Mott, our New South Wales coach, in the last 18 months working on a fair few things. The other thing that definitely helped me was having a season at Derbyshire during the winter, where I was able to play a fair bit of cricket. That did me a world of good.
Did you draw inspiration from losing your Cricket Australia contract and trying to fight back?
When it happened I was a little bit upset about it, but it didn't really affect the way I went about things. I was in England at the time and I was disappointed to hear the news, but to be honest it didn't really change anything. I was just trying to have a good season over there and I just wanted to keep working on things and keep improving.
After it happened you signed a five-year deal with New South Wales. Did you think your international career was over?
I never thought that, but I knew it was going to be tough. I also really appreciated the support from Cricket New South Wales. To get that security and have that confidence shown in me, I certainly think it's been a big contributing factor to the season that I've had. I've been able to go out there and enjoy my cricket and know that the next few years I can keep doing that and hopefully repay the faith.
Do you think you'll get your Cricket Australia contract back again?
That would be fantastic but that wasn't my motivation this year. I was just trying to win the Pura Cup title and that's the beauty of being captain: you do tend to focus on those team results, and I know I always take the result personally. That has been a plus for me. It has probably helped me to be able to go about my business and try and help us win games, which in turn helps me to play well.
Was it hard watching the team win the World Cup after you'd been opening in the ODIs about six months earlier?
Not at all. To miss out to Matty [Matthew] Hayden was fine. He's obviously a fantastic player and I didn't make the most of my opportunities in that team. I enjoyed my time there and it was fun but all along my preference has always been to play Test cricket, so hopefully that's something that I can do down the track.
So you're hungry to get back in the Test team?
I think my performances indicate that. When you're scoring hundreds you've got that hunger to make sure you get a big score once you get a start. But I've definitely been more relaxed because international cricket hasn't been my primary focus. There's plenty of other good players around Australia as well.
If you got back in the Test side, would you be a different type of player after more than two years out?
My attitude has probably changed a little bit, having been out of it for a while. I knew I had to work on things and improve on a few areas of my game. I've done that, and I guess, like anything, until you get another opportunity you're not sure. But at the moment I'm pretty content with where I'm at. If it happens it happens; if not then I'll just keep chipping away.
What have you worked on?
I didn't have a good time of it in the Ashes in 2005. My balance wasn't right and that contributed to me not being able to hit the ball as straight as possible and not being able to hit the ball where I wanted it. All of a sudden, as a batsman you certainly lose a fair bit of confidence when that happens. I've worked on that a fair bit and also just getting more balance with my driving. There's a fair few things I've worked on with Bob and Motty in the last 18 months. When you sort everything out mentally as well and you know you're back on track, that helps your confidence enormously.
You're not playing county cricket this year but you've been signed by Mohali in the Indian Premier League. What do you hope to get out of the IPL?
That's pretty exciting and something I'm looking forward to. For me it's playing an international tournament again, getting to play against other international players. That's one thing that I've tried to focus on this year. When we have played against Australian players or guys who are pushing for Australian selection, I've really wanted to do well to see where I'm at. The IPL will be another gauge.
You need 137 runs in the Pura Cup final to break the all-time record for most runs in an Australian domestic season. Is that on your mind leading into the match?
Not at all. I haven't even thought about it. The final being such a big game and being captain, the responsibility of that means that I'm focusing on making sure everything is right for the team and making sure I get out there and get some runs and hopefully set a platform for the rest of the batsmen. If we can win the final that would top it off and be the icing on the cake. That will make me as happy as anything else that's happened this year.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo