Kane Richardson would have challenged Justin Langer if the Australia coach had told him to his face that he didn't seem to have the bottle to come back and play for Australia again. Before the start of the World Cup, Langer used Richardson as an example of how far the Australia team had come in a year.
Langer said he remembered a chat with Richardson after the tour of England last year where they lost each of the six internationals. This was after the only T20I following the 5-0 whitewash in the ODI series. Langer, used to winning a lot when he played for Australia and when he coached Perth Scorchers, wasn't quite impressed with the team he had. Richardson had gone for 59 runs in his four overs in that game. On the next tour that Richardson went to - in Zimbabwe - he didn't get a single game, which told him where he stood with Langer.
"I'm thinking about someone like Kane Richardson who I sat with after the T20 game last year and I never thought he'd play cricket for Australia again," Langer said before the start of this World Cup. "I didn't think he had the bottle and we talked about it but how he has come on and you see he is having a red hot dip here. Everything he does, whether it's at training, he's talked about it to the group, he doesn't want to play scared cricket, he wants to be an Australian cricketer, he's a great role model for our players to come from where we were 12 months ago, he's standing tall and he's having a go."
Richardson had to wait nine months for his next appearance for Australia, and he still didn't make it to the original World Cup squad. It was an injury to Jhye Richardson that got him in, and a green track in overcast Taunton that finally got him a World Cup match. He didn't have great List A numbers in between - averaging 43.5 and conceding runs at 6.21 to the over - but it could be his T20 performances that got him back into the mix. He averaged 17.7 and conceded runs at 7.75 an over in the BBL, which is quite acceptable.
Most importantly, though, Richardson gave up worrying about selection and started believing in himself. "Since then - it will sound silly - I have just gone and stopped caring about selection," Richardson said. "You just go back and do your best. And I think that's what happened in the end. I took some wickets. All of a sudden, a few blokes fall down and you are the next one in. Yeah I just kind of gave up all - kind of - thought about it and just played cricket."
Langer didn't actually let Richardson know what he thought of him. "He didn't say it that time," Richardson said. "I would have been pretty upset. Not so much upset, but I would have challenged him, I reckon. Any time some questions your bottle - as he said - I am pretty strong in my competitiveness. Just good to read and know that he thought that and now he thinks … it is quite positive. At the time I was pretty disappointed in my performance, and I knew something had to change."
Langer has seen a completely transformed Richardson on this trip. "It was just about believing in himself," Langer said. "He is a really talented athlete. He has great skills. He is a beautiful athlete. He can field well, catch well, but when you are just holding back a little bit - maybe I won't go for that because I don't want to mess it up - now he is having a dip and a red-hot crack at it."
Richardson himself never believed he was done playing for Australia, but he wouldn't have beaten himself up had he not. "I kind of stopped caring about it," Richardson said. "There is no point worrying about it. I just thought well if I do never end up playing again, then so be it. I will do everything I can to play but it is what it is. All I can do is do my best, and that's it."