New Cricket Australia high performance chief Drew Ginn may be set to dictate a change of course for the management of the nation's fast bowlers, drawing lessons from his multi-Olympic gold medal winning time in rowing.
As a member of the "Oarsome Foursome" and subsequent high performance work in both rowing and cycling, Ginn developed ideas that run contrary to those prevalent in the way that CA and the states have managed fast bowlers in recent years, namely the preference for controlled workloads of training, and match bowling at high intensity.
Instead, Ginn can be expected to further investigate whether or not cricket should adopt the sorts of ideas used in rowing, whereby higher consistent training loads at lower intensity are used and then built up for specific moments, whether they be selection trials or international competitions such as the Olympics. Nick Cummins, chief executive of Cricket Tasmania where Ginn led the high performance program for the past two years, told ESPNcricinfo that the 44-year-old would not be afraid to challenge current conventions.
"He's got some strong views on fast bowler management probably based out of his experience with rowing," Cummins said. "For example in rowing he's said rowers would never row flat out aside from in races or maybe the race leading up to the big race. So he finds it interesting that the way a fast bowler's managed at the moment is that when you train you only train flat out and you're limited in your amount of training.
"One of the discussions is do you bowl 1000 balls at 50% rather than 50 balls at 100%, because in rowing you'd do most of your rowing at 50%, 30% or 10%. Of other sports that understand back injuries, rowing would be right up there, and ultimately his view is putting load through a body at all times is important, which kind of links back to that county cricket idea, Courtney Walsh saying 'I never stopped bowling, that's why I didn't get injured'. Drew's view is never stop bowling, but just don't bowl at 100% all the time. The current convention is only bowl at 100% and then rest. It'll be interesting to see where that goes."
Management of fast bowlers has been a problematic area for CA over numerous years, with near constant debate over the approaches to be taken. Ginn has already made his presence felt by expressing his views at national high performance conferences, something Cummins had been looking for when he went searching for a new head of high performance in Tasmania in 2017 at a time the state was performing poorly.
"It became apparent that we were really going to have to have a game changer in terms of the type of person to bring in," Cummins said. "Drew was in the mix with a number of other candidates but when I met with him he was clearly the best. Not so much for expertise around cricket, but certainly expertise around high performance and a real system leader. That's key with that job, whether Tasmania or Australia, is we don't need another head coach to do their job. A head of high performance needs to manage the system and effectively coach the coaches."
While cricket knowledge was far from the forefront of Ginn's qualities, Cummins argued that elite performance was now such a broad area that working collaboratively with experts and managing them effectively was as important. The balance CA have achieved through hiring Ginn and the far more cricket-steeped Ben Oliver as head of national teams will make for an intriguing next few years in terms of decision-making.
"His knowledge of cricket when he started was limited to backyard cricket so he's had to start from scratch, but in many ways that's been quite useful because he's come in with a very open mind and also come in from a perspective of not having a fixed view on how things should be," Cummins said. "Drew's attitude was ask lots of questions, gain an understanding of the oddities of cricket, but principally his job is to ensure that Adam Griffith and then Sally-Ann Briggs [the coaches] had the support and direction to succeed and more broadly working with the physios, strength and conditioning, umpires, premier cricket. In all instances there's a strong reliance on having subject matter experts, and he isn't that.
"But given the breadth of high performance anyway, even if he was Greg Chappell, he still wouldn't have expertise around women's cricket, strength and conditioning or umpiring or player welfare. Anyone who runs an organisation is going to have an area they're very strong and areas they don't know anything about. So consequently what you're looking for is a great leader, not a great coach."
Resourcefulness is something else that Ginn has brought from a background in rowing, a sport that despite its storied history and Olympic presence is largely amateur and self-funded. Cummins recalled how the construction of an indoor marquee to allow Tasmania's players to train through the middle of a harsh Hobart winter was the result of a logical tradeoff.
"He's always looking at how we can deliver something so he doesn't accept no for an answer," Cummins said. "The marquee was a good example, it was about $50,000 and I said 'we just don't have that money' and he came back and said 'righto, the players are prepared to forego their pre-season trip, which is about $50,000, if they can have the marquee instead'. So I said 'okay if you're prepared to be flexible on that then let's do it'.
"He's had that attitude to 30 or 40 different parts of the system. He'll take that approach at the national level, particular coming from a sport where money is at an absolute premium. He's always amazed and envious of the resources that professional cricketers have compared to rowers who are largely amateur and largely self-funded. I think he'll use resources very responsibly, and ensure cricket goes onwards and upwards."