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Ashton Turner: 'As confident in my leadership as I've ever been'

Perth Scorchers' captain talks BBL success, captaincy philosophy and a batting revival

Ashton Turner had an outstanding BBL with the bat and as a leader  •  Cricket Australia via Getty Images

Ashton Turner had an outstanding BBL with the bat and as a leader  •  Cricket Australia via Getty Images

In trademark style, on brand for five-time BBL champions Perth Scorchers, unobtrusive captain Ashton Turner preferred not to fuel growing debate over whether he should become Australia's next T20I captain.
When asked by ESPNcricinfo, Turner, instead, paid tribute to outgoing Aaron Finch, who recently retired from international cricket to leave a leadership vacuum for Australia ahead of next year's T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and USA.
"I'm forever grateful for Finchy, the influence he had on me and the confidence he had in backing me," said Turner, who has played nine ODIs and 18 T20Is from 2017-21. "As he steps aside, they are big shoes to fill."
But Turner, a disciple of the well-worn Scorchers manual of not giving much away publicly, then paused before ever so subtly putting his hand up. "I'm as confident in my game and leadership as I've ever been," he said.
The 30-year-old Turner has been bandied around as a possible Finch successor after leading Scorchers to a successful title defence during a dominant campaign where he rediscovered his belligerent batting.
After several lean years, which put him on the outer of Australia's white-ball teams and Western Australia's Sheffield Shield side, Turner averaged 42.33 at a strike-rate of 155.51.
More impressive than those stats, Turner continually rescued Scorchers and came through in an epic BBL final against Brisbane Heat. In a player-of-the-final performance, he hit a 32-ball 53 as Scorchers thrillingly chased down 176 in front of almost 54,000 rowdy fans at Optus Stadium.
Turner had similarly lifted Scorchers out of trouble with a half-century in last year's final against Sydney Sixers, an innings which triggered his rejuvenation with the bat.
With his Shield career stalled, having not played a first-class match since October 2020, Turner made a conscious decision to focus his attention on the shorter formats.
"I've committed more time to white-ball cricket in the last 12 months, more than I ever have before," said Turner, who remains available for Shield selection but is currently not part of WA's powerful line-up.
One of the things I'm proudest of is that I feel like I've been able to empower a lot of guys in our group. If I wasn't to play, we have guys who could walk in seamlessly and do a great job
"That's where my career has been trending. I made a really deliberate effort to keep chipping away at white ball cricket 12 months a year. Generally in life if you commit more time to something, you're going to improve."
His prowess in the middle-latter overs should be particularly appealing for the national hierarchy, whose selection of big-hitter Tim David at last year's T20 World Cup underlined their desire to find a specialist finisher.
Turner never got going previously in international cricket, averaging just 12 with a strike-rate of 84 in T20Is, but he did smash a 43-ball 84 in an ODI against India in Mohali in 2019.
"I've had small tastes of success in international cricket, but clearly wasn't able to perform consistently. I know I didn't play the best I could," he said.
During his bounce back BBL season, Turner unleashed a formidable range of strokes all around the wicket having often previously relied on hitting straight for boundaries.
"In previous seasons, my boundaries and scoring areas were consistent," he said. "But grounds have different attributes. How you bat at Optus Stadium is different to the SCG or Bellerive. I felt like I had a clearer game plan and could trust myself."
Turner's mastery of chasing helped transform Scorchers, whose traditional blueprint of success was to bat first and then let their miserly attack defend any such total.
Scorchers had a 10-2 record this season when chasing with the only blemishes being narrow losses on the road to Sixers and Hobart Hurricanes. What had been seen as a potential weakness for Scorchers suddenly became a major strength.
"There was no change to the plan, our hand was forced in the early games with teams deciding to bat first," he said. "Momentum is a powerful thing. Once we got on a roll, I asked the players what they wanted to do.
"The consensus was that the batters wanted to chase to dictate the tempo that they needed to bat. The bowlers enjoyed bowling first, so it was the way that it worked out."
That process helps illustrate Turner's inclusive leadership, where he collaborates with decision making.
"Rarely do I make a decision by myself, I spend a lot of time consulting," he said. "I love to hear the input of other squad members and support staff. We have good conversations and come to good conclusions.
"One of the things I'm proudest of is that I feel like I've been able to empower a lot of guys in our group. If I wasn't to play, we have guys who could walk in seamlessly and do a great job like Aaron Hardie, Josh Inglis and Mitch Marsh who have great leadership qualities."
Turner's encouraging leadership particularly came to the fore under immense pressure in the BBL final when he was run-out during a pivotal moment after a horrendous mix-up with inexperienced batter Nick Hobson.
"When we were sitting there waiting for the decision, he said 'mate you're a gun, you'll get us over the line, you'll be absolutely fine, hit good shots'," recalled Hobson, an accountant in his day job who hit the winning runs to become an unexpected hero.
"There was no resentment [over the run-out]. He's an amazing leader. He gives his players so much belief."
Turner, naturally, played down his pep talk but it undoubtedly reinforced his ethos.
"It's easy to give guys pats on the back when we're ahead of the game, I want to do it in every moment," he said. "Whether it's a high pressure moment or not...consistency is really important.
"In T20 cricket there isn't room for guys to be hesitant or doubt themselves. I want everyone to feel empowered to play the brand they want to play. I never want anyone to feel restricted."
After they overcame mostly playing on the road in BBL11 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this season's triumph was marked by Scorchers navigating a slew of injuries and absences of overseas recruits.
It failed to destabilise them as an unruffled team repeatedly dug deep in key moments to win their second title under Turner.
"It might come across as calmness but it boils down to confidence," Turner said. "You look calm under pressure if you are confident in your skills, your team-mates and the planning and processes.
"We've earned the right to think we can win games. We believe in what we're going to do."
Turner is likely to be in demand on the T20 circuit, although a return to the IPL where he had an inglorious stint in 2019, is not forthcoming just yet.
"I don't lose sleep where I'm not playing but I know I could perform if opportunities arise in the IPL," he said. "It's a motivation for me to test myself against the best players and teams."
Who knows where Turner will be at in his career when next BBL season rolls around, but he's already excited about plotting Scorchers' bid for a historic hat-trick of titles in his methodical and unassuming style.
"We've prided ourselves on continuity. Fundamentally the playing squad is going to look similar and we can take a lot of confidence out of that," he said. "I'm really enjoying playing cricket with a smile and just helping every team I'm part of become better."

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth