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Quality training during quarantine key to Sean Abbott's success

Lyon 'took him under his wings' while Woodhill worked closely on his batting

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Sean Abbott celebrates his maiden first-class century  •  Getty Images

Sean Abbott celebrates his maiden first-class century  •  Getty Images

Cricketers and athletes around the world have spoken about the toll that quarantine hub life has had on them in this abnormal Covid world.
But Sean Abbott believes the 14-day quarantine hub he experienced with part of the Australian team and coaching staff after travelling back from the UK in September has been the catalyst for his spectacular Sheffield Shield form that earned him selection in the 17-man Test squad for the upcoming series against India.
The small group of players that didn't go to the IPL in the UAE were forced, under Australia's strict border policy, to isolate in a hotel for 14-days on return into the country. But they were fortunate to be able to stay at Adelaide Oval's hotel and train for a couple of hours a day, a luxury not afforded to normal citizens entering the country.
Abbott said the training environment was of a quality that he had never experienced before and was a major reason for his early-season form. In three Shield matches, he took 17 wickets at 17.92, including 6 for 89 against Western Australia, and made 261 runs at 130.50, including two half-centuries and a maiden first-class century against Tasmania.
"I just worked closely with Trent Woodhill on my batting and Nathan Lyon took me under his wing a bit and we were just talking cricket, not necessarily about batting, just being in the competition and that sort of thing," Abbott said.
"That two weeks was probably the best two weeks training that I've had in my career so far. Obviously, you wouldn't get that in a normal set of circumstances.
"I had access to the head coach of the Australian team (Justin Langer), Trent Woodhill, and then every net session I was facing Starcy (Mitchell Starc), Gazza (Lyon), Kane Richardson, the form bowlers for our country, so I was pretty fortunate in that regard."
Abbott, 28, has long been seen as a limited-overs specialist. He first made his debut for Australia in T20 cricket in 2014, playing one T20I and one ODI on the 2014 tour of the UAE against Pakistan. He returned to international cricket after a five-year absence last year playing in three T20s against Pakistan, following some excellent seasons in the BBL where he took the most wickets of any bowler between 2015 and 2019.
But in a frank conversation with Australian selector George Bailey during the recent UK tour, Abbott made it clear he wants to play Test cricket for Australia.
"I said, 'obviously the dream is to play Test cricket, what do I need to do with all these guys that are taking a heap of wickets every year and then you've got the four guys that are there at the minute who are doing so well for the country,' and I said, 'is it as simple as runs and wickets?'" Abbott explained.
"And he said 'in this format, yeah, I think it is. Your bowling is trending the right way and your numbers are good, especially in the last two years, just keep doing that,' which was great feedback."
There has been talk of Abbott's ability to potentially play as an allrounder in the Test given his recent form with the bat. His recent promotion to No.7 for NSW has been a reward for his hard work and he has repaid the faith in the first three games this season.
But Abbott is acutely aware that he still only averages 26.42 in 21 first-class innings at No.7, and his overall first-class average of 21.15 is unlikely to have him picked as an allrounder in the Test team.
"I'd probably see myself as more of a bowler, and someone who can bat," Abbott said.
"But if there's that opportunity to bat higher up the order and the selectors and Painey (Tim Paine) think that I can do that job then I'm not even going to think twice about it. I'm walking out there when I bat as a batsman and trying to do whatever job is in front of me."
Abbott's long-form bowling continues to progress. His 6 for 89 against Western Australia earned him player of the match honours in a dull draw where batsmen from both sides dominated on a benign surface. Opposing players have noted Abbott's ability to hit the bat hard over long periods this season.
Abbott credited his off-season fitness work with NSW strength and conditioning coach Ross Herridge and personal mentor Thomas Carter, a former professional rugby player with the New South Wales Waratahs.
"That's nice to hear, that's good feedback and hopefully we can keep getting better," Abbott said.
"It got to a period this winter where we didn't need to train, we were ready to go but we would just talk about being comfortable when we're most uncomfortable in games and enjoying the contest.
"It was almost like therapy in a way to go and just chat with Tommy. But I think that has definitely helped, all the work that we've done has helped maybe gain a yard (of pace) but also sustain that for long periods of time. You want to be at your best on day four when the wickets are flat and you've to take 10 wickets to win a game."

Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne