Perth Scorchers' double: leadership, lists and looking ahead

One of the key figures behind the scenes in WA cricket reflects on the season

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Getty Images

Getty Images

Perth Scorchers became only the second club to win both the BBL and WBBL titles in the same season. The BBL team achieved it while playing just one match at home having been shut out of Western Australia due to border closures. Perth Scorchers and WA cricket general manager of high performance Kade Harvey spoke to ESPNcricinfo about how they pulled off the feat and some of the broader issues.
The tournament just gone was an incredible challenge for everybody in the competition but Perth Scorchers in particular. What was the hardest moment across the four months of WBBL and BBL?
I felt like the WBBL was what it normally is. We managed to dodge Covid. The schedule allowed us to play in green zones. We were able to play some really good cricket there in the normal framework of how a team might move around the country. But I suppose the challenge for most teams was that you didn't have much downtime, especially when you made the final. At short notice, we hosted the final at Perth Stadium, which a lot of work goes into, and before we blinked, we were straight in the BBL.
You probably felt that the BBL was going to be a little bit more challenging just on the back of the border changes that were happening through that period. Just rolling from one to the other, for all the support staff who work across both programs, particularly for WA cricket, that had its challenges.
Every day I'd wake up to a whole heap of WhatsApp messages with PCR and RAT results, saying who was available and if we had dodged a bullet. Certainly, that first and second week in January was probably the toughest period I've seen in cricket, where we're on the road and Covid was really threatening to take a hold of us. To get through that and put 17 players fully fit players on the park, maybe besides one Mitch Marsh dodgy hamstring, is a real credit to our team and the decisions that we've made throughout the tournament.
Can you give some insights into the WBBL and BBL programs in terms of building those lists and whether there are different philosophies or the same philosophies for both?
I suppose they are the same and different in the same breath. The biggest thing was who was providing leadership? Hopefully everyone sees that [CEO] Christina Matthews is a great leader of Western Australian cricket, and her impact flows through the business. I think if you get your captain and your coach right, particularly in franchise cricket, that was my number one focus. We lost Lisa Keightley [as WBBL and WCNL coach] when I first took over the job. We had a call to make on how we wanted to move going forward based on where we thought the group was at the time and it came to me pretty much straight away that we needed to split [the WBBL and WNCL coaches] and create a bit of a separate identity for the WBBL girls and that's where my search landed Shelley Nitschke.
She's a great leader. It was her first crack at head coaching but I had great faith that she was ready for that opportunity and from the back of that you then start a recruiting drive based on what she thought and I thought and you end up with Sophie Devine and Beth Mooney and from there, you can't really go wrong. It was about defining the leadership. Making sure we had great people running the programs and leading the programs and I suppose that's a commonality between the two.
That was part of backing Adam Voges in with a three-year deal when his first contract expired. I had great confidence that he was the right person to lead WA men's cricket. I think what we saw in Ashton Turner this year was just the emergence of a fantastic leader who was in Mitch's shadow there for a while and he clearly stepped out of that and provided great direction, strength and tactical awareness, and relationships with our coaches that really means that we were connected on and off the field. The things that we talked about off the field with our planning and different things we wanted to be able to see that connection on-field and we saw that in both programs across the year.
You've had to regenerate both lists over the last few years and you've had to make some tough decisions. Shaun Marsh's exit a couple of years ago was one and Fawad Ahmed more recently. Can you give some insight into some of the thinking behind some of the moves that you and the list management team have made?
We struggled post-Justin Langer leaving. I think Justin as coach and Adam as captain was utopia and we struggled to recapture that leadership connection in the first couple of years. It was a big hole to fill. It took us a couple of years to work it out. That's where Liam Livingstone and Jason Roy came in [last year]. We thought we needed to be more aggressive upfront, particularly when we played on the east coast. We made a few calls there that we needed to regenerate the playing list a little bit. But I don't think there were major changes, they were more subtle.
With the Fawad one, we just felt like with Peter Hatzoglou that we had someone that could bowl really well at Perth Stadium. We felt like he had a lot of upside and Fawad, whilst he had been brilliant for us, he probably was at the back end of his career. We could get Hatzoglou and younger guys into our group and that hopefully will pay off in years to come. It's what we did with Turner, Richardson, Behrendorff, Agar, they all came through as younger players and are now BBL champion winning players. So that's always been the philosophy.
There were some tough conversations. Particularly Shaun was a tough one. But we just felt like with Josh Inglis coming along and the way our top order was going, we needed to be a bit more aggressive upfront. But players like Colin Munro last year and bringing Laurie Evans this year, that experience on those slow wickets that those guys have played a lot on was certainly part of the thinking.
How did the Tymal Mills deal come about because he played an important role in the absence of Jhye Richardson in the middle phase of the tournament?
He was huge. That was sort of a fortunate one. We felt like we needed cover with a bit of ball speed and we just got lucky with Tymal being available and being keen. We knew that he was going to be leaving in mid-January. We were hopeful of getting Richo at the back end of the tournament. We kept some money aside and that third overseas option alive in the background, not really knowing when we would need it. To be honest, I thought Tymal was injured from the World Cup and we just ended up having some conversations with his agent that he was keen. He was outstanding. He's a high-quality character. He was messaging our boys during the final. So a bit of luck as always is the case with these things and good timing more than anything else. But he certainly took on being a Perth Scorcher, which was awesome.
The overseas draft is a concept that is bubbling away in the BBL. What are your broader thoughts on an draft versus an open market where teams can handpick overseas players from anywhere for their own needs?
I've probably ebbed and flowed over the journey. With Covid, at one point you could see the merit of a draft. But I think having seen how it played out that I'd still like the [current] option for us because I still think part of the skill of a T20 tournament is how you list manage, how you put your squad together, how you have your depth, and I think teams should get rewarded for having those relationships with players. You can't imagine Rashid Khan wants to play for anyone apart from Adelaide [Strikers]. I'd like to see that be a really strong part of what we do going forward and the ability to take a punt on a Laurie Evans or bring in Tymal, I think that was a good combo for us.
So my preference going forward is for there to be an open market and you bring in the players as best you can. Personally, I think the way it's working at the moment doesn't need to be tinkered with especially in the women's game. The WBBL, with the national team players and your overseas players, I'm just not sure a draft would work there given the connection to teams.
Players, ultimately, I don't think want to be moving around every different year to play like they do in the IPL. I think in the IPL they do it because they're getting paid a lot of money. I think in tournaments like ours, we want to be able to let players play where they've got strong relationships and can play their best cricket. So that'll be our strong recommendation going forward. Whether that carries any weight or not I'm not sure.
Following on from that, Steve Smith's unavailability for the finals was a problem for the competition. Where do you sit on having to hold Australia representatives on your list, paying them as part of the salary cap and hoping that they're available for you, versus an ability to have them outside the salary cap?
I don't have the answer to that but there's got to be one that's better than what it is at the moment. I think we all understand that we want Steve Smith to play but it's got to be within a framework that everyone understands before the competition starts. For mine, with the Steve Smith scenario, we were changing one rule for one player for one club. And to me, that's not healthy in a tournament. But again, I don't disagree that we want the best players playing but it has to be within a framework of the rules.
And if that means that Australian players are signed to a team and whenever they're available it's part of their Australian contract or retainer I'm not sure. But that's the sort of discussion that we need to have in the off season to make sure that if those guys are coming back, it's not just one player, it's actually a case that we all really understand the rules and know how those players come into the competition in a fair and equitable way. Clearly, the ACA [Australian Cricketers' Association] needs to be part of that conversation as well. But we certainly need a fix for that so that scenario doesn't present itself again.
How do Perth Scorchers get better? How do you improve again on what you've achieved?
Look, it's always tough. It's always probably tougher to back up, as the hunters become the hunted. Hopefully by winning both titles we've given the players and the staff a sense of what it takes to achieve and there's also the opportunity to go and do it again. It's probably a little bit harder because you've got to get back there. The girls had never won it, and the boys, we'd been out of the game for a couple of years. Hopefully, that in itself is enough motivation to keep people striving to get better.
We'll need to continue to evolve the list and develop talent to play the roles that we want them to play. I was lucky enough to be at the stadium when the girls won, it was a hugely satisfying moment. Our job is to make sure that we're developing the talent that can come in and play those roles. Hopefully within WA cricket, the people who have experienced it want to do it again, and those that missed out maybe want to work a bit harder to be able to be there and I think that's what we've done well over a period of time. I don't think there'll be any lack of motivation going forward to try and stay up on top.

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo