He has been the stalwart of the Victorian Bushrangers since the tragic death of then coach David Hookes in 2004.
For almost ten years, Greg Shipperd has overseen what is arguably one of the strongest lists ever seen in Australian domestic cricket. The Victorian presence in the Australian side has substantially lifted in the last decade.
Peter Siddle has been the most prominent representative for the Victorian team, running in over after over and never giving up. However, Shipperd believes the state side may only see Siddle – who is focusing solely on long-form cricket – for just a couple of games in the upcoming season, due to national duties.
“It’s a really cluttered program this year…both he (Siddle) and James Pattinson started the Bushrangers on fire last season.”
When he is around the side, Siddle is a “fantastic role model in terms of work ethic. When he is in our environment, it is a very healthy one for a young player to be involved in.”
The Ryobi One Day competition will be getting a makeover as early as this season. Although Siddle will not participate, Shipperd says that players will need to familiarise themselves with a shortened and stunted format, compared to previous years.
It is this scenario where Shipperd tends to regard Siddle as having an advantage. The pace bowler, focusing on just one form of the game, means that the skill sets are different to those that play all three cricket forms.
“We prepare to play in the finals (for every competition)…if you are talking about Shield cricket, it is about the players quickly adapting from one form of the game to another.
To have such a strong record, and well-built roster, it is all about having a robust environment at the Bushrangers, says Shipperd. Learning and education are key facets of a top team, and it is thanks to both the players and staff who contribute invaluable insights.
“The Bushrangers program has been one of consistency, from my point of view, as the head coach, you’re going to get a consistent theme with me being there all this time.”
“In the last ten years, we are the team that’s scored the most wins in both one day cricket and Sheffield Shield, as well as a couple of titles along the way,” highlighting just how strong the Bushrangers have been in the Australian domestic scene.
Queensland and Tasmania may have won the most recent trophies in domestic cricket, but Shipperd is still not concerned about the overall performance of the Bushrangers, citing key players being unavailable.
“In the last three years we have been producing some improved numbers at an international level…we had seven, eight, nine first choice players out of the squad at the end of last year.
“Put in context, Queensland is offering Ryan Harris to the national party, and we’re offering 10 players over the season. When you tick one box it puts a strain on another box. Two years ago we missed out on the final on percentage, so we’ve been playing some good cricket.”
“The challenge for our players is to actually stick at that level, and not be a player who is in and out or on the edge. Dave Hussey, Cameron White, John Hastings, Bobby Quiney…they played some fantastic cricket to qualify but were unable to hold their position.”
Shipperd’s extensive resume does not stop with the Bushrangers. He is also the coach of Big Bash League franchise the Melbourne Stars. Having been knocked out in the first two seasons by the Perth Scorchers in the semi-finals, the key this summer is for players to be relaxed, and to bounce back and secure a home final.
The Stars have got a really solid side in terms of player pickups this year, points out Shipperd. It is a matter of staying focused on the side’s goals.
“It was déjà-vu like, to lose both those semi-finals in Perth…getting a home final is obviously a huge target, as you are playing in a familiar environment.
“Players need to be confident about the skills that they’ve got,” Shipperd adds. This rings true not just for the Melbourne Stars, but for any cricket team in the world. Striving to hoist the silverware come the end of January will require all the skills the players can muster.
English import Luke Wright fits snugly into the category of confidence. He has won plenty of Stars and Australian cricket fans over, and the firepower is there to support him to produce match-winning type performances, says Shipperd.
“It does not happen every game, but we know that in our top six we’ve got players with the bat, and also with the ball that are capable of stealing games from opposition teams.
“Luke Wright is a brilliant all round cricketer, as is (Brad) Hodge, (David) Hussey, (Cameron) White. Glenn Maxwell on a couple of occasions last year, batting with Hodge, showed some upper level skills. We (also) want to see the competitive skills of guys like James Faulkner and John Hastings…it is critical to have our 13-18 players ready to go.”
Front and centre of the cricket world at this current moment is the Ashes. Siddle and Pattinson have already represented the test team.
Over the course of the series in England, the mentality of the team has changed, says Shipperd.
“There’s been a slight shift in the language around the team. Instead of instinct and aggression…it has been more about the process behind good batting; quality defence and proven strokeplay.”
It has not come easy for the Australians, the series littered with controversies surrounding the Decision Review System and silicone on the edges of the players’ bats. Shipperd is in full support of using the technology made available to the game, and says umpires need to be confident in their decision making.
“The umpires that are using the technology should be well educated, schooled, and relaxed about making those decisions.
“Everyone is accountable for their own decisions. There is, however, another level of scrutiny for everyone involved, and it is about cutting that out across the board.”
Victoria has proven to be incredibly steady across the last decade of cricket. Shipperd has helped to develop both talented players together with a disciplined standard of cricket. Two coaching jobs means there is plenty of work to be done, but there is no rest for the wicked. Shipperd may be relaxed about the whole nine yards, but he will not stop until Victoria has the silverware.