After a lull, Josh Philippe is eager to break into a new life

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22 Aug 2022 | 05:18 AM
authorAakash Sivasubramaniam
Anirudh Suresh

After a lull, Josh Philippe is eager to break into a new life

In an exclusive with Cricket.com, Philippe talks about cricket, challenging tours, life at RCB and learning closely from the likes of Kohli and ABD

Amidst the bustling wind and soaring 36 degree heat, there is a cracking sound. All eyes turn towards the centre wicket, there is the 25-year-old Josh Philippe nailing a perfect sweep against the spinner from the Select MRF XI here at the Pachaiyappa's College ground in Chennai. He wipes down the sweat and trotts back, the job is only half-finished for him. 

A few deliveries later, he attempts yet another sweep, only to be disgruntled at the end this time. His stumps have been rearranged and Philippe, after a cameo of 36, walks back in disgust. Generally one of the calmest cricketers in Australia, the Western Australian batter shows a rather different emotion here on Thursday (August 11). 

Philippe is only 25 but the weight on his shoulders is already massive, having been in the same dressing room as the likes of Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and AB de Villiers, not to forget the tag of being hailed as the next Smith. It is a shoulder that is currently stooping down on the weight of expectations.

The last 12 months did not go as the Western Australian would have anticipated but springing back from the disappointment with a smile is how he goes about his business. Over the last year, he has endured a rough time at the crease, with his failure in the series against Bangladesh changing his outlook of the game. You could see that in his eyes while he talked ever-so-patiently with Cricket.com. 

“Playing in Bangladesh was a big challenge. Since that series, I am a much better cricketer than when I played there. I don’t think I was very clear in those conditions,” Philippe tells Cricket.com in an exclusive conversation.

“It was a tough series but I came out learning a lot about my game, I wanted to get better as a cricketer. I changed a few things technically and came out with a mindset of doing well for Western Australia and the Sydney Sixers. As I said, it was all about the experience of playing in foreign conditions. Continually getting these opportunities is helping me evolve my game,” he adds.

A renowned clarity of thought

While technical evolution was part of the process, the larger part of his recent success is the clarity of thought, something that the 25-year-old himself agrees has changed his game. But a major part of what brought fame to him – the aggression – still sticks on.

“Definitely, I have had a lot more experience (sub-continental) behind me now. I just came off the Sri Lankan series, with different conditions as well. For me, it is about trying to try and work out the best batting plan that would work for me. Alongside that, I’m working on being more adaptable to the conditions. I have changed a lot of things from the last time and will continue to work on the plans,” he reflects.

One integral aspect that helped the Western Australian during the recent tour to Sri Lanka was his ability to take the scoreboard out of the equation. At 49/4, with Australia A stuttering, Philippe could have taken the safe and defensive route. 

But his game plan was perhaps the biggest differentiator, his attacking prowess was what separated the visitors from the hosts. It was the knock of 94 — that saw seven boundaries and three sixes — that put Sri Lanka 'A' on the backfoot. While it might seem complicated for the others, it was how he learnt to play the game.

“Was looking to take the scoreboard out of the game, we got a lot of information from the guys batting before me. Whether it was 40/4 or 200/4, I wanted to come in knowing how the conditions were like. I still want to be attacking, playing with a game-plan that I felt was going to work. For me personally, that is how I play my game, I want to be aggressive and attacking.”

This visit to the MRF Pace Academy isn’t the first trip here down southern India for Philippe. In fact, he knows Chennai more than anyone else on that plane from Australia, having already been here twice. His advice for the others is rather simple: stick to your own decisions. 

“I would say, commit to their decision-making. It (MRF Pace Academy) is a great place to learn, the facilities are awesome, it is a really good time for them (the group) to learn how to play spin. These conditions are foreign to us; For me, it is really about sticking to the decision, forming plans and going about achieving those plans.”

Rubbing shoulders with cricketing greats

Philippe’s rise to fame came with the white-ball, after impressing the various scouting talents with his consistent display for Western Australia and the Sixers in the Big Bash League. Over the last three years, the wicketkeeper-batter has scored over 1600 runs, striking at 143.1 Down Under. 

So, he wasn’t totally alien when Royal Challengers Bangalore picked him up at the 2020 IPL Auction for INR 20 lakhs. The jump to RCB’s playing XI was no mean feat, he was constantly rubbing shoulders with some of the greatest cricketers that the game has witnessed – Kohli, de Villiers and Dale Steyn among others.

“I loved every minute of my time in the Indian Premier League (IPL). I was very lucky to be at Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) with guys like Virat (Kohli), AB (de Villiers), (Dale) Steyn and (Aaron) Finch. I was watching AB bat the whole time, it was so clear the way he wanted to play. That is what I have learnt from my experience.”

Whilst he only got a handful of opportunities, Philippe gained something invaluable: clarity of thought, which came through watching de Villiers closely at the nets.

“I was very lucky, I spent a lot of time with AB, that was great, they are all great people. I spent a lot of time, Virat too was really good. I was pretty lucky; my IPL experience with RCB was amazing.”

However, the currency to get into Australian cricket has been simple since immemorial: runs. Philippe wants to make the most of the upcoming domestic season with Western Australia, not just piling the runs but also defending the title that they fought to win very hard last year.

“Not a whole lot of clarity from the selectors (on his role) but I do know that the currency to get into the Australian side is runs. My focus is on the 50-over format back in Australia and the Shield season. Looking forward to the challenge of defending the title,” he utters with a smile on his face as he walks back to the shade of the temporarily constructed dressing room, in a bid to beat the Chennai heat.

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Bangladesh vs AustraliaAustralia tour of Bangladesh, 2021AustraliaWestern AustraliaSydney SixersRoyal Challengers BangaloreJosh PhilippeVirat KohliAB de VilliersSteven SmithDale SteynAaron Finch

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