Michael Clarke’s back issues forced him to put the more delicate art behind him. Andrew Symonds faded into obscurity after the Sydney Test. Stuart MacGill followed his lack of conventionalism by retiring mid-series in 2008. Brad Hogg played three Tests, averaging over 60 with the ball, which led him to a semi-surprising retirement. Simon Katich reached the standard of flight-above-part-time before his falling out with Skipper Clarke.
Beau Casson received one Test before form and chest complications ended things early. Cameron White resolutely demanded that he was a batsman. Nathan Hauritz performed solidly, only to be condescended out of contention. Marcus North was underutilised, underappreciated, and eventually under-played. Bryce McGain entered lore for being incompetent, despite playing just one Test under the influence of a wrecked shoulder. Steven Smith failed as a bowler, so reinvented himself as the world’s number one batsman.
Xavier Doherty received a smattering of Tests, only for the selectors to conclude that a spinner needs to spin the ball. “I am gobsmacked, shocked, I honestly cannot believe it,” was one illustrious judge’s opinion of Michael Beer’s selection. Glenn Maxwell’s round-arm slings are very much earthed in limited overs cricket. Ashton Agar was rushed in, rushed out, and rushed back to the Futures Leagues. Even recently, Steven O’Keefe received one game on a nightmare tour, and hasn’t been sighted since.
This has been the life of the Test spinner in Australia following the Warne era, and before Nathan Lyon managed to settle into life as the Terra Australis tweaker.
Despite the misfortune of so many bowlers during an era when Australia bounced from spinner to spinner with the air of a young gazelle on a fresh morning, one name stands out from the ranks of the unlucky.
It’s hardly surprising, then, that Jason Krejza was disappointed to be dropped after just two Tests.
“Mhmm, yeah, absolutely I was.”
It’s refreshing, and perhaps surprising, to hear a cricketer speak as candidly as Krejza does. In an era of sportsmen employing PR spin on an industrial scale, it really is a polar opposite. But while open, Krejza isn’t bitter – there’s no shifting of blame, no angry diatribes.
His retirement from domestic cricket, aged just 31, could easily be recalled with reminiscences of wrongdoings he may or may not have faced. That’s not at all the case.
“Cricket’s not everything, I want to be able to run around with my kids as well. I’ve done my career, I’ve had a great time, I just don’t want to risk it again. That’s the reason why I’ve given it a miss, and probably an official, complete retirement this year.”
He ‘doesn’t want to risk it’, because of the plethora of injuries he’s faced. Normally fast bowlers face the wear and tear, not off-spinners with fairly docile actions.
“Through the career, I’ve always had a problem with my knees and my hips. I’ve had ten hip surgeries and ten knee surgeries, which have basically been dotted through my career, quite a few late. It was really frustrating when you’re bowling really, really well but your body’s just not letting you – whether it was my hip catching and not being able to rotate, or my knee giving way. It was very, very frustrating.
“You want to try and keep that to yourself as well, because selection comes into it if you start saying ‘my knee’s giving way’, or whatever. So you try and play with it, put loads of painkillers into yourself and anti-inflammatories, and hope that that takes the edge off and allows you to bowl 25 or 30 overs. It’s definitely injury that stopped me, I’m arthritic in my knees and my hips at – what am I – 32 years old.”
Injuries may have curtailed Krejza’s cricketing career in his early 30s, but that wasn’t his first experience of such problems. He originally became a spin bowler because of stress fractures in his back, putting fast bowling to one side.
“I got picked, when I was younger, I was about 12, 13, 14 years old, for junior New South Wales teams. I can’t remember exactly which year it was that I got started, but I got picked as a fast bowler. I bowled very quick when I was younger, and so I was bowling for the state in junior stuff, and then got a double stress fracture in my back when I was 13.
“And then I tried to come back the following year and do it again, and got the same thing again. So that’s when my fast bowling career stopped, and I just gave spin a go. And then it evolved from there, so I was a bit of a late starter with my bowling.”
The lead up to being a junior state-level fast bowler had been encouraged into him through schoolteachers. Aged eight or nine, teachers at primary school taught Krejza to have a love for the game – his parents were Eastern European immigrants, his father a former professional footballer in Czechoslovakia. Not the ideal preparation to become a Test-class spin bowler.
“Getting into the sport was basically just school friends and schoolteachers more than anything. I had really great teachers in year three and four. They were really, really good teachers and they taught really well, and they suggested really well, and they could see I was interested in cricket, and I was good at it in the Kanga stuff at school.”
It led to representation, eventually, for New South Wales Under-19s, Colts, and Institute of Sport. Then, in October 2004, he made his First Class debut for the Blues – making his debut in a tough slot for anyone, lest of all a debutant: second spinner at the Gabba. Batting at seven he made 11 and zero, and bowled one over (for 18). He ended up playing nine First Class matches that summer, picking up two 50s, and snared 12 wickets.
Given his bowling came when Matthew Nicholson, Nathan Bracken, Stuart Clark, Doug Bollinger and Stuart MacGill had been exhausted, it wasn’t surprising he received few overs throughout the summer.
He still showed moments of brilliance – against New Zealand, in a four-day tour game, he made 54 from number seven, and picked up Scott Styris and Jacob Oram (twice). New South Wales won by nine wickets.
Krejza felt comfortable with the step up.
“Yeah, I did. I really enjoyed it. I was very back-seat in that team, I didn’t bowl a hell of a lot. We had a really good bowling line-up, we had Stuart MacGill as our number one spinner. There was a lot of times when I didn’t bowl a lot, and if I did it was to come on just before tea or lunch. I knew my role was always to attack, that was always what I did.”
He might have felt comfortable with the ball, but facing it was another proposition entirely.
“When I was bowling I was okay, but when I went out to bat as a youngster, I was then just 18, that’s where you start almost feeling a little bit uncomfortable. On my debut I had Andrew Symonds in my ear, and Jimmy Maher, who were my heroes. So it was a strange experience to be out there and be sledged by them. But that’s cricket.”
Krejza spent his first few seasons with the New South Wales side, constantly playing second fiddle to Stuart MacGill – and, eventually, Nathan Hauritz and Beau Casson. Krejza didn’t go backwards, it was simply that the others moved forward – and that the Blues kept importing spinners from elsewhere.
Krejza, meanwhile, continued to quietly develop as a cricketer, playing his off-seasons in England, and the home seasons at whatever level he was exposed to. It was while playing in England, however, that fate threw him a fantastic opportunity – playing for Leicestershire against the 2005 Australian touring side.
Claude Henderson, the South African left-arm tweaker, missed the game – so Krejza got the surprise call-up.
“Yeah, it came out of nowhere actually. I was over in Scotland, I was pro-ing over there, and what happened was one of the county spinners got injured, and then I just got a call out of nowhere from the coach saying, ‘did you want to come and play a game for Leicester against the Australian cricket team?’
“So, obviously, I said yes and that was a huge moment in my life. I’d played a couple of State games etc., and then I was in the eyes of Ricky Ponting, and all the big guys in Australian cricket, Langer, Hayden, Andrew Symonds, all those sort of guys saw me bowl for probably the first time.
“I ended up bowling about 30 overs, bowled okay, so that was something that could have been a career-changing sort of game for me. I don’t know whether it was or not, but I know that I definitely got in the eyes of people then, and all of those guys hadn’t seen me bowl before.
“So that was an experience, I always wanted to go back and play more county cricket, but the more years got on the harder they made it for Australians to get over there and play cricket. Which was really disappointing for me, and I could have done something about it because I’ve now got a Polish passport from my mum, and I could’ve done that years ago. But it was quite a difficult process for my mum, to get certain documents from Poland and originals and so on.
“Yeah, so that was my experience of county cricket – one game!”
As discussed, Krejza ended up becoming probably fourth choice when it came to New South Welsh spinners. It was what led to his decision to leave behind his home state and head south – to Tasmania. This was a two-fold decision; it afforded him the chance to become a state’s frontline spinner, but deserted the spin-friendly SCG in favour of Bellerive Oval.
Moving state is a huge decision – especially moving between such contrasting environments as Sydney and Hobart. So despite his lack of opportunities at home, moving to the Tigers was still a hard decision to make.
“Yeah it was, it was frustrating because I wasn’t playing horribly, but because the wicket was still turning then at the SCG, they signed Beau Casson and Nathan Hauritz, and by all reports promised them games. I love Beau but he wasn’t bowling very, very well then and they just kept playing him, so it made it quite apparent that there was some kind of deal made.
“It was going to be very hard for me to get back in and play First Class cricket, so the decision was made for me to look for a different state where I’d get an opportunity. There were a couple of options, but Tasmania, they probably pushed the hardest. Tim Coyle was coach then, and he really, really wanted me to come over and saw potential I guess, and we went from there.
“It was the best move of my life, cricket career wise. I probably could’ve done the same things if I went somewhere else, Bellerive wasn’t very conducive to spin, and if I went to Adelaide or something, I probably would’ve got a lot more overs, and then continued to develop my attacking style of spin bowling there.
“Bellerive was more a complete negative role that you played, so I sort of wish I could’ve kept that attacking style with a captain and a ground, I guess, that would have enabled that. But, you know, if I hadn’t gone down there, I don’t think I would’ve had the opportunity here. I probably would’ve fizzled out as a cricketer, just because there wasn’t very many options for me, being – as you said – third string spinner without MacGilla there, so I would’ve been fourth. So it was a good move in the end.”
But he hadn’t been in Tasmania long when he hit his first controversy. The big one was to come later, just as he was starting his first international tour, but being caught drink driving – and having your licence suspended – isn’t a good look for anyone, least of all a professional sportsman.
At the risk of descending into the tackiest of cliché, however, it offered a wake-up call to Krejza, and snapped him into focussing on his cricket.
“Yeah, 100%. You don’t know how much you love something, and how important it is to you, until you almost lose it.”
For a young sportsman, still really trying to make his way in the game, having just moved away from home, it wasn’t an easy situation to be in. Krejza doesn’t look for excuses in discussing the incident, and pauses over his words. Which isn’t all that surprising, given the influence that event had in shaping the following few months and years of his career.
“For me, at that time, it was difficult. Because I’d just moved away from home, there were quite a lot of things going on in my life, that drink driving thing basically just made me completely focus on my cricket, which was a blessing in disguise. It wasn’t a huge one, didn’t cause a crash or anything like that, but just that small wake-up call, knowing how much in the public eye I was, and what my actual status in society was.
“Because, I was almost expecting nothing to happen of it, but it ended up being plastered all over the news, and made me realise that I was in a position to be a role model. And that made me really knuckle down and focus on my cricket. From that point onwards, I think there were a lot of things that changed.
“They [Tasmania] put me on a drinking ban for the whole season, which took away the social aspect that I really enjoyed, and it made me really focus on my cricket. So, as I said, a blessing in disguise.”
That incident certainly shocked him, if not into action, certainly into the path and groove that got him to the top. His selection for the 2008 tour of India came (originally) alongside Bryce McGain, and then alongside Cameron White following the former’s withdrawal.
“It was quite an eventful year, it was a whirlwind couple of years for me really. To go from not having a spot in the New South Wales side, to only a few years later being called up into the Test squad, it was a pretty amazing feat. There were definitely bits of luck, people getting injured; with the  World Cup, Xavier Doherty got injured so I got the opportunity in front of him, and a similar thing with the Test stuff.
“So it was basically just trying to take every opportunity that I had. I thought myself that I was confident in my own game, I was bowling okay at that stage. And I’m sort of glad I didn’t play the first Test, because I don’t think I would’ve been completely ready – I don’t think my preparation was good enough, not that I wasn’t good enough, but I wasn’t happy with my preparation. I like to bowl quite a lot, I ended up bowling so many balls on that tour that I was so ready by that last Test to do what I wanted to do.
“Which is basically spin the ball as hard as I can, and without the preparation doing that is very, very risky, because if you’re someone that tries to spin the ball very, very hard every ball inconsistency is at its highest.”
Before he could get to the final Test, or even the first Test, Krejza had some battles to fight first. The major tour game saw Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli hit Krejza with a “calculated mauling”, Daniel Brettig wrote in Whitewash to Whitewash.
It was such a one-sided affair that Andrew Hilditch, according to Brettig in that same book, reported to his selection panel that “We can’t pick him: they have absolutely slaughtered him in the tour game.”
The question I posed to Krejza was this: ‘Did you realise that that was the view of the selectors and, if so, did you find that a real blow to your confidence?’
His response is to laugh.
“Ah, no. I didn’t even know that until right now!”
Over the next three Tests, it became increasingly apparent that Cameron White wasn’t a bowler – and that he didn’t consider himself so either. It culminated in a specialist spin session with Bishan Bedi, where, Brettig again tells us, “White gave Bedi a curt reply when asked about his progress: ‘I’m a batsman.’”
Meanwhile, Krejza lapped up all he could. So was it that difference in mentality that led to him getting his chance in the fourth Test? Krejza pauses, for several seconds.
“Um… No, I don’t think so. I think, ah, some people relate well to people. I relate well to just about anyone in the world. Some people don’t relate, and don’t really feel that vibe with someone. I didn’t even know…you’ve done your research pretty well, because I don’t even know half the stuff you’re talking about.
“A lot of people have different personalities. Some people don’t like the coaching from certain people. Because he [Bedi] was a finger spinner, he [White] probably would’ve thought there was nothing for him, coming from Bishan Bedi.
“I just lapped it up, I knew about him, I sort of remembered stuff from when I was little, he was known as a master of flight. So he was someone that I definitely wanted to speak to. Whenever you’re over in India, you’re trying to get any sort of information from the spinners or cricketers over there about spin. Especially finger spin, for me. To try and figure out how they do it, how they do it so well. More of what happens in their brain during bowling, how do they think about their cricket. So that was an opportunity for me, you can’t pass it up.”
It was a hell of a tour Krejza picked for his first one – India’s not easy at the best of times, but given the long shadow of the Sydney Test earlier that year still being cast on the series, the terrorist attacks on Delhi in September, and then Krejza’s personal difficulties with the tour game, it was becoming a harrowing experience for a debutant.
And then, it got worse.
“I wish that it hadn’t come out then, it was disappointing that it had come out, that story, because it was something that had happened five years prior. And I took the necessary and the correct method of trying to figure out what had happened that night, by going through the correct system – which is supposed to be completely confidential.
“Because it wasn’t being busted for drugs, it was me trying to figure out what had happened – so it was supposed to be confidential, completely between myself, the doctor, and one other member of New South Wales Cricket.
“And for it to get out, I could’ve sued for a hell of a lot of money I think. Because it was a confidentiality agreement. So that was really disappointing, how it got out, who had said it. They’d obviously done it to try and hurt me, because if they knew about it, the story could have come out earlier. But to do it just before the first Test of a Test series had to be someone who was jealous, or just wanted to see me fail.
“So I’m glad I was bigger than that person, and put it behind myself. I definitely didn’t want to fail, I wanted to prove everybody wrong and prove myself right.”
That situation was a Sydney Morning Herald journalist contacting Krejza with information. Information regarding a positive test for cocaine Krejza had several years earlier. It was because Krejza’s drink was spiked, and through no fault of his own – but it didn’t help a cricketer on his first international tour.
Was it hard, on his first national tour, to be dealing with stuff like that, rather than being able to focus solely on his cricket?
“Yeah, absolutely. Some people say that that affected how I bowled in that warm-up game, but no, that had nothing to do with it. I just got smacked. A lot of people during trial games, or warm-up games, they play a hell of a lot differently to how they do in games – you’ve seen, even Nathan Lyon, they don’t the sort of results that they do in Test cricket.
“Even grade cricket, there were a couple of times when Nathan Lyon bowled in grade cricket and got spanked. It’s just that there’s less fear, and not as much price put on the batsman’s wicket. They just go as hard as they can and they get away with it sometimes.
“So I don’t think anything to do with that story had anything to do with my performance. It was just that, I bowled okay, I didn’t bowl that badly, but they just took the piss out of me, completely.”
As Krejza said, he decided to be the “bigger” person, and fought through all the odds against him on that tour. Soon enough he was named in the XI, for the fourth, final and deciding Test of the series. One-nil down, the Australians needed to win the game to draw the series and retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Although the Australians went down in the Test – according to some commenters and commentators, thanks to Ricky Ponting’s often conservative captaincy – Krejza took the spoils, and man of the match honours.
He took 8/215 in the first innings, and 4/143 in the second. Expensive, yes – he went at 4.90 an over in the first innings, and 4.61 in the second. But they still remain remarkable figures; he was just the seventh cricketer to take eight wickets in an innings on debut, and the fourth to take 12 or more wickets in their debut match.
Moreover, he remains the only person to take a ten-for on Test debut since the turn of the 21st century.
Even more than that, irrespective of his cost for the wickets (29.83 apiece), he was the only Australian capable of taking batsmen out during the match.
That Indians can dance around a wicket and take spinners to the cleaners is something even Warne found out, so Krejza’s debut performance has to be seen through such a light.
“I always meant to be an attacking bowler, and I was never put on as a bowler through my career to hold up an end. I don’t think I’ve ever done it before. As I said, when I first started my cricket it was with Stuart MacGill, so I’d just come on just to take wickets before breaks basically. If you bowl a good enough ball, you can either get a wicket or a dot ball.
“I was going at four an over, which is not huge – because I bowled a lot of overs it was expensive, but it’s not like I was going at seven an over. They’re genius at playing spin, the hardest thing for me was not the boundaries but more the singles.
“I don’t mind getting hit for boundaries, because you get to bowl to the same bloke again. But when you’re not bowling a great ball and they can get off and rotate the strike easily, it’s probably what annoys me the most.
“So for me it wasn’t that obvious, when I was out there, after the game or on the scoreboard it looks different, but when you’re out there – I think I bowled 43 overs or something [43.5 overs in the first, 31 in the second] – it was just about ‘where do I get my wickets?’
“That was the attitude of Ricky Ponting as well, so he didn’t mind.”
One ball, in the third innings of the game, will trump all others. At a crucial junction, with a typically graceful-looking VVS Laxman on strike, Krejza took his few brisk steps, placed the ball on a good length about six (or more) stumps outside off…
…and brought it back. To hit leg stump.
“That was a beauty, that was a beauty. That’s all.”
But Krejza got virtually no further Test chances. One more Test berth saw him flunk (as virtually all the Australian bowlers did). It was a match destined to be anti-bowler.
And it led to his sacking.
Was Krejza disappointed to be dropped?
“Mhmm, yeah, absolutely I was.
“That was one of the hardest conditions I’ve ever bowled in, in my life. If you’ve ever played in Perth, or been to Perth, the wind – the Freemantle Doctor – that comes in can be very, very strong. And sometimes it’s gusty, which is what it was basically for every day that I bowled. It would stop, it would start, and it was very, very, very strong.
“So you’d bowl one ball, and the wind would take it. And the next ball you’d try and allow for that, and half way down the wicket the wind would just stop so it would end up going down the leg-side. It was the most challenging conditions I’ve ever bowled it.
“I didn’t get the fields I wanted there, which was really frustrating, and that sort of made my non-success there a bit more frustrating. Because it probably could have been minimised slightly.
“But that was an amazing game, for them being able to chase that record score there. Kallis and de Villiers – what do you do against those blokes when they’re going on a wicket like that?
“It’s the flattest thing I’ve ever faced – I was facing Dale Steyn and Morkel, and they seemed like they were bowling medium pace.”
After one man of the match, and one Test where conditions were a long way from easy, Krejza got dropped. Moreover, it was an abrupt sacking with, well, sub-par communication from the selectors.
“It was hard work, and it was really hard to get dropped. We finished the game, went straight to the airport, and I got dropped at the airport.
“There wasn’t really much time. I was literally about to get on the airplane to go home, and I got a call from Hilditch to say I was dropped. And I was already getting excited about the Boxing Day Test, hoping that there might be a bit of turn there, and I might be able to play a better role than I had in Perth.
“And I got dropped as I got to the airport, I got the phone call. A few of the guys I was hanging out with; Brett Lee, he completely thought I was joking and didn’t believe me until he got off the plane and saw it in the media.
“So it was disappointing, but shit happens. I got to play for Australia, I got to play for Australia after that as well with the World Cup which was great. But I would’ve loved to have played more Test cricket, that is the biggest test, and it’s a great tactical game, and something I really wanted to be involved with.
“But, unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.”
As Krejza said, he was selected a few years later for the 2011 World Cup. He seemingly hadn’t been close to Australian selection prior to that, so it came as a surprise for all concerned. While he’d been involved with Australia A, there’d been no real hint that an international berth was coming his way.
He played one ODI before the World Cup, a match against England at the WACA – his tidy 2/53 helped Australia to a big win, and his wickets were the key ones of Matt Prior and Luke Wright.
“That was, once again, an opportunity that I got that came out of nowhere. Once again, Hauritz I think it was was injured and Dohey injured himself. It was actually the morning after the Allan Border Medal night, so I was a bit hung over and getting ready to get on a flight back to Hobart.
“Someone told me the night before there was a whisper that it might be coming, and I just thought that was complete bollocks. Because I hadn’t…I just never thought that that would happen, but I got the call that I was to play against England in Perth, and then I was going to the World Cup.
“As you said, to play that game against India, with the Indian crowd just absolutely roaring, it was spine-tingling. The noise that comes out is just pretty incredible. I just wish the result was a little bit better.
“That was a disappointing tour for me as well, because I wasn’t allowed to bowl the way I wanted to bowl. Which is very frustrating, but once again I got the opportunity, I was part of the whole World Cup – it’s a big long tour, and I was part of the whole thing, it’s very draining.
“I got to have my wife come out and enjoy a week of the festivities of the World Cup. And made some really, really good friends there. So it was an opportunity that I took, and I got the opportunity to play in a World Cup!”
It was only a few years later that Krejza decided to give the game away. His last First Class game came in the summer of 2012/13, he lost his Tasmania contract after that season, and a few months after that announced his retirement.
It was a sad way for Krejza to go out, but it afforded him his chance to move into coaching – and now gives him a more objective view to look back on past events. On the latter count, this allows him to look at what makes spinners successful – or not – on the Australian circuit.
“The wickets definitely aren’t conducive. There was a period there were there was a lot of ball dominating the bat, which took spinners out of the game. And then they decided to make them really flat, because they wanted batsmen to score big runs because our batsmen were struggling in the Australian team. So Cricket Australia directed groundsmen to produce more batting-friendly wickets, which again takes the spinners out.
“I think specialist spin coaching needs to be implemented if they know it’s quite a big issue. When I was in the Test series – and the World Cup – I asked whether I could get some spin coach come fly over, because my spin coach was Steve Rixon who was a wicket-keeper, and before that Troy Cooley who was a fast-bowling coach. It was just an after-thought, we were made to do it ourselves.
“I think there needs to be more education there, I think there needs to be more education in the junior stuff. Which is basically why I started coaching, I want to get that information to the young kids. And the parents who are volunteers, giving them a little bit of information: ‘this is the basics of spin’.”
Added to that, there’s the issue of the changing and adapting game.
“The wickets aren’t good enough, the wickets are difficult to bowl spin on. And the bats are getting a lot bigger and a lot better – mishits go for four and six. So it makes it very difficult to keep the spinner on. And then spinners are changing as well – and if you don’t keep up, you’re gonna get hit.
“Spinners do have to bowl quicker than they used to, for sure. A lot of the old coaches still say, you know, you’ve got to get it up and down and flight it. But if you look at Nathan Lyon’s speeds, he’s close to 90 kilometres an hour, whereas I’m sure that he’d want to be around 82 and getting it to flight and drop.
“But that’s not going to be the case, because people come down the track, they practise slog sweeping and sweeping and reverse sweeping so much, that you’ve got to give them less time. You still need that over-spin and side-spin, but you need to bowl slightly quicker, you’ve got to move with the times I think.”
And ‘moving with the times’ is a particularly prevalent argument in Australia. Jason Krejza is possibly the only Australian spinner who had a ‘doosra’ – although he doesn’t consider it to be that – and it resulted in a flurry of indignation from Cricket Australia.
Aside from anyone else – the likes of Terry Jenner and Ashley Mallett were resolute that the doosra was not to be coached – Australia’s former convenor of selectors, Andrew Hilditch, said in 2012 that CA’s “integrity” was at stake over the doosra situation.
What was certain throughout Krejza’s career was there was a sense of distrust from the more conservative corners of the Australian board. But Krejza didn’t particularly sense that.
“You’re good at research, I don’t even know what you’re talking about. With Cricket Australia, I think there was one comment from someone that you can’t bowl a doosra without chucking. I can’t remember who it was, Greg Chappell or someone.
“Mine wasn’t a doosra, it wasn’t what they call the doosra. It’s basically what Ashwin bowls. You can’t chuck it, because for me it’s almost like I bowl a leg-spinning back spinner. So you’re trying to get the seam in the same position but just spinning backwards, and you can’t chuck it – you can’t chuck a leggy. So I bowled that for two or three years in the making, trying to get it right.
“I think the lack of imagination from captains as well, is something that lacks. As an example, this was just a pre-season game up in Queensland where we went up and played a couple of games against other states, and I was bowling really, really, really tight and bowling fantastic.
“And I said to Painey, Tim Paine who was the captain, I said I’m going to bowl the one that goes the other way this ball. And he said ‘no, no, no, keep bowling what you’re doing’.
“I ended up bowling it, it wasn’t a great ball, and he got angry and said ‘don’t bowl it’. But it’s something that, you need that, and if you can do it you might as well practise it and try and use it in a game. But I never got the confidence to do it, because every time I attempted it at training or something, I got told to go back and spin it out of the footmarks and all of that sort of stuff.
“It was that lack of support and no imagination, whereas I think there’s that imagination in the subcontinent, that’s why they all throw it. They’re just trying out things, a lot of our spinners should do the same thing. Sure you need to have a good stock ball and practise that a lot, but something different is something different, and the batsmen need to learn how to play that as well.”
Of course, there was one occasion when Krejza got his ‘other one’ to work – perfectly.
“Yep. Yeah, that was a cracker.
“It was a shocking wicket, they had massive footmarks – everything else was quite docile in the middle of the wicket. So bowling against left-handers was really frustrating because it wasn’t turning and Uzzie was looking like he was doing it really easy.
“So I decided to try and get it out there and see how far it would turn – the footmarks were about an inch deep, so. It landed right in the middle of it, and turned quite a long way. It was great seeing the reaction from the other end, and Uzzie’s reaction, but that is definitely the best one that I ever bowled.
“So there’s two there for you – the Laxman ball and the Usman Khawaja ball are two of my favourites of all time.”
From my perspective, one of the issues I’ve seen in Australia is a reliance on spinners being able to hold their own with the bat. This has been a trend with bowlers anyway – tail-enders can’t be Chris Martins or Alan Mulallys any longer.
But for an Aussie spinner, being a solid number ten doesn’t seem to cut the mustard. We’ve seen Brad Hogg, who could pass at times for a genuine all-rounder. Beau Casson was much the same, as was Nathan Hauritz.
Krejza himself was capable of batting at seven, and certainly comfortable at eight.
Even now, Ashton Turner and Ashton Agar are batsmen first, bowlers second. Nathan Lyon remains a specialist, but is probably the best number 11 Test cricket has seen.
But Krejza sees this simply as an advantage those spinners have found for themselves, rather than a default requirement.
“It’s an advantage for spinners that if you are bowling shit, you can get runs and it could save your bacon. The only pressure is what you put on yourself really, that’s the only pressure I had with the bat. Before I got dropped when I was younger, if it came down to maybe if I got runs in one of my last innings I could’ve got another game.
“But you’re picked on your spin bowling, I think it’s just a coincidence that all these really good spinners are decent batters. Which is great, definitely extends the batting order, and that’s the way cricket’s got to go. You need a lot of runs, so you need a lot of batsmen – or a lot of all-rounders.”
Krejza’s new life, as the coach and owner of Elite Cricket, a Sydney-based cricket coaching business. It was originally founded by former Tasmanian wicket-keeper Mark Atkinson, with Krejza working as head coach, but Krejza has recently taken it over.
“I’ve bought that off him, so that’s mine now, which is really, really exciting. I’ll tell you why I got into coaching – I did a level two coaching course up in Launceston, and the calibre of coaches who were there was horrendous.
“And those guys who were there could’ve coached elite, representative sort of levels in the juniors, which I found really scary. Say you’ve got another Ricky Ponting coming through, and those guys who had passed and had the same ticket as I did – and Ben Hilfenhaus and Beau, we all did it – it was scary to think they could’ve been teaching another Ricky Ponting.
“And probably doing it completely wrong.
“So that’s where my passion came for coaching. My philosophy, basically, is trying to keep everything as simple as possible. I like to have simple cricket; a lot of coaches can be really quite technical. Yes, technique comes into it, but sometimes kids just work out things by themselves, so you just have to be a guide there, and guide them to the destination that they want to get to.
“Some might take longer than the others, but they will get there. Out of necessity they’ve got to change or do something differently to make themselves successful. So my philosophy is being quite simple, having a lot of fun, making sure you’re engaging the kids, and keeping them in the game.
“I see a lot of kids get quite down on themselves, which I try and change. Yes, be down on yourself and be upset with what you’ve got, but their confidence goes quite a lot. Sometimes the parents don’t help that – they can be quite pushy, or the mums can baby them quite a lot. But they’ve got to learn to do it for themselves, and I like to see a really good, holistic approach to coaching kids as well.”
There’s one main lesson he wants to impart on the young spinners he works with – and it’s something that comes from his own career.
“I think they’ve got to be spinning the ball, which is something that I look for. Even up in Brisbane where the academy is, there’s a big focus on the revs.
“Because of the wickets that we get, it doesn’t matter how many revs you put on it – sometimes it doesn’t turn. So the younger kids start relying on flight and drift, but I don’t think they understand what flight and drift is. You’ve still got to bowl it quite hard and try and get revs on the ball to get it to drift, not just going with the wind but making it happen in the air without any wind.
“A lot of the kids think spin bowling is slow, but I try to show them how much actual effort there is. We did a great one – I ran a spin academy with Stuart MacGill last year, the kids were amazed how hard he ran in and at what pace he bowled.
“I think as spinners you’ve got to be able to spin the ball, and if you can’t spin the ball maybe go to pace. Because you’ve got to be able to beat the bat, and beat the batsman in the air before it bounces and then after it bounces. You’ve got to have good revs on the ball. So I encourage all bowlers to do it as simply as possible.
“If they’re leggies they can underarm balls and try and spin it back to themselves, however they need to do it. But as long as they’re getting really, really good and high revs on it, then we can work on which way it’s pointing.
“But you’ve got to have revs on the ball.”
And on that last count, I’m sure VVS Laxman couldn’t agree more.