Josh Hazlewood said he is aiming to play ‘three or four Tests’ in the Ashes.
Josh Hazlewood said he is aiming to play ‘three or four Tests’ in the Ashes.

Workload worries as Aussies try to ease strain

JOSH Hazlewood does not expect to play every Test of the Ashes series and doesn't expect the other fast bowlers to do the same.

Fatigue is an enormous concern ahead of the Ashes series. A number of the players are coming off the World Cup and even the coaches are looking worn down.

Justin Langer fell ill on the day of the team announcement and has been reminded to pace himself. He spent the day in his room.

The four months in England for two of the biggest series in cricket takes its toll.

The process of picking the squad was emotionally draining for someone like Langer who agonises over such decisions.

Sending eight players home was not something he enjoyed doing. Some were extremely unlucky and the red pen must have hovered over their name a long time before the deed was done.

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The coach revealed this week that the strain took its toll in the summer, telling Cricinfo that his wife cried one morning after breakfast because she saw the effect it was having on him.

Justin Langer had been doing it tough. Picture: PA
Justin Langer had been doing it tough. Picture: PA

He admits he wasn't enjoying the job.

The mental and physical demands of cricket are often underestimated. For some it was no coincidence the South Africa series was such a rolling maul of incidents, coming as it did hard on the back of an Ashes summer.

David Warner was involved in a lot of the controversies and was the only player to be involved in the Tests, ODIs and subsequent T20 series - which he captained in Steve Smith's absence - that summer.

Warner was late to South Africa for the Tests because of his duties in the T20s and had already shown signs of strain in the months before. He had become forgetful and disorganised at the back end of the home series.

Warner, Smith, Nathan Lyon, Pat Cummins, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Starc all played in the World Cup. Leading into the Ashes.

Those players squeezed in a few days off before joining the squad in Southampton where they played a three-day game at full intensity.

Steve Smith has spent a lot of time in the nets in the lead-up to The Ashes.
Steve Smith has spent a lot of time in the nets in the lead-up to The Ashes.

Smith is relentless. It is hard to imagine anyone in the history of the game has spent more time in the nets. He wears out the coaches with his demands for throw downs but even that is not enough. In Southampton, during the practice match, he and Nathan Lyon disappeared before breakfast for a net session before anyone else arrived.

The moment the game finished he put on his pads and headed back out to the nursery ground for another net session.

It borders on obsessive when he can't find his rhythm and despite a trio of half centuries in the World Cup it appears he may not be feeling right at the crease. The only way he knows how to change that is to keep practising.

He was at the optional net session last weekend which was designed primarily for the bowlers to have a hit. He batted the longest and was last to leave.

The physical demands are the greatest for the bowlers and that is why there are six in the squad. Starc and Cummins played every game of the World Cup.

James Pattinson’s workload will have to be carefully managed.
James Pattinson’s workload will have to be carefully managed.

It was apparent that James Pattinson was going to be used sparingly through the series, the team aware that he is prone to breakdown and keen to preserve him for impact on the right pitches and in the right moments.

Hazlewood, however, says that the Victorian is not the only one.

"We haven't talked about it much yet, to be honest," he said in Birmingham where the team has begun preparation for the first Test on Thursday.

"I think it would be a very good effort to play all five, especially with my last two years, I've missed a few Tests with injury. I'd be really happy with four, three or four even. It's such a tight schedule.

"Five would be great if we got away with a couple of cheap innings, bowling 30 for the Test or something like that, it'd be great. We'll play it by ear and see how we go."

Australia had its first team meetings last weekend after Hazlewood spoke. The bowlers in one group, the batters in another and then all 17 together. The first two meetings focused on the specific skill sets, the last reinforced the bigger picture.