Thursday, June 18, 2020

Tete-a-tete with Ryan Campbell, Former Australian & Hong Kong Player, Present Netherlands' Head Coach

DHCF:  Late 90s and 2000s was a time when people said that if Australia fielded 2 teams, they would be No. 1 & 2 in the world. The Australian XI was so hard to get into, that it deprived the World Cricket of some serious talent. How frustrating was it to keep performing in Domestic cricket and not making it to the national team?

Ryan: Of course it was frustrating but it was also the greatest time to play cricket in Australia due to the amazing competition that was going on. Our Test players (Gilchrist, Martyn, Langer, Katich etc) always said that coming back and playing Sheffield Shield was harder than playing Test cricket. It was an amazing period for Australian cricket and I feel very privileged to have been a part of it.

DHCF: You were known for your high octane game. Do you wish T20 cricket was invented a decade earlier? Atleast the world would have had a chance to watch you play in the leagues like BBL and IPL, a glimpse of which was seen in ICL.

Ryan: Yeah of course, I was lucky enough to play in the first ever T20 match in Australia, it was against Victoria and they had to close the gates at the WACA. We knew we were onto something then. I loved T20 but when I decided to retire I had made peace with my decision.

DHCF: How did the move to Hong Kong come about? How was your experience with Hong Kong cricket, having played multiple roles of advisor, batting coach and a player?

Ryan: When I retired from cricket it was due to my heavy workload outside of cricket. I was heavily involved in the media, hosted my own Travel show (Postcards WA) as well as being on morning radio, I actually said no to putting my name into the first IPL auction as I was hosting the coverage for Channel 10. But in the end, I missed the game and my good friend Charlie Burke (HK National Coach) had asked me to come up and work with the squad for a week. He knew I had my Level 3 Coaching certificate. An opportunity then came up at the Kowloon Cricket Club as Director of Cricket/Head Coach. I had just turned 40 and was single, I felt it was a chance for a great adventure and thought an year would be awesome. Little did I know that I would stay for 5 years, get married, have a son and play for the National team!! I love everything about Hong Kong and still miss it daily.

DHCF: How did it feel to make a comeback to International Cricket that too in a World Cup? Was quite remarkable to make T20I debut at an age of 44.

Ryan: To be honest, I didn’t want to play. I felt I was way too old and didn’t want to embarrass myself on the world stage or draw bad publicity to Hong Kong cricket. But Charlie felt we were in desperate need of some experience and that he said I was still clearly the best player in Hong Kong. So eventually I said yes, I would have loved to have been 10 years younger but I look at it now and say that one day I can at least tell my kids that I opened the batting & bowling at a World Cup.

DHCF: With Afghanistan and Ireland bagging the test status last year, do you see the Dutch national team to also play Test Cricket anytime soon?

Ryan: Quite simply no. The Dutch will never play Test cricket and we don’t want to. Our game here is based around the white ball formats, we are extremely good at it and every junior in the country only plays white ball. Yes, as an Aussie, I would like some multi day cricket (ICUP was great) as it is a great way to teach youngsters the game. I think also that Afghanistan and Ireland are finding out that Test cricket is extremely expensive to put on.

DHCF: Do you feel if the Associate nations will be given the test status, will it reduce the standard of competition and thus interest of viewers, as claimed by those opposing giving them test status?

Ryan: I think the whole “Test Status” has gone out the door, “Full Member” status is what we and others are aiming for and this can now be achieved without having to commit to Test Cricket. The standard of Associate Cricket has gone through the roof  and teams like Scotland, us, Oman, USA, Namibia & Nepal etc are all extremely competitive. Unfortunately, not many see this as the reduction of teams at World Cups has been extremely disappointing. All full members have a duty to grow the game, not just line their own pockets.

DHCF: You have donned so many roles in the world of cricket, player, advisor, sport reporter, commentator, advisor, coach... Which one have you enjoyed the most?

Ryan: It’s a tough question, I’ve enjoyed all parts of the game and the one thing I’m 100% sure about is that I love this game, I love everything about it. The lessons it teaches you, the competition it brings between opposition & your own players, the simple joy it brings to the faces of fans…..but if I really had to choose, I would say Coaching is my number 1 only because it gives you the opportunity to help mould and guide a young player so that he can be good/great at an extremely high level.

DHCF: With so much time away from family and pressure to perform every match, a lot of players suffer from anxiety and depression. Few players have recently come out and talked about it and taken a break from the game. You were reported to have gone through it as well. As a coach, what do you tell young players to tackle this and keep them mentally healthy?

Ryan: Yeah it is a tough one, Mental Health is a really important issue in professional sport. I try and make sure our players have a good balance between playing, family life and own time. If you become too fixated on only one of those areas, if something goes wrong it is very easy to crumble. I also have a very “Open door” policy, players know they can speak to me anywhere and at any time if they are not feeling great. We have had a couple of cases recently and I am very proud of how we handled it.

DHCF: Do you see a multi nation franchise based T20 league as a way of improving European teams?

Ryan: The Franchise competition would be a great way to improve players, I was extremely disappointed when the Euro Slam was cancelled. It would have given our players a great chance to play with the best players in the world and also give them another platform to showcase their skills to the world. We can only hope it can be resurrected.

DHCF: Which has been your most memorable day/match as a cricketer/coach?

Ryan: Of course winning is why we play and its especially awesome in a team sport. Winning 2 Sheffield Shields and 3 One day titles with Western Australia stands out as a player, winning the World Cup Qualifiers last October was my coaching highlight, especially after us going into that competition winning only 6 of 16 matches (as the sole selector in the Netherlands I was committed to giving all of our Dutch Based players an opportunity to get selected for the World Cup, hence we didn’t bring our Dutch County players back during the year), questions were being asked but we stayed strong and played brilliantly. And finally, I will always cherish the day I played for Australia, especially as my Mum & Dad flew across to Sydney to see me play.

DHCF: Anything else you would like to share, any special memory/any fun stories?

Ryan: The one particular thing that sticks out to me over my journey, is the wonderful friendships I have made and the people that I have met.  I would also like to say that everyone should enjoy our great game for what it is, a battle between bat and ball, we can complicate things sometimes but just enjoy the game & it’s great players!!

We would like to thank Ryan for taking time out and having a conversation with us.

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