Make cricket fun again.
That’s the mantra of new NSW Blues cricket coach Phil Jaques according to teenage phenom Jason Sangha.
The Wollongong product stepped up to the head-coaching role after a disastrous 2017-18 season for the Blues which saw the team winless in their last seven matches and morale within the squad plummet.
Eighteen-year-old Sangha said it has not taken long for Jaques to make an impact on the squad.
“Phil just brings his experience and also that fun factor,” Sangha said from Mt Terry Public School.
“Yes, you’re in a professional environment and it can be serious at times, but he’s really emphasising learning from every session and enjoying playing the game, enjoying playing for NSW and being grateful for the opportunities we have.”
The Blues closed out their Sheffield Season with a loss to Queensland at North Dalton Park in March and it was clear a number of players were ready for the offseason to commence.
What followed was a clean out, with south coast junior Nic Maddinson one of five players to depart the side.
With the veterans leaving, Sangha was one of five rookie contracted players handed a full-time contract and the batsman said the vibe in the squad is positive.
“The culture in the team is really good. I think that’s been really well led by Phil Jaques and our assistant coaches in Andre Adams and Beau Casson.
“Having such a young squad this year, a few rookies around the same age as myself, It’s great to have guys I’ve played with since under 15s to now be in a professional environment together alongside senior guys such as Steve O’Keefe, Moises [Henriques] and Peter Nevill. With those older guys, the squad has a good balance.”
The Newcastle junior has been rated one of Australian cricket’s hottest prospects for years, with his batting prowess making him the youngest player to earn a NSW rookie contract at just 16 years old.
He reaffirmed the hype in November when he belted a century against an England attack boasting top-flight bowlers Stuart Broad, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes. It was a maiden first-class hundred he will never forget.
“It was pretty good fun to face international bowlers. You turn around and you’ve got Bairstow, Cook, Root, these guys that are playing international cricket and they’re actually sledging you, wanting you to get out. It was pretty surreal.
“That game, it’s one of those moments I took a lot of confidence from. It shows my game’s in a pretty good space, but I still have places I need to work on and I need to work every day to improve on those weaknesses.”