All signs point to Bird flying to higher honours
Taking flight … Jackson Bird has been a revelation for Tasmania and is close to Test selection. Photo: Getty Images
TASMANIAN coach Tim Coyle has hailed the rise and rise of paceman Jackson Bird, yet another NSW player in exile, as a talent who simply needed an opportunity.
Bird, who had snared 87 wickets at an average of 19.72 from only 17 first-class matches, unleashed the beast last week when he took a career-best 6-25 against Western Australia, and in the process made critics sit up and take notice.
According to Coyle the acknowledgement for the 25-year-old was not before time.
''Rightly so,'' he said of the former Manly and Bankstown paceman being mentioned as a contender for the national squad. ''He's taken a lot of wickets in a very short time and I think he's back at his best.
''He's gone back to doing the things that serve Jackson Bird very well, that's keeping the game very simple and being disciplined with length and line and really challenging the batsmen's defence. He may have been searching for wickets [before that] and by his own admission he may have been a little bit impatient.
''There's no secret to his success, he was always a talented bowler. It was about his coming to Tasmania and taking the opportunity and then bowling well all around the country and in all different conditions.
''We couldn't be happier for him; the way he is bowling and if he continues to work hard I'm sure there'll be a reward for him down the track''
The Tasmanian team is about to be steeled by the return of Test batsman Ricky Ponting who, upon announcing his retirement from Test cricket, made it clear he wanted to contribute to his state.
In the lead-up to the series under way against South Africa, Ponting averaged 150 in the Sheffield Shield, but Coyle said his impact on the younger players was immeasurable.
''He was outstanding in those games he played before the Tests,'' said Coyle. ''He made a lot of runs, was fantastic around the group and added a lot.
''It was a sad day for cricket right around the world when Ricky retired, but Tasmania are the beneficiaries of his decision.''
While Coyle recently announced he would be stepping down from the state's coaching role at the end of the season, he would ensure Ponting continued to share some words of wisdom with up-and-comers such as Australia A batsman Alex Doolan who scored an unconquered century against the South Africans in Sydney.
''Ricky has spent a fair bit of time with Alex this year and that's happened because they have spent a bit of time out in the middle and had some really good partnerships and I think Alex has gone to another level because of that association.
''I know Ricky has a high regard for Doolan and I think we've seen the results of him taking Alex under his wing this year. With Ricky Ponting it's not so much what he says, it's about [the young players] learning from watching.''
Coyle said if Tasmania could build on their start to the Sheffield Shield competition they might give Ponting a shot at the crown.
''We're in a pretty good position in the Sheffield Shield, we're sitting third and not far off the top position,'' he said.
''His return is a major plus for us and for him to finish off in Tasmanian colours . . . if the cricketing gods are kind well, maybe, everything will align and he'll go out the way he deserves to, with a Tasmanian premiership.''
In an unusual quirk, six of the 11 players used by Australia for the third Test in Perth are representing states in which they weren't born. Queenslander Shane Watson plays for NSW, Sydney boys Ed Cowan (Tasmania) and John Hastings (Victoria) have headed elsewhere, Mitchell Johnson has switched from the Sunshine State to Western Australia, Bushrangers keeper Matthew Wade was born in Tasmania and Nathan Lyon was born in Young in country NSW but now plays for South Australia.