Jason Gillespie returns to the fold
Jason Gillespie has revealed the depths of his frustration at being placed in cricket purgatory after his dalliance with the ill-fated Indian Cricket League.
Two years after the ICL folded, Gillespie has been granted an official coaching position in Australia, as an assistant on the A tour of Zimbabwe in July. He will then stay on in the African nation for his second year with the Midwest Rhinos, who offered him the chance to coach at a time when few others seemed interested.
Gillespie will offer plenty of knowledge of the country, and of bowling, while also seeking to smooth his own coaching skills alongside the likes of the Centre of Excellence head coach Troy Cooley and the tour manager Brian McFadyen. He is happy and excited to be back in the Australian fold, but the bitterness of the ICL and its aftermath has not been forgotten.
"I've got no doubt about it, it certainly held me back," Gillespie told ESPNcricinfo. "When I signed with the ICL I had the blessing of everyone and I was actually indecisive about whether I would come back to play first-class cricket for South Australia the next year.
"The opportunity came along to play the shortest form of the game, it was financially beneficial, there was a bit of a coaching element too and a number of the overseas players were to be involved in commentary. Once that all fell away, to be thought of as a rebel and in such a negative light, especially after playing first-class cricket for years and also for Australia, I just thought it was a bit … I was disappointed."
Gillespie and others were caught up in political machinations beyond their immediate comprehension, made worse when the ICL crumbled and left scores of players, coaches and support staff out of pocket.
"It's always been good intentions from Cricket Australia but I think it was also about not wanting to upset people. I must admit it got to me and I was upset, I was upset with the world for a while there," Gillespie said. "In hindsight I didn't realise how much we were going to be ostracised, basically for playing cricket, but then I resigned myself to the fact it was a much bigger issue than that.
"I've moved on, but it took me a while to move on. I was pretty upset and I vented my frustration a few times, but it was more the frustration at the competition I'd signed for collapsing than what happened in Australia. It was a bitter pill to swallow."
Since then Gillespie has applied for bowling coach roles with South Australia and Australia, on both occasions being told that he would need to accumulate more experience as Joe Dawes (SA) and Craig McDermott (CA) won the posts.
"I've applied for a couple of jobs, I'm Australian and long-term would be looking to do something in Australia, but for the next few years I've realised that I need to go and get experience somewhere else," Gillespie said. "Zimbabwe has been a great learning curve for me and I'll forever be indebted to the Rhinos for giving me a chance.
"I've been told in interviews that I just need to go and get more experience, which is fine, I've absolutely no problem with that. I've coached in Zimbabwe and coached in the IPL, but other than the SA country side I've got no experience in Australian cricket as a coach and it's nice to make a start."
As for Zimbabwe, Gillespie saw evidence of the progress made in cricket, which falls within the remit of the MDC-aligned sport minister David Coltart, during his first summer with the Rhinos.
"There's a couple of things that can still be improved, but but the thing you've got to remember is that Zimbabwe cricket has basically started a first-class competition from scratch in the past few years," Gillespie said. "But there's a real desire to improve and build that competition, and it was really exciting to be over there and be involved in that.
"In Zimbabwe there was a lot of excitement when they heard that Australia A were touring, and talking to Alan Butcher the Zimbabwe coach they're seeing it as a wonderful opportunity for the team to play against an Australian unit."
Gillespie said parts of the country had changed markedly from the strange world he glimpsed from inside the Australian team bus during a brief but bleak 2004 tour.
"It was a bit of a bubble we were in in 2004 and I have to say that living there day to day is very different to a cricket tour," he said. "The main thing people would ask about is 'did you feel safe' and 'is it a safe place', and we can certainly say that it is safe. My wife has actually told a number of people that in Harare she felt just as safe as she would have in Adelaide."