There are lots of things we should be doing right now. For those of us fortunate enough to still be working, public freedoms like socialising would register high on the list. For those whose livelihoods have been hit by the coronavirus outbreak, clocking on for an honest day’s work would be top of the tops. While the financial hardships of high-earning sportspeople might draw no more than a roll of the eyes from most, they are still mired in the same predicament: isolated, with more time than is wanted to wonder when this all might end.
Australia’s men’s cricket team are no different. The chosen few should be playing in the Indian Premier League right now. The Test team should be thinking about their tour of Bangladesh in June. The jamboree on the horizon, the T20 World Cup, is something that should have us all panting like Pavlov’s dog. In place of all this, Australia’s elite players have been keeping fit, finding new ways to hone their skills and, if you’re Marnus Labuschagne, playing cricket with a hound of his own.
For Alex Carey, this should be his time. The South Australian, now a fixture with the gloves in Australia’s ODI and T20 teams, would presently be in India if not for the global lockdown, plying his trade for Delhi Capitals in what would have been his maiden IPL campaign. “I can’t wait,” Carey said in December after being knocked down by Ricky Ponting’s team for $470,000. “I’ve got a smile on my face thinking about it.”
Fast forward four months and Carey is not on the mean streets of Delhi but at home in Adelaide, counting the positives instead of lamenting what might have been … and what still might be. “It would be nice to be playing cricket in Delhi. It was my first time selected to be part of the IPL. I look at it that I’m healthy, I’m safe and getting to spend a lot of time with my family. It’s been a big couple of years on the cricket field so to spend some time at home, it’s been quite nice doing that,” Carey said during a Zoom chat attended by Guardian Australia this week.
“As a professional athlete you can’t sit still for very long. There’s always a way to improve ourselves and personally it’s been great to get some kilometres into the legs and do some strength work in the back yard.”
Taking part in Carey’s strength work is his 19-month-old son, Louis, who has rarely seen so much of his old man. “This is a priceless time at home. It’d be nice to get back on the cricket field but I’m thoroughly enjoying my time. And just appreciating my wife. They do a fantastic job when we’re on tour and now that I’m looking after [our son] 24/7, I’ve worked out it’s a pretty tough gig,” he said.
Carey was a star turn at the Cricket World Cup last year in England, scoring 375 runs (just four fewer than Steve Smith) and effecting 20 dismissals (the second most of all players). Now 28, Australia’s white-ball captain has come of age and is a player to watch in this year’s T20 World Cup on home soil – if, or when, it takes place. Scheduled for October and November, the event faces a logistical nightmare with travel restrictions and quarantine measures in place for the foreseeable future. Last week, former Australia captain Allan Border suggested the tournament should only proceed once fans are allowed into stadiums.
“You don’t want that to happen, absolutely not, you want the fans there,” Carey said. “They play a very big part in our sport and without the fans we wouldn’t have a job. It would be hard to conceive without the fans, but I love playing cricket and if there’s nobody out there I’d still go out and play. If it doesn’t go ahead, it’s going to be disappointing for myself and a lot of other people who would love to watch the T20 World Cup. The women’s event was so successful; seeing 90,000 people at the MCG is an amazing spectacle. Hopefully sport can find a way to come back and hopefully it’s before the T20 World Cup and it goes ahead.”
There was never a good time for Covid-19 to come along, but at least Australia’s cricketers managed to play out a nearly full summer. It provided a grounding that Carey says will stand players in good stead once play finally resumes. “For myself and a lot of the guys in the Australian cricket system, it’s been a really big summer and a big 12-24 months,” he said. “I’m seeing it as a really good opportunity for the guys to refresh and recharge. You’re seeing videos of Marnus [Labuschagne] hitting balls in the back yard and I’ve got the golf ball going against the wall trying to keep the hand-eye coordination going.
“We’re lucky in that we finished the summer pretty much and now the guys can put their feet up, refresh and be really keen when the doors open to go and train and do their part when it’s time to play, whether it’s the IPL or the T20 World Cup. I have full trust in the guys in what they’re doing, albeit probably in their back yard.”