Bashful Bulls hit town
IT has not been much fun being a Bull in December, but Monday's Twenty20 Big Bash is a chance for Queensland's cricketers to turn their fortunes around.
The State side has had a horror month, winning just once from five matches in the one-day and four-day formats, with injury and poor form plaguing the former domestic powerhouse.
Queensland are out of the running in the Pura Cup and in the midst of their equal-worst losing streak in 55 seasons, sitting last on the ladder.
In the Ford Ranger Cup, the Bulls are third but need to win all three remaining games to have a chance of defending their title.
But with Queensland starting the Twenty20 series with a clean slate, coach Terry Oliver said the New Year's Eve match against Victoria at Tony Ireland Stadium was a chance to enter 2008 on a high.
"The guys are really keen to do well," he said.
"Obviously, our four-day season has been very disappointing and our one-day season is teetering a little bit at the moment.
"But the guys are just looking at this Twenty20 as a new challenge, to retrieve something out of a season that hasn't gone to plan so far.
"I think it is a very good opportunity to finish this year on a good note and set up the team for 2008, there's no doubt about that."
Like Townsville, Brisbane has been hit by wet weather, putting a glitch in preparations and forcing the Bulls indoors for the past few days.
However, Oliver said the rain had not dampened his players' enthusiasm.
"Everything is just that little bit more upbeat. The game is more physically demanding so our training sessions are a little bit more higher intensity," he said.
vp+2"The four-day and one-day games are a little bit lower (in intensity) so they have been just doing everything with a bit more intensity."
Oliver, who used to play club cricket with Souths in Mackay, said the days of Twenty20 cricket being regarded as `just a bit of fun' were over.
``There is no hit and giggle about this, it's full on.
``Three years ago when we first started playing, guys looked at it as just a bit of fun but last year we started to take it seriously and this year we are taking it deadly serious.
"After all, it's a game for Queensland in the maroon cap, so the guys are keen to do well."
The Bulls' clash with the Bushrangers, the two-time defending Twenty20 champions, kicks off a hectic two-week period for the country's domestic teams.
Over the course of 12 days Queensland will travel almost 12,000km and play five games in their quest for the `smash and bash' title.
"Victoria are the bench-mark of Twenty20 in Australia at the moment and if we can get a good start against them first-up then we'll be very happy and that will set us up for the whole series, hopefully," Oliver said.
The Bulls and the Bushrangers arrive in Townsville tomorrow and will train at Tony Ireland Stadium in the afternoon.
Spectators are encouraged to attend both teams' practice sessions from 2.30pm.