Matthew Kuhnemann will call upon advice he received from Indian superstar Ravindra Jadeja during this season’s Big Bash League, with the Brisbane Heat spinner evolving his white-ball skills after a topsy-turvy 12 months.
In February, the 27-year-old was rushed to the subcontinent after Jadeja ripped through Australia’s middle-order during the series opener of this year’s Border-Gavaskar Trophy, making his Test debut in Delhi the following week.
After the match, which Australia lost by six wickets, Kuhnemann asked Jadeja whether he’d be willing to offer any advice, to which the fellow left-armer responded: “At the end of the series.”
Jadeja struck true to his word, chatting with Kuhnemann for 15 minutes after the fourth Test in Ahmedabad. Standing in the outfield of the colossal Narendra Modi Stadium, the spinners talked through the mental challenges of Test cricket, with Jadeja passing on some tips regarding the Queenslander’s seam position and run-up, including how he uses the crease.
Kuhnemann, who claimed a five-wicket haul during the third Test in Indore, was fascinated by Jadeja’s consistency in the red-ball format and has continued watching footage of the 34-year-old’s bowling action since. He was even nicknamed ‘Jaddu’ by his Queensland teammates after ripping through South Australia during a Sheffield Shield game in 2021.
“He gave me a few pointers at the end of the series, which was awesome,” Kuhnemann told Fox Cricket this week.
“I sort of took that into the county season, and it seemed to work.
“Hopefully I can bring that into the Big Bash and contribute to some wins.”
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Kuhnemann, having absorbed Jadeja’s words of wisdom, turned his attention to the County Championship in England, taking 12 wickets at 22.58 in three first-class matches for Durham. In April, he sealed a dramatic final-day victory for the eventual champions by taking a five-wicket haul against Worcestershire at Chester-le-Street’s Riverside Ground.
However, Kuhnemann’s Durham stint was cut short by an untimely back injury, ruled out of the remainder of the County Championship.
“I would have loved to play the whole county season, but things happen,” Kuhnemann continued.
“I was due for a bad back really, I had bowled that many overs going into that season.
“It was good to come home and freshen up and tweak a few things in my white-ball game.”
Upon returning to Australia for the home summer, Kuhnemann found himself carrying drinks for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield, with Mitchell Swepson preferred as the state’s premier red-ball spinner.
Kuhnemann, who has not played a first-class match since September’s Australia A series against New Zealand A, had gone from Test spinner to Queensland’s 12th man within six months.
“Sweppo is a world-class bowler,” Kuhnemann said.
“It’s hard when I’m playing the one-day stuff, and he’s playing the Shield stuff. Both of us would like to be playing both, but it is what it is.
“Brisbane traditionally isn’t a great place for spin bowlers, so we’re making it work.
“The last couple of months I’ve been training a lot, and that’s given me a chance to work on my T20 stuff.
“Ultimately we want the Bulls to win.
“The one thing I’ve learnt over the last 12 months is you’ve got to be ready for anything, so we’ll see what happens.”
Ahead of the 13th edition of the Big Bash League, which gets underway on Thursday, Kuhnemann has been developing his arm-ball and preparing for the challenge of bowling at the death. He helped the Heat book their spot in last summer’s final by taking 3-17 in the low-scoring ‘Challenger’, ripping through the Sydney Sixers’ top-order at the SCG.
Brisbane tripped at the final hurdle, defeated by the Perth Scorchers in the season finale, but the men in teal will be eager to make amends over the coming weeks. The club’s first opponent is the Melbourne Stars at the Gabba on Thursday evening, where Kuhnemann might be tasked with taming World Cup champion Glenn Maxwell.
“That’s a little bit daunting,” Kuhnemann laughed.
“Watching the World Cup, it looks like he’s got no weakness whatsoever.
“I’m sure the (Heat) analysts and coaches will have a plan for him.”
The hosts will have Test stars Usman Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne at their disposal, but first-choice players Matthew Renshaw, Nathan McSweeney, Jimmy Peirson and Michael Neser will be unavailable due to Prime Minister’s XI commitments.
“It’s a funny one, the coaches aren’t too happy about it I think,” Kuhnemann said.
“It is what it is. Ultimately Test cricket is probably the pinnacle in our game in Australia.
“The boys have a good opportunity to play some red-ball cricket against a quality opposition, so you can’t do much.”
To bolster its squad for the opening rounds of the tournament, Brisbane has called upon local replacement players Charlie Wakim, Hugo Burdon and Lachlan Hearne.
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Kuhnemann, who was not offered a national contract this year, has seemingly slipped down the pecking order since his back injury, with Tanveer Sangha and Chris Green getting opportunities at international level over the past couple of months.
However, the left-armer has one eye locked on Australia’s next Test tour of the subcontinent — a two-match series in Sri Lanka in early 2025.
“When the schedule comes out, me personally, you look at the subcontinent (tours),” Kuhnemann said.
“I’d love to get back in (the Test side). It was awesome, it was like a dream come true being over there.
“I’ve learned heaps in the last 12 months, so hopefully that puts me in good stead for the future.”
The Heat’s season opener against the Melbourne Stars gets underway at the Gabba on Thursday evening, with the first ball scheduled for 7.15pm AEDT.