Almanac Cricket: Julien Wiener takes on Japan coaching role

Former Australian opening batsman Julien Wiener is these days a “go here, go there” cricket coach, as Peter Sweeney reports.


“Five days,” the man the sporting world nicknamed ‘Schnitzel’ replied when asked how long he has been coaching Japan.


Julien Wiener is crouched with one or two others in the grandstand of Bendigo’s historic Queen Elizabeth Oval on Monday morning watching the best players from Japan in the field against Indonesia.


The ground – and the city which is best known for producing VFL and AFL champions almost at will – is hosting the 2017 ICC World Cricket League qualifier between six countries from the East Asia-Pacific area. Up for grabs for the winner is a division five spot in the ICC. Afghanistan was there less than a decade ago; now it’s on the precipice of playing Test cricket.


Wiener – who played 85 Sheffield Shield matches for Victoria and 10 Tests and 20 one-dayers for Australia – has been engaged as Japan’s consultant coach for the week.


“There has been a close relationship between Japan and Cricket Victoria for about 10 years in regards to the playing and development of the game,” Wiener said.


“The Japanese team, who are so, so respectful, arrived in Melbourne last Wednesday and I’ve been getting to know the fellas and see what they can do in a practice game and in net sessions.”


He stops talking when a Japanese fielder runs out an Indonesian batsman with a direct hit on the stumps in a superb piece of fielding, which sends his teammates into Sri Lankan like celebrations at last-ball boundaries.


“He has a baseball background and hits the stumps from side on,” Wiener remarks of the run-out man. “These fellas are a pleasure to coach and be around. They have skill and passion and are spongers when it comes to learning.


“We (in Australia) grew up with cricket and football in the backyard – but they have to learn by playing in the middle. But even in five days I have seen them improve in leaps and bounds.”


After being retrenched from a position in the corporate world which he was involved with for three and a half decades, Wiener is loving life as a cricket coach.


Much of the time he is the assistant at VCA club Melbourne. This week it’s Japan, and earlier this summer there were roles in women’s cricket, cricket for the intellectually disabled and a role with the Victorian under-19 side. And he beams when talking about the most recent indigenous cricket carnival in Alice Springs, when Victoria won the national title for the first time.


“Being the coach was so humbling. The competition was first-grade level, better. Blokes had been trying to win it for years and so many were in tears,” Wiener said.


“I’ve been coaching a week here, a week there. Melbourne (Cricket Club) has been good letting me do this. I am learning, and I am loving it.”


Asked for a memory from his first-class career in the creams, Wiener said in a bullet-like manner: “My first (Sheffield) Shield game. I was just two years out of Brighton Grammar School. It was against Queensland at the ‘Gabba when the dog (greyhound) track was still there. I faced up to Jeff Thomson. All I can remember of the first over was looking back and seeing wicket-keeper John Maclean two cricket pitches back and first slip standing just metres from the dog track.”


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