Australia want the one they can’t have
Nearly six years after Shane Warne retired from Test cricket, Australia are still desperately searching for his replacement. Just look at Fawad Ahmed, a Pakistani asylum seeker to Australia who, soon after gaining asylum had a BBL contract with the Melbourne Renegades. Why? Because he’s a leg-spinner.
Never mind the fact that he’s 33, and last played First-class cricket in 2009. Never mind the fact that he’s never played a t20 match, and his First-class record is unremarkable. He’s a leg-spinner, so three different BBL teams wanted him. Still, he does have a excellent record in grade cricket, with 167 wickets at 12.22, so who knows, he might do well.
Adelaide Strikers went back nearly ten years to find 39 year old slow left armer Brad Young, who played a couple of ODIs for Australia in the late 90s. He’s also been doing well in grade cricket with 19 wickets at 14.11, but is that enough for someone who averages 44.71 in First-class cricket, and has never played a professional t20 match?
Add the likes of Warne continuing in t20 ad nauseum, and a comeback to the national team for Brad Hogg, and Australia has a serious lack of faith some of its spinners. This is also shown in the Sheffield Shield wicket charts. The highest placed spinner on the charts is Steve O’Keefe with 9 wickets at 34.55. He’s been consistently one of the best performing spinners in the Shield for the last couple of years, yet the likes of Xavier Doherty and Michael Beer, with far inferior records have made it to the Test team ahead of him.
Australia’s spin policy is flawed, both in domestic and international terms. Nathan Lyon may be doing well so far, but I’m liable to put his selection down to dumb luck. After Warne retired, Australia tried nine different spinners before settling on Lyon. To put that number in perspective, there are six state teams, and each of them tends to field one spinner at a time.
Lyon is doing okay at the moment, with a Test average hovering around 30, and his skills developing well. Yet there still seems to be pressure on him, both Warne and MacGill criticising him, with the former suggesting himself as a replacement. That can’t do too much for the self-confidence.
The solution to all this is simple. Let Lyon play, stop nitpicking with him and if you want good enough spinners, prepare pitches that encourage them to attack. It can’t be a coincidence that few spinners average under 30 in the Sheffield Shield, yet most have an economy rate under three. They’re bowling defensively. You’re not going to breed attacking Test spinners by making them have to bowl defensively in domestic cricket.
Lyon has already shown he’s got a good head on his shoulders, and he’ll know he has the support of his captain. He bowled well against South Africa, and while he isn’t the finished product, the difference between him and Warne at the same stage of his career is six wickets and an average of 30.64 to 28.06. He’s a good spinner, he’s not Warne but he could become Graeme Swann. Let’s face it, that’s better than Nathan Hauritz, Beau Casson, Cameron White, Michael Beer, Xavier Doherty, Jason Kreizja, Steve Smith, Bryce McGain, or sodding Marcus North.
Originally published 15-Dec-2012