Home > The Final Word > Will we ever get out of this spin cycle?

Will we ever get out of this spin cycle?

Just under four years ago a guy from St Kilda retired from international cricket. His name was Shane Keith Warne. Four years and ten attempts later, Australia still haven’t found their next great spinner, and from all indications, the hunt will continue for some time. First things first, and this may sound a bit odd, Shane Warne was the best and the worst thing to happen to spin bowling in this country. Almost since the great Ritchie Benaud, and ‘Tiger’ O’Reilly before him, spinners in this country had become a bit wayward. There were plenty up to Test standard, and many of them performed admirably for their country, but none could match the feats of Warne. He revitalised a generation and turned them on to spin bowling, in a period where it was much more fashionable to imitate Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thompson or Merv Hughes than Kerry O’Keefe or Greg Matthews. In this way, he was very much the saviour of spin bowling in the country. For the 15 years following his debut in Sydney in 1992, he mesmarised batsman and fans alike, and a few ladies along the way. It’s hard to put in words the impact which Warnie had on Australian cricket, and spin bowling here and abroad.

But at the same time as doing this, Warne made the immediate future at least, very difficult for any spinner in the country, whether playing first class cricket, or simply local representative cricket. This point is of particular interest and experience for myself, a struggling leggie. It pains me to say this because not only do I love him as a player, he is more than a decent bloke as well. Media outlets worldwide jump on the scandal bandwagon whenever Warnie says something, but a personal experience I had with him leaves me doubting the intentions of such writers.

But back to the point. As unfortunate as it is, pretty much every spin bowler in Australia now is held to the high expectations which Warne set. They were the drive for his success, but they are also his follower’s downfall. Simplifying it as much as possible, spinners, particularly younger ones, need protection through their fields. This may include 2-3 players in the deep. But Warne, as well as the influence of limited overs cricket, has seen captains put 2-3 players under the bat instead, which spinners simply can’t bowl to.  That leads to spinners bowling flatter, and worrying more about restricting scoring options than taking wickets. This attitude is perfectly seen by the dropping of Jason Krezja and Nathan Hauritz, and the picking of Xavier Doherty. Ricky Ponting realises that there will not be another Warne, but instead of going for a spinner that will win you a game, he goes for one that can tie an end up, which I think is a ludicrous decision. Coming up to the MCG and SCG Tests, Australia need a spinner who will bowl us to victory on Day 5, and we all hope that Michael Beer is that man. However, rewind just 12 months, and, hey, how about that! A spinner bowls us to victory against Pakistan on Day 5 in both Melbourne and Sydney! Yes it was Pakistan, and yes there are still questions asked about the validity of the SCG test, but surely that is better than a guy who has played only 6 first class matches. I, for one, hope Beer plays in both games, and he and Steve Smith both prove eveyone wrong, but I still can’t see it happening. It may just be a continuation of the ‘spin cycle’ which Australia has engrossed itself in over the past 4 years. Take a second to think about the spinners since Warne.

Stuart MacGill – He was always the heir apparent to Warne, its just a shame he suffered from a surprisingly common syndrome for members of his generation, D.O.B. syndrome. He had it, Brad Hodge has it, Darren Lehmann, Jamie Cox, Michael Bevan, Jamie Siddons…the list goes on. If only MacGilla was born 6-7 years later, we would be talking about how the English are going to get themselves up for 2 dead rubbers like last time. He was the answer we wanted, only too late.

Brad Hogg – Probably another suffering from a mild case of D.O.B. He excelled in the Limited Overs arena, but just never really succeeded in Tests.  I don’t know why though, as he seemed to give the ball a good rip, and had some great variations including a monster flipper. Will be forever known in Tests for his awful final day effort against India in Sydney in 2008, when it was left to Michael Clarke to finish the job on an absolute bunsen. That just happened to be his final Test, and final international summer.

Beau Casson – A competent first-class spinner, but probably not up to Test standard. In saying that, he was discarded quickly after not living up to immediate expectations, and should have been given more time to settle into the squad.

Cameron White – Probably the most baffling of all selections in regard to front-line spinners. White, a batting all-rounder, was selected to go to India in 2008, then was pushed into the side for the first three Tests. India proceeded to smash him all around the park for three straight games, and White has hardly bowled at any level since, despite captaining Victoria. He will probably be back in the side as a batsman, and rightly so, but was way out of his depth as a front-line spinner.

Jason Krejza – In my opinion still the best option for Australia at the moment. Another surprise selection given his First Class record, but Krejza took 12 wickets on debut, but only played one more Test, on a road in Perth, before being dropped. He can be expensive, but he is attacking, and will always be in the game for a wicket. Probably best described as an off-spin version of MacGill, but took too many wickets and went for too many runs for Ponting’s liking.

Nathan Hauritz – Quickly became a Ponting favourite after replacing Krejza, but it seemed he was never trusted or regarded as Test quality by his captain. Wasn’t given the chance to play on a dustbowl at The Oval in 2009, and Australia subsequently lost the match, and the series. After this it seemed Hauritz grew as a bowler and became much more attacking and, as a result, fell out of favour with Ponting. He has returned to First Class cricket recently, taking plenty of wickets, and scoring back-to-back hundreds for NSW. Seemingly the most logical options however, all indications are that he won’t play again in the Test arena.

Bryce McGain – Often forgotten, but his one Test in South Africa will most certainly be his only one. A good quality leggie, but injuries and some inconsistency, as well as his age, mean he’s probably past it for Test selection.

Steve Smith – Got a few games as the front-line spinner in England against Pakistan, and performed admirably. He is definitely a prospect for the future, but I’d say his role is more as a batting all-rounder than a specialist spinner. A must for the rest of the Ashes as just the sight of a blonde leggie will scare the Poms.

Xavier Doherty – the big surprise selection at the start of this summer, however has plummeted in the list following two average displays in Brisbane and Adelaide. Will see plenty of limited overs cricket in the next few years, but I wouldn’t have him back in the Test team any time soon.

And now for the other candidates. There are a many, but only a few who stand out as real prospects.

Michael Beer – Looks good to make a debut at the MCG, unless the Aussies mistakenly go for four quicks again. Has only played six first class games, and needs more experience before really breaking out. Heavily underrated, and rightly so.

Steve O”Keefe – More of an all-rounder than simply a spinner, but has gone well for NSW in both limited overs cricket, and First Class cricket. Made his debut in International Twenty20 cricket last year in England.

Jon Holland – Has limited First Class experience, but has showed some good signs. He was picked for a ODI tour of India in 2009, but didn’t play a game. At only 23, he has plenty ahead of him.

Jason Floros – Relatively unknown, but at only 20, he has the world ahead of him. Part of the successful Australian U/19 World Cup side last year, the off-spinning all-rounder is someone to look out for.

Luke Doran – Another New South Welshman who has impressed at junior and grade levels. The left-armer is handy with the bat as well, and another member of the 2009 U/19 World Cup winning side.

Cameron Boyce – A highly rated young leggie from Queensland, Boyce took 6-181 in a losing effort in last year’s Shield final at the MCG.

These are just some of the options for the Aussie side, but with that many options, and the indecision that the selectors have shown thus far, don’t be surprised to hear about some of the names above. Australia’s spin cycle isn’t over yet… in fact, it’s only just begun!

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