Looking at the spinners Australia have produced since Shane Warne‘s retirement and a handful of them who played alongside or during Warne’s career, they haven’t been conspicuous to world cricket and haven’t been able to sustain the trust showed upon them by delivering at the top most level.
Stuart MacGill of Australia playing his last match before retiring from international cricket on day five of the Second Test match between West Indies and Australia at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on June 3, 2008 in St. Johns, Antigua and Barbuda. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Stuart Macgill was a decent spinner who bagged 200 odd Test wickets in his career lasting a decade. But whenever he played alongside ‘The Great One’ (Warne), his quality was out there for everyone to see. His leg-spinners spun but, he wasn’t the one who bothered the batsmen even when the pitch had loads on offer for him. But having said all of that, and excluding Warne, in the past two decades, there hasn’t been a spinner from Australia who has bettered Macgill or even got close to him when it came to the longer version of the game.
Coming to another veteran who still plays for the odd franchise here and there, Bradley Hogg – his Test career was cut short to only seven matches, but he did have a good run in One Day Internationals. He was always a clever operator, and his ‘slow left-arm Chinaman’ did serve Australia well towards the latter half of his career. His wrong’uns were deceptive and to be fair to him, even sub-continental batsmen found it hard to tackle him. Yet again, I don’t know how many of you who follow cricket closely would look up to Brad Hogg and his trade and say, “He was a good spinner”.
These two spinners have been by far the “best” after Warne.
I was left baffled whenever Nathan Hauritz got called up for national duty, and the views of many Australian cricket pundits on this ‘below mediocre level’ spinner. I mean, I couldn’t see him do anything other than throw the ball up there and play a game of lottery. There was no use of his body, no pivot to get the drift that Graeme Swann enjoys, and the basic components for a spinner never seemed to follow Hauritz. Probably, you could conclude that, such was the scarcity of spinners in Australian cricket that they didn’t find a better bet than Hauritz during his days.
From one finger spinner to another, Jason Krejza. He was another spinner who was hugely hyped but, you could look at his bowling and say that his flight was his strength and he relied only on it to cause problems. To his credit, he bagged 12 wickets on his debut Test match against possibly the greatest players of spin bowling, India. Yet again, he wasn’t the spinner who could have enjoyed an extended run, nor did he have the qualities to cement a permanent spot in the squad.
Fawad Ahmed of Australia in action during a net session ahead of the third NatWest One Day International Series match between England and Australia at Edgbaston on September 10, 2013 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Xavier Doherty, a left arm orthodox spinner, is another of those unconvincing spinners produced by Australia since Warne’s retirement. There was no rip and not enough revs behind Doherty’s deliveries, which meant it was difficult for me to regard him as a spinner in the first place. Going at an economy of 3.60 in a Test career spanning over four matches till date, well, he has been mediocre at best.
Nathan Lyon has been a wonder kid, having transformed himself from being ‘ground staff’ at the Adelaide Oval to being one of Australia’s first choice spinners when it comes to Test cricket in the last couple of years. This guy has something about him. He is tenacious and to an extent, has the drift and flight that are of paramount importance for any spinner to succeed but, it’s hard to see what Clarke thinks of Lyon.
When Australia toured India earlier this year, in the first Test at Chepauk, Lyon was hit all over the park and ended with match figures of 52.3-1-244-4. While those figures do not convince any captain to give him another go, I thought, Lyon did bowl well and to underline his work-rate, he castled Tendulkar’s stumps when he was batting on 81 by a classical off-spinner’s delivery, which spun from outside off and plotted a bat-pad gap through Sachin’s defence, but was otherwise up against some vengeance batting assault from the Indian batsmen.
There wasn’t a lot he could have done and just to reiterate my point about Clarke’s faith in him, Clarke dropped him for the second Test. So it’s hard to figure out as to where Lyon stands in terms of Clarke’s scheme of things. But from my perspective, being just 25 and having decent qualities for a spinner as compared to his other compatriots, I’d say Australia needs to stick with him to witness what he can dish out.
Coming to Fawad Ahmed, he comes from a country(Pakistan) that needs no mentioning about the quality of spinners it has produced. And from whatever I have seen of him, he looks good in the eye. There’s a lot more body into his deliveries and seems to mix it up quite beautifully. If Australia can persist with him and be patient, they could unearth someone special in this guy. But having said all that, his real test will be when he comes to the sub-continent and bowls to the likes of Virat Kohli, Mahela Jayawardene and Younis Khan, who are classical players of spin bowling. But he has caught my eye, and I hope he can be the answer to Australia’s spinner woes.