Lyon into World Twenty20 frame
A paradox, a paradox, a most ingenious paradox. For so long unwanted when it comes to Australia's limited overs plans, Nathan Lyon can take his latest omission from the ODI team as a sign he is actually closer than ever to a start at the next major ICC tournament.
The World Twenty20 in India in March looms as the event in which Lyon will belatedly make his mark as a bowler in Australian gold rather than Test match cream. His exclusion from the squad to face India in five 50-over matches at the start of a new World Cup cycle means that Lyon can play out the remainder of the Big Bash League, honing his T20 skills ahead of 20-over series against India and South Africa that precede the ICC event.
The selector Trevor Hohns said this year's calendar had been a factor in the decision to use only Glenn Maxwell's part-time off spin in the ODIs against India, allowing Lyon to play T20 for the Sydney Sixers ahead of the more pivotal tournament in India. Hohns said that the event on the subcontinent would require more than one spin bowler, meaning Lyon is firming as the man to make the trip.
"Nathan is not far out of the picture ... for one-day cricket, and of course with the [World] T20 coming up it's probably ideal for him to go back and play some of those games," Hohns said. "Also, if we look where we're playing the first few games - you've got Brisbane, you've got Perth - normally you play with your faster bowlers there.
"Glenn Maxwell has done a pretty good job in the spinning role when we're only playing that one type of spinner-cum-allrounder, plus the quicks. I think we'll find that, for the T20 World Cup in particular in those conditions over there, we'll probably need a couple of spinners in our squad. I can't see why [Lyon and Maxwell can't play together] - depending on conditions, of course."
There was a contrasting verdict from Hohns on the young fast man James Pattinson, who has made promising progress in his first Test series back from injury since early 2014. At some times Pattinson has been irresistible, at others eminently hittable, as shown when Carlos Brathwaite went after him on the rain-hit second day of the SCG Test before he responded with a pearler to bowl the allrounder.
Hohns said the panel had been happy with Pattinson's progress, but doubted he would be a limited-overs prospect in the medium term as he build back towards his very best rhythm and speed. "With Patto as we know he's just coming back from pretty extensive injury," Hohns said.
"He's now played a few Test matches on the trot, so we're thinking more about the future for him, rather than just clogging him up immediately and bringing up his workloads as they say. It's more about management for him in particular. One-day cricket there's probably a question mark there I must say, but certainly Test cricket we want him back flying how he was a couple of years ago and he's not quite there yet, but gradually getting there."
As for Australia's batting, Hohns noted positively that there was now an emerging sense of depth that has not been evident for some time. The likes of Chris Lynn, Travis Head and the indefatigable Michael Klinger are keeping pressure on the players being picked in the Test ODI and T20 teams, something the selectors view as vital to the success of the national side across all formats.
"There's quite a few on the fringes there and the back half of the one day series might give us an opportunity to have a look at a couple of those players," Hohns said. "What we're finding now with your Lynns, Khawajas, Travis Head another one, it's really starting to build our depth back up again, and those are the players we want to have keeping the pressure on the blokes in the side. It's all about depth and we're starting to get there in the batting line-up."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig