Australia A v South Africans, Sydney November 1, 2012

Maxwell's spin put to the test

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This time last week, as he was doing the rounds to inform players of their inclusion for Australia A against the South Africans, the national selector John Inverarity called Glenn Maxwell. The conversation featured not only a notification of Maxwell's selection but a frank challenge from Inverarity as to how he should approach it.

"I spoke to him and said 'you're the spinner, you're in the hot seat, get on with it', and we hope he responds to that sort of challenge," Inverarity said. "Glenn is a player of particular interest, a player of great skill and exuberance and enthusiasm.

"We want him as an allrounder, so we're very keen for him to get opportunity with his spin bowling, and we're putting him in the hot seat here. We had intended to have Jon Holland in the side as the spinner and Holland went out, so we then decided to have Glenn Maxwell."

Holland's serious shoulder injury has opened up the field for Australia's reserve spin bowling options rather more than the selectors would have liked. At the end of the home summer is a tour of India, and apart from the incumbent Nathan Lyon there are few viable options.

Michael Beer's slow left-arm spin is steady, as seen during the Twenty20 Champions League when he was one of few Perth Scorchers to enhance their reputations, and Jason Krejza's success on his previous visit to India in 2008 means he should not be ruled out entirely as an option. Cameron Boyce's leg-breaks, too, are not without their charms. But otherwise the field is thin, so much so that one senior Australian player has been heard to say the national team's next spinner after Lyon may be yet to emerge from club cricket.

Aware of this dearth, the selectors chose not to name Beer to face the South Africans at the SCG, even if he would be the likely choice to replace Lyon should the South Australian off spinner fall afoul of injury during the concurrent Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania. Instead, they have continued their fascination with Maxwell, a player of enormous self-belief and so far modest spin skills.

"Michael is well regarded and is a good, steady spinner," Inverarity said. "We feel that he's a known quantity, we don't need to find out a lot more. And he'll be bowling in the Shield game [for Western Australia v Victoria]. It's an ideal opportunity for Glenn Maxwell. You're the spinner, you get on with it, and see how he responds to that."

Maxwell's off-breaks are not yet terribly hard spun, overly loopy or even particularly accurate. But his confidence and aggression, so evident on his first Australian tour that the ODI captain Michael Clarke dubbed Maxwell 'the big show", are the qualities that have attracted Inverarity's panel most of all. They are eager to find out if he can respond to the challenge set before him as a bowler in the way his batting responded quite fearlessly to some testing ODI assignments against Pakistan in the UAE. This is a selection based on attitude as much as skill.

Australia's T20 captain George Bailey had Maxwell in his squad at the World T20 in Sri Lanka, and said the young allrounder's bowling still had plenty of development ahead of it. Bailey said Maxwell was at this point better utilised as a back-up to another slow bowler, emphasising the size of the challenge he will now face against what is likely to be South Africa's Test batting line-up.

"The challenge for him is going to be to step up and be the No. 1 spinner," Bailey said. "I think he's in a good area now where he'd be a great back-up spinner. But the thing I love about Max is every time he's been challenged he thrives on that challenge.

"I know he'd really be looking forward to that opportunity, but at the moment particularly in four-day stuff he's still got to work a little bit to become as consistent as you need to be to be the No. 1 spinner. I think he can be patient enough when he wants to be, so it's probably just about learning a bit more of the craft of spin bowling and just being as consistent as he can be."

Against a background of thin slow bowling resources, Maxwell's performance over the next three days is arguably the most pivotal subplot of what is a quite speculative Australia A team. Should he do well enough, Maxwell may book himself a place on the Test tour of India next year. Do poorly and he will likely be typecast as a limited-overs concern.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Meety on November 4, 2012, 4:04 GMT

    @Dashgar/Busie1979 - I agree with Dashgar in that Lyon has performed well enuff to be considered the incumbant & I think he remains that for the entire series v Saffas. However, if Lyon is injured or hasn't done enough by the ned of the series or in fact for the tour of India next year - I think SO'K must be considered. He picked up some wickets v QLD on what appears to be a seamers strip! @Jono Makim - last year was not great for him. He is doing reasonably well this year in Shield/T20, so I hope he is at least being considered!

  • vj_gooner on November 3, 2012, 10:15 GMT

    Haurtiz is the best choice! He is an extremely hard-working individual!

  • Dashgar on November 3, 2012, 9:36 GMT

    @Busie, Lyon's test average is better than O'Keefe's First Class average. Surely Lyon keeps his spot, although O'Keefe does deserve consideration as a backup. Back on Maxwell he got the only wicket today, seems the game has been shifted from the SCG to the Hume Highway.

  • Busie1979 on November 3, 2012, 5:24 GMT

    O'keefe - 23 FC games, bowling average 28, batting average 34. Among genuine spin bowlers he is best in the country as a batsman and bowler at first class level - on performance to date at least. If he could reproduce that at test level, he would have a similar influence as Dan Vettori. What is wrong with that? I cannot understand why so many players have been tried, and O'keefe has been overlooked time and again. He has a better FC average, strike rate and economy rate than Lyon. Probably suffering from being underbowled at NSW. Worth a try I think - surely!

  • RVC-38 on November 2, 2012, 23:09 GMT

    Maybe Okeefe and Katich where mates it's the only thing i can think of, but I can see 4 all rounders at least going to India, Maxwell, Watson, Okeefe and captain Clarke.

  • Dashgar on November 2, 2012, 12:36 GMT

    Well Maxwell did the job with the bat, can he do the same with the ball. Personally I agree with the selectors here, Beer is a known quantity so might as well try something with the Aus A squad. Maxwell is such an irresistible force when he gets going. His first class record isn't that bad either. If he can make some inroads into the South Africa lineup tomorrow we could be looking at a potential number 6 allrounder.

  • dummy4fb on November 2, 2012, 10:54 GMT

    @Haseeb: Steven Smith was not brought in as 'the lead spinner' in the test team. He was meant to replace Marcus North as a #6 bat - at the time the spinning position was in limbo between Xavier Doherty and Michael Beer. He's never been in serious contention as spinner. As for this article... I disagree with the selectors. Steve O'Keefe and Nathan Hauritz are reliable performers. No need for a mythical new Shane Warne..

  • dummy4fb on November 2, 2012, 7:26 GMT

    @Meety, i'm in furious agreement! And I agree with Merv, yourself and Ryan, that he probably should have been next in line. But he has done nothing since, to the best of my knowledge, to force his way in..... I would just say though, that the selectors seem to use these matches to gauge players against international standard competition and i'm not really sure that A games are any sort of indicator of near term selection into the test side. More to weigh up where players of unknown quality at the higher level are at.

  • Meety on November 2, 2012, 4:44 GMT

    @Stevo_ on (November 02 2012, 03:43 AM GMT) - it would if it were so, it's 19 @ 38 (assuming you are talking about Maxwell?)

  • Stevo_ on November 2, 2012, 4:36 GMT

    @ 38 not @ 28 sorry......

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