November 29, 2001

Changing of the guard in store as teams prepare to spin up a storm

One veteran spinner at the crossroads, and two slow bowlers at the starting gates of potentially prolific careers. It will rely on the weather, but it's possible that Tasmania and Victoria will make a major contribution toward a changing of the guard in Australian spin bowling when their Pura Cup match begins in Hobart tomorrow.

Ordinarily, Colin Miller - who returned to Victoria at the start of last summer, but who still remains something of a hero in both locations - would be expected to represent a major force in a meeting between these two states. But a slow start to the season from a Bushrangers squad that doesn't easily deal with being on the bottom of competition ladders means that no-one is being spared in the search for better results.

Tasmania is having its own problems after an encouraging start in Sydney. Injuries to key batsmen Dene Hills and Michael DiVenuto and all-rounder Scott Kremerskothen haven't helped, compounding a lack of penetration with the ball that has forced the Tigers to attempt to bat out the last day of all three of their matches to date.

Which all means that, though neither 19-year-old Xavier Doherty nor 18-year-old Cameron White was barely even born by the time that Miller had graduated to first-class ranks, there is every chance they'll be the spinners making the waves this week.

Along with left arm paceman Mathew Inness, White and Miller are likely to jockey for the remaining two positions in a Victorian attack headed by pacemen Paul Reiffel and Damien Fleming and all-rounder Ian Harvey.

"He's got a huge future ahead of him. We're very excited about him; we think he has a very long career ahead," said Reiffel of leg spinning all-rounder White on his arrival in Hobart today.

"He seems a lot older than he actually is. He carries himself very well. He's an exciting talent; there's no doubt about that.

"We're very happy to have him in our side."

In the opposite dressing rooms, meanwhile, left arm orthodox spinner Doherty is certain to be included in the eleven, filling a berth vacated by all-rounder Brad Thomas after a crushing innings loss to South Australia.

"Potentially, he could have a very good career ahead of him," said Tasmanian captain, Jamie Cox, in reference to Doherty.

"We've monitored his progress for quite some time now.

"And there are great opportunities for Xavier, with a bit of a dearth of finger spinning (bowlers) around the country ... really there aren't many around. We thought the time was right to give him a go."

It opens the way for the prospect that White will play just his third first-class match and Doherty his first.

And that not even Miller's status as his country's reigning Test player of the year, nor as one of the most successful bowlers in history at the Bellerive Oval, may guarantee him his place.

And all in a game that is likely to be played in attacking style, given that results elsewhere over recent weeks have left these two teams in urgent need of outright points.

The only threat might be Hobart's weather. Though there has ironically been no rain at the ground since Monday - the last of four days of poor conditions which played havoc with the Second Test between Australia and New Zealand - the long-range forecast points to the likelihood of a return of unpleasant conditions over the weekend.

One team may need to turn the match its way quickly.


Tasmania: Jamie Cox (c), Scott Mason, Michael Dighton, Shane Watson, Daniel Marsh, Shaun Young, Sean Clingeleffer, Damien Wright, David Saker, Xavier Doherty, Shane Jurgensen, Adam Polkinghorne.

Victoria: Paul Reiffel (c), Matthew Elliott, Jason Arnberger, Matthew Mott, Brad Hodge, Michael Klinger, Ian Harvey, Darren Berry, Cameron White, Damien Fleming, Colin Miller, Mathew Inness.