Lehmann has faith in new breed of spinners
Darren Lehmann holds no fears for the young spinners Dan Cullen and Cullen Bailey if they are thrown into Tests against the batting might of India in January. Cullen, 23, and Bailey, 22, have been named in a four-man unit alongside Stuart MacGill and Cameron White for Australia A's tour to Pakistan, where they will jostle for positions in the pecking order.
MacGill's spot on the trip shows the national selectors view him as Shane Warne's medium-term replacement and he will use the visit in September to fine-tune for the Sri Lanka Tests in November and plan for the three-match series in Pakistan next year. However, Australia's home schedule has been revamped and the changes mean there are fewer opportunities to ease the next spin bowler into the side.
Traditionally the Sydney Test, where two slow men are mostly likely to appear, has been the final match of the contest and if the series result had been decided it would have been an ideal opportunity to introduce a new player. This season the SCG will host the second India match and the pressure of a live contest awaits the offspinner Cullen or Bailey, the legspinner, if the selectors seek a partner for MacGill.
Lehmann is confident his South Australian team-mates can cope against India's intimidating batting line-up. "It would be a great learning curve for them," he said. "Indian batsmen play spin well, but they don't traditionally play spin that well in Australia. It would be more making sure Bailey and Cullen are ready. They are both ahead of the game and where they want to be."
South Australia are due to play six Pura Cup matches before Christmas and Lehmann said it would be enough time to "see if they're ready to play Test cricket". "Then it will be a question of balance if Australia want a second spinner," he said. "It depends whether they want to play two leggies or a leggie and an offie."
Cullen and Bailey were named in Cricket Australia's 25-man contract list in May and it also included MacGill, White and Brad Hogg, who has become the one-day specialist. Bailey, who has bowled in 17 first-class games, was elevated suddenly due to Warne's retirement while Cullen retained his spot after making his debut against Bangladesh in 2006. They will both have opportunities to learn from MacGill, who took 15 wickets the last time Australia went to Pakistan in 1998-99, on the Australia A trip.
Lehmann is excited MacGill will have "free reign" after being stuck behind Warne for most of his career. "He'll do really well and now has a chance to play a lot for Australia," he said. "It's the place for the other guys to be ready if there's an injury or whatever might happen. It's a pretty hectic schedule over the next year and in that time they're going to have a turnover for injury and form."
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo