Australia news November 3, 2011

We counted on MacGill to play on - Nielsen


Stuart MacGill threw Australian cricket's plan for life after Shane Warne into a state of confusion when he retired almost two years earlier than expected, the former national coach Tim Nielsen has said.

Nielsen revealed in an interview with ESPNcricinfo that the team expected MacGill to play on until the end of 2009, rather than ending his career in the middle of the 2008 West Indies tour.

Such a path would have had MacGill face India, New Zealand, South Africa and then England on the 2009 Ashes tour. Instead, his retirement started a cycle of scatter-shot spin bowling selections that continued unabated for three years, and may only be settling now after Nathan Lyon's success on his first Test tour in Sri Lanka.

Nielsen admitted he was unsure whether in all that time the team and the selectors knew exactly what they were looking for in a spinner.

"I just wonder whether we ever clearly understood what role we wanted the spinner to actually play," Nielsen said. "We came off the Warne era and the MacGill era, MacGill retired in the West Indies in '08 which was why Beau [Casson] came in to debut.

"What really was the issue was we counted on MacGill to play through until the end of 2009 really, and when that changed, it put us under a bit of pressure from a spin bowling stocks point of view, we had young blokes who weren't quite ready and maybe thrown in the deep end a bit early. At different times there were decisions made that it might actually hurt them more to keep going rather than just yank them out and let them play a bit more Shield cricket."

Having spent most of his career in the shadow of Warne, MacGill became Australia's No. 1 spinner at the end of 2007 but immediately ran into a range of physical problems, from chronic knee trouble to the damaging emergence of carpal-tunnel syndrome, which robbed him of feeling in his spinning fingers.

"MacGill isn't talked about much but he took 200 Test wickets. By then he was probably older than he needed to be to play every Test match for a couple of years," Nielsen said. "He'd played a lot of Test cricket by the time he got the opportunity to be the only spinner, he must've played 50 Test matches, and he had chronic knees, he'd been around the system for a long time.

"What we did do after that was speculate a couple of times, that didn't quite work out, [Nathan] Hauritz has been pretty good I reckon. Because we've had a few spinners in a row it continues to be talked about, and in the background under all that you say is SK Warne. Someone we relied on and loved to have for so long, was no longer there.

"It was a hard place to be as a spinner because there was this public expectation of the next Warne and our Test match victories a lot of the time happened with the quicks doing damage in the first part of the game and then Warney cleaning up in the second half. When we didn't have that sort of option there was pressure put on publicly and I'm sure they felt it themselves, so it wasn't that easy."

Among the most curious cases in Australia's spin saga was that of Jason Krejza, dropped only one Test after taking 12 wickets on his debut in India as an aggressive bowler. Nielsen said that looking back, Krejza might easily have been persisted with, though he also highlighted the problem of bowlers learning their trade at Test level because they were not given enough room by their states in first-class cricket.

"In hindsight it is easy to say exactly that, we should have stuck with him," Nielsen said. "The hard part was he was very inexperienced, a bit like us having to pick Hauritz out of the NSW second XI. Everybody yells and screams about the selectors having to pick spinners, well I'd like the states to start picking some spinners as well and sticking with them.

"While the selectors can be panned for that, it is bloody hard to go up and learn your caper at the highest level. We need to get these kids in there and give them a run and a chance to get their heads around first-class cricket, and learn. Ideally by the time they get to Test match cricket they've been up and down and through the mill a couple of times, and understand how to cope when its not spinning a lot in Perth or its not going that well in Brisbane. They've learned by playing there."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Anupam on November 6, 2011, 14:34 GMT

    if mcgain will get next chance then definately vineto also get chance.

  • Anupam on November 6, 2011, 14:29 GMT

    @dr. qwert mary go round in spinners agree OK. BIG BUT mary go round apply on fast bowlers too pattinson, cumming, butterworth, mckay, hilfy,harris, siddle, bollinger, hazelwood, copeland, hasting, ETC except of MJ can anyone predict the next 2 pacers? some peoples are here if any bowler perform well in 1-2 matches they start saying select mr. X,Y,Z blaa blaa.adam voges is the man who deserve position in test M.hussey & a. voges together solid combination. clark is the one of the unlucky players of Oz. BEER is the best among all spinners in the international level beer must be in test, odi.

  • Andrew on November 5, 2011, 22:37 GMT

    When all the Ozzy greats started retiring, Oz was well placed to replace all of them well, for a reasonable period of time, (2 to 3 yrs). McGrath - Clark, Langar - Katich, Hayden - Jaques, Symonds - Watson, Gilchrest - Haddin, Warne - McGill, Gillespie - MJ, Martyn - Hussey. With Lee the spearhead, Oz could of fielded a side that (more "mortal" than previous), but # 1 for a lot longer than they did. Clark & Lee got injured, leaving MJ to carry the can a lot earlier than anticipated, then McGill & Hogg were injured or retired - the spin merry-go-round started - very destabilizing, Jaques got injured & NEVER regained form, he can't even get a hit with NSW at the moment. Haddin never quite reached the batting heights ecpected - I thought he would average around the low to mid 40s - currently about 38. What this has done - to be fair is put the selectors in an uncomfortable position & bring forward some players who weren't quite ready or not suitable to the role, (North was out of posi).

  • David on November 5, 2011, 3:56 GMT

    is their any consistency in what they say & what they do? Steve Smith, a clearly underdone cricketer picked in a team he wasn't going to bowl in... picked as a second spinner? but as Neilsen said "We need to get these kids in there and give them a run and a chance to get their heads around first-class cricket, and learn." But that aside Krejza should have been persisted with, I said that at the time & hindsight he admits may have proven me right. Hauritz shouldn't have been dropped either, although he'd be better with a pace attack lead by a more steady McGrath or even a Stuart Clark type bowler than Mitchell Johnson (nothing against Johnson) building pressure. McGain deserved a second chance albeit he was 36 at the time.

  • Andrew on November 4, 2011, 11:06 GMT

    @Doogius - no worries matey! As for Qadir, mate he was wild! Great Leggie, but sometimes I think he wished he was a pace bowler like Imran! == == == Coulter-Nile is now injured! I reckon he was just about in contention to train with the Test team before the NZ series. This is a massive blow. On the other hand, Cutting has been tearing it up this season, I think he is an almost certain starter for the next Ashes! (Assuming NOT INJURED!)

  • Shane on November 4, 2011, 8:41 GMT

    @Meety, sorry dude, I stand corrected (and am showing my age :). 1day cricket was the argument at the time. But, they also played bucket load more shield games in those days. The 60's and 70's was when we produced spinners consistently - now we produce trundlers. Warne and McGill were freaks inspired by Qadir. There a little younger than me but when he came here, he inspired a lot of people. I (like yourself I imagine) just want to see balanced cricket, something for the quickie, the batsmen, the spinner. Producing roads doesn't inspire balanced cricket (even if Canberrans deserve it:)

  • Andrew on November 4, 2011, 7:59 GMT

    @Doogius - not sure what you meant "...but 5 day shield cricket was trashed because of the workload ..." - but there was never 5 days of play in Shield cricket until Finals from 1980 or 81. However, there were rest days. I am also not sure what you mean by "...if we give fast bowlers a legup - say let them bowl off 18 yds..." I would hate to see a world where only spinners operate, but all I was saying is leave the Gabba etc the way they are, but add a regular ground that is conducive to spin. More opportunities = more chance of unearthing a genuine prospect. As for your thoughts about "Argus review = if your good enough = you play" - I'm cool with that, but if you look around, a lot of spinners get select & are just token in attendance, they're not getting much of a go, anybody can spot instances that are the opposite of what I said, but the long term trend has been away from using spinners in FC games. The opposite is happening in ODIs/T20s.

  • Anupam on November 4, 2011, 5:35 GMT

    if lyon successful career in SL then what u say about kreja debut against india, SL now a days playing very very poor test cricket. domestic records are very much different to the international. various examples mark ramprakash, robert key, m de vinuto, elliot, mark taylor,KP, kirtley , dhoni, etc check out there domestic & international record.o'keefe & dohertry are the domestic heroes these two never bowl openly in international cricket. they want to hide themselves dont bowl like a spinner. but beer guts and bowl with confidence in the ashes.

  • Shane on November 4, 2011, 5:18 GMT

    @ Everyone - I can finish the spinners wicket debate real quick. the only world class spinner produced at the SCG (when it turned) was Stuey and he wasn't even our best at the time. MCG doesn't spin at all and look at Warnie. Tim May - SA, Hoggy - WA. You have to go back a long way to find a NSW spinner who could take wickets in most places. Argus review = if your good enough = you play - why should spinners be any different. Now in a 5 day game they actually get to show they are good enough. In 4 days - not a chance. But really, what does it matter. The ACB will go there own way as usual...

  • Shane on November 4, 2011, 3:48 GMT

    @Meety. So to use your logic - if we give fast bowlers a legup - say let them bowl off 18 yds, we'll have the best fasties in the world. As for Banga - no criticism on them but a world where only spin bowlers bowl is a very boring world indeed. What spinners need to do is be tight and conservative when conditions are against them but attack hard when they're favourable. Not sure how old you are but 5 day shield cricket was trashed because of the workload for the Oz guys (the idea was with 4 day cricket - they would make themselves more available). History has suggested that it never worked out - the Oz players went to the IPL instead. So if the Argus review suggests that Tests are the No.1, heres an easy way for the ACB to prove it. Anyone fancy holding there breath on it :)

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