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Advice avalanche sent Lyon spinning

Daniel Brettig

October 18, 2012

Comments: 38 | Text size: A | A

Nathan Lyon bowls in the nets, Adelaide Oval, January 21, 2012
Nathan Lyon now relies on advice from a select group of coaches © Getty Images
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Entering a second summer as Australia's No. 1 spinner, Nathan Lyon has revealed his struggles to deal with the avalanche of bowling advice fired his way across the first 12 months of his time in the Test team.

One of the side-effects of Lyon's rapid rise from obscurity to the national team was that many glimpsed his bowling for the first time in Test matches. A return of 42 wickets at 27.83 from 13 Tests suggests Lyon had a decent enough idea of how to bowl but everyone, it seemed, had an opinion on how he might do better.

During the summer Lyon was incredulous to find himself being called by strangers advising him of how to gain better results against India's batsmen. Then, amid a difficult Australia A tour of England on which Lyon's bowling became "muddled" in the words of the national selector John Inverarity, it is believed he was even offered technical suggestions by Mitchell Johnson.

Having shown signs in the recent Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania of a return to the tantalising loop, curve and spin that first won him a national spot, Lyon said he was now very careful about who he listened to, keeping the counsel of a small group including the South Australia coach Darren Berry and the spin coaches Craig Howard and John Davison.

"It's been pretty difficult to be honest with you," Lyon told ESPNcricinfo. "To come into the thing and no-one say anything at the start, then come seven Tests you have people ringing you up and stuff. I've been fortunate to have Darren Berry and Craig Howard and John Davison on my side, and having that close unit together, really being able to work with each other.

"We've got that little group there where we all trust each other and are on the same page heading in the right direction. Everyone has their own opinion and stuff, but I've really tried to block that out and just worry about working with the people I really trust and know where my game is at and where I need to get to. I just rely on Darren Berry, Craig Howard and John Davison now really."

Inverarity was concerned by what he saw of Lyon in England, where he was outdone by the Victorian left-arm spinner Jon Holland. However the national selectors are determined to persist with Lyon, given the significant role he played a critical junctures of the past year, not least in Sri Lanka, the West Indies and also South Africa, where he took vital wickets in both innings of the epic Johannesburg Test.

"We hold Nathan in very high regard, he's a bowler with a lovely action, he gets drop and bounce and turn," Inverarity said. "For six months he got a bit muddled and he didn't bowl well on the A tour, and he didn't bowl well in Brisbane [against Queensland]. But in Adelaide he bowled much better.

"On the first day of the Shield game against Tasmania he bowled 30 overs, 0 for 90 in round figures. He got [Mark] Cosgrove dropped at mid-on, chest-high. He had [Alex] Doolan mistiming one to point and dropped, he had [Ricky] Ponting missed stumping. So he's got 3 for 50 let's say, and he might've picked up another couple. You can't do much more than deceive someone in flight and they hit it chest high to mid-on."

The ebb and flow of Lyon's rhythm is something the Australian hierarchy is prepared to roll with for a time, aware that Test matches account for exactly half of his 26 first-class appearances to date. Inverarity offered parallels with the young fast bowler James Pattinson, who has shown himself to be a bowler of great destructive capability at his peak, but one of rather more modest results when rhythm and swing prove elusive.

"You'll often see with fast bowlers it can often be little technical things … with Nathan he had a lovely rhythm and good drop and bounce and turn," Inverarity said. "For whatever reason he lost it, lost his rhythm, and he got frustrated and then I think he was running in to bowl and he was thinking about where his front arm was and he was falling short. He's practised now and is concentrating on where he's landing it.

"James Pattinson last December bowled superbly, and in Brisbane last week he bowled fast, he swung it, was accurate, he was terrific. In the West Indies and England he was not the same bowler, he was very ordinary. He lost pace and rhythm and was ordinary. So these things happen, particularly with young bowlers."

Irrespective of where his advice is coming from, Lyon knows he must keep improving so as to grow into a more senior member of Australia's bowling attack. It will help that he has a battery of high class fast bowlers around him, plus a captain in Michael Clarke who has the right sense of how best to use spin as an attacking weapon.

"Personal results always help, but we've really got a solid bowling group at the moment," Lyon said. "We've got quality fast bowlers, probably the best in the world at the moment, and it's really good working closely with Michael Clarke, he's fantastic and just being able to know my role has been a massive help over the last 12 months.

"Being able to play in 13 Tests and being involved in 14 Tests was unbelievable. I'm pretty grateful for all the opportunities I've had, but I really need to grab the ones that come my way this summer and really try to move forward, keep trying to improve and keep trying to win games of cricket for Australia."

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

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Chris_P on (October 19, 2012, 8:18 GMT)

I do enjoy going to the Gabba with my mates, been doing it since 1998 with a trip to Hobart when Punter got a double ton! As for my injury, being Captain I can play & field myself where I want. So far, 2 matches, didn't bat in game one as we were chasing a small total, then an undefeated 53 (I open) chasing 129 in a one dayer plus 2 catches in slips. But the knee is troubling (not hitting enough boundaries!)so am sharing the captaincy. Even giving myself the odd over or 2 !

Posted by zenboomerang on (October 19, 2012, 4:53 GMT)

As for Philander being called a great, even if he plays in every Test match until 2017 (&32y.o.) he will have only have played 50 Tests, which would be a minimum for most people in describing a players career record... Gillespie played 71 Tests & I wouldn't put him in the great catagory but I consider him a better bowler, though time will tell...

Posted by Meety on (October 19, 2012, 2:55 GMT)

@Chris_P on (October 19 2012, 00:45 AM GMT) - see you at the Gabba, going Day 1. As far as the injury, I've been lucky this season so far - I play Village cricket so my season has basically just finished! Regarding MJ - he really is everybody's whipping boy! As far as world's worst spinners I would of had Blackwell in that list but then I remember back to our A-tour & I think I'll just shut up!

Posted by PFEL on (October 19, 2012, 0:46 GMT)

I was under the impression that the passage about Mitchell Johnston offering technical advice was a joke. And a pretty funny one. It is surprising to see so many serious responses.

Posted by Chris_P on (October 19, 2012, 0:45 GMT)

@Meety, Yep, agreed, why it was even included is beyond me, probably to gain a reaction (which it did!). I am hoping the time before now & the first test is used wisely by Lyons, you just can't lose the style that has worked for you for so long. He was an integral part of the attack when selected (understand why he wasn't selected for Perth, which btw, probably finished Kreja's career). If we ever get another Colin Miller type of bowler who mixed up both pace & spin, Perth would be perfect. Got my tickets, time off, ready for the Gabba, & also going to the Adelaide test as well, so my own cricket is only going to be part season for me (still got a niggling knee injury so need a break).

Posted by Moppa on (October 18, 2012, 23:31 GMT)

@Gizza, I'm pretty sure there weren't penalties for slow over rates back in the Windies' heyday. I think they came in during the 1990s.

Posted by Chris_P on (October 18, 2012, 22:58 GMT)

@RednWhiteArmy. Now that's rich coming from a country that produced Hemmings, Giles, Tufnell, Emburey, Dawson et all who spun it less than I currently do!! LOL.

Posted by Meety on (October 18, 2012, 22:54 GMT)

@Gizza on (October 18 2012, 08:52 AM GMT) - btw - on the topic of how did the WIndies do it? The answer is - they didn't!!!! On the rare occassions that they didn't bowl the opposition out in a day, they struggled to get 75 overs in. I remember many a match would go an hour or so overtime when they were bowling. The WIndies style led to minimum overs laws. It really was a part of their mental disintigration of opposing teams as even if you were scoring at 3 rpo - you would barely be scoring 70 runs a session. @Chris_P on (October 18 2012, 21:08 PM GMT) - really not sure why MJ's name was raised in the article when it is termed "...it is believed he was even offered technical suggestions..." - believed? Either he did or he didn't, either a genuine source told him or its a bit of gossip, or maybe a false throw a way line where someone says "Ah even MJ was telling him to change his grip" Dunno, wouldn't want to report something like that unless I had it first hand!

Posted by RJHB on (October 18, 2012, 22:53 GMT)

Disappointing to hear of Lyon's troubles, and concerning to hear of all the would be do gooders offering him advice, qualified or not. Like other posters here I'm astounded Johnson has the gumption to offer anyone advice, let alone a spinner! That guy never could shutup! I'm also disappointed that neither of our great spinners from the recent past, Warne or MacGill, seem to be greatly involved in coaching. I know atleast Warne has done some part time development work I think at the AIS, but even though they were leggies, Australia badly needs them more involved at every level with all spinners.If only Warne could mentor a young kid like he benefited from Terry Jenner. And to those proclaiming the virtues of an all pace attack, you seem to be completely ignorant of a couple of significant facts: 1. Only one team has ever been successful with 4 fast men over a length of time- WI. 2. Captains cannot get away with bowling only 12 overs an hour these days, like the Windies did with 4 quicks

Posted by Meety on (October 18, 2012, 22:46 GMT)

@Wefinishthis on (October 18 2012, 11:43 AM GMT) - fair enough, but the fact is M Hussey had maintained his stats for over 20 tests. I just think it's way too early to make those calls about him. Cummins has an ave of 16 & Patto around 19, I think the conditions that Phillander has played in has suited him & whilst I expect him to be menacing in Oz, I would genuinely be surprised if he finishes with a series average below 25 (still VERY good). @Gizza on (October 18 2012, 08:52 AM GMT) - good points, the over rates almost demand a spinner, whilst these days bowlers don't seem to have the long run up of days gone by, the UDRS means that sides struggle to bowl 14 of the required 15 overs per hour at the best of time. That said, I think Oz would be picking a spinner primarily as a wicket taking option - particularly against the Saffa tail.Also with possibly a drier summer than previous few years, I would imagine a spinner will be very handy over Days 4 & 5 across the country.

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Daniel BrettigClose
Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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