Warne tells Lyon to stick with basics
Shane Warne has urged Nathan Lyon to simply focus on his stock ball rather than worrying about developing any new tricks as he aims to lock in his place as Australia's long-term Test spinner. And Warne said a potentially serious shoulder injury to the Victoria left-arm spinner Jon Holland, who he expected to be picked for next year's Ashes tour, could be a big blow as Australian cricket would need Holland as well as Lyon going forward.
Warne, who was at the MCG for his first net session since being named as captain of the Melbourne Stars, said there should be no question that Australia would play a spinner in the first Test against South Africa in Brisbane. The Gabba was Warne's most successful ground as a Test spinner - he took 68 wickets there at 20.30 - but the seam-friendly nature of Sheffield Shield pitches at the venue often makes four fast men a tempting option for selectors.
However, Australia's desire not to ask too much of its young fast men, combined with the fact that Lyon picked up seven wickets in his only Gabba Test, against New Zealand last year, means he will almost certainly play. Lyon is trying to regain his form in the Sheffield Shield after a disappointing Australia A tour of England this year and Warne believes Lyon, who conceded he had struggled with the avalanche of advice he had received over the past year, should go back to basics.
"Graeme Swann does okay [with only] the offbreak and the straight one. I think Nathan Lyon has done very well too," Warne said. "I think if he can just concentrate on his offbreak and the straight one I'm sure he'll be fine.
"For Nathan it's just to keep doing well. As a spinner, all you want to do is bowl well. Don't try too much stuff, just bowl well, and over a period of time you'll have better games than not. Keep spinning his offbreak, the odd straight one, think about the game pretty well, contribute to the team and that's it."
Warne believed Lyon and Holland could both play roles for Australia in future and he said he had very impressed with what he saw of Holland last year, when they were both on the Stars roster. Holland had been mentioned by the national selector John Inverarity as one of the two best spinners in the country last week, only to suffer a shoulder injury while fielding in club cricket at the weekend.
Holland was due to find out his prognosis after seeing a specialist on Tuesday, but there were strong fears within the Victoria camp that he would need a second shoulder reconstruction, having had one in 2010. Warne said Holland, who usually concentrates on a stock finger-spinner with subtle variations in pace and flight, was the kind of bowler who could provide value to Australia's Test team.
"Jon Holland is a big loss," Warne said. "I had him pencilled in about 12 or 18 months ago that him and Nathan Lyon would be on the Ashes next year and I was hopeful that both of them would play, especially for the balance of the team when you've got guys like Watson, Mitchell Marsh who can play as allrounders, you can play two spinners and one or two other quicks.
"It's a real big loss to lose Dutchy. He's really improved. I loved working with him last year. We worked on the mindset of bowling, how to approach bowling, and I think he really developed. He had a good finish to last year and he's been bowling really well. I really feel for Dutch and hopefully he'll be back as quick as possible because I really think Australian cricket needs him."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here