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Warne content with spin's low-key role

For 16 years, Shane Warne was Australia's primary match-winner. Now he hopes Australia can accept spinners whose main role is support.

Brydon Coverdale

October 23, 2012

Comments: 37 | Text size: A | A

Shane Warne in the MCG nets, Melbourne, October 23, 2012
A 43-year-old Shane Warne in the MCG nets © Getty Images
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Shane Warne had a bowl in the MCG nets on Tuesday. At 43, he is slim and fit, but he has plenty of rust to shed over the next couple of months, before his first match as captain of the Melbourne Stars. Even the greatest legspinner the game has seen was unable to land his first ball, a full toss. As Warne has been saying ever since his retirement, spin bowling is damn hard. Spinners need to be treated with patience.

It is nearly six years since Warne last wore the baggy green. Throughout that time he has been adamant that Australia's selectors should choose a spinner and stick with him. Show some faith. Give him a chance to settle in. Instead, they used 11 slow bowlers in Test cricket in four years. Not even Elizabeth Taylor discarded men at such a rapid rate.

But over the past year, Warne's words have been heeded by a new panel of selectors, who have chosen Nathan Lyon for 13 Tests, flinching only when they chose four fast men who ended up demolishing India in two and a half days at the WACA last summer. Now that patience has been shown, Warne wants Australians to accept that spinners in this country are unlikely to be match-winners over the next few years.

That doesn't mean they can't do an important job. Without question, there is depth in Australia's pace bowling stocks at the moment, from the older, tougher trio of Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus and Ryan Harris to the stars of the future, James Pattinson, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc. If Lyon can play the kind of supporting role Ashley Mallett did to Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thomson and co during the 1970s, he will have done his job.

"We're very lucky that we've got some super quick bowling, a great corps of quick bowling," Warne said. "It might be an era where the quicks dominate and the spinner takes a bit of a backward role and just does his job. When the time comes, when the pitches start to rag, whether it be Adelaide on day five or Brisbane on day five or Sydney - although Sydney hasn't turned for ten years - we get on a wicket that starts to really turn, that's when it's payday for them and they go 'hang on, it's my turn now'."

The idea of playing a spinner who was more foil than frontline wicket taker was common throughout the 1970s and 80s, from Mallett to Bruce Yardley to Greg Matthews to Tim May to Peter Taylor. It was only when Warne redefined legspin in the 1990s that the perception changed. The presence of Stuart MacGill as his backup re-enforced the notion that the spinner could, and should, deliver regular victories for his side.

"We've just got to have a bit of patience with them and let them develop," Warne said of the next generation of slow bowlers. "They're not going to be matchwinners from day one and in their first season take 50 wickets - no one has done that for ages in Shield cricket."

Not since MacGill has a spinner really dominated the Sheffield Shield. In the past decade, there have been 86 occasions when a fast bowler has claimed 30 wickets in a Shield season. In the same period, spinners have done it only five times (MacGill three times, Bryce McGain and Dan Cullen once each). That is as much a product of green seaming domestic pitches as a decline in the quality of Australia's spin bowlers.

The lack of turning surfaces has done little to encourage legspinners in particular. Queensland's Cameron Boyce is the only wrist-spinner currently being given regular Shield action. Steven Smith now considers himself a batsman who bowls occasionally, the same career progression that was followed by Cameron White. South Australia's Cullen Bailey was given a few chances last summer under the state's open-minded new coach Darren Berry, but hasn't been sighted this season. Nor is there an abundance of legspinners coming through the junior levels.

"I'll tell you why there's no wrist-spinners ... It's hard. It's not easy. You need encouragement," Warne said. "I think sometimes the captaincy at junior level that I've found with a lot of the kids playing is when they do get to 14 or 15 and they get smacked around the park, or they bowl a few double-bouncers, the encouragement is not there and they get taken off and they say this is a bit hard, let's just go with a medium pacer.

 
 
"They're not going to be matchwinners from day one and in their first season take 50 wickets - no one has done that for ages in Shield cricket" Shane Warne on the next generation of spinners
 

"A lot of people who had a lot of talent around 15 or 16 and wanted to do it then lose interest and go, 'well I might go to the beach instead, this is not much fun'. Cricket back in the under-age [levels] should be fun. If they can have fun as kids and have a bit of fun with the ball and get supported by their captain and coach, be encouraged rather than 'let's not do that, let's bowl really fast and don't get hit'. That's not really encouraging spin bowling."

It's not just the way spinners are used in junior cricket that has occupied the thoughts of those in cricket recently. After returning home from the World T20, where unconventional spinners like Ajantha Mendis, Sunil Narine and Saeed Ajmal were stand-out performers, Australia's T20 captain George Bailey said he hoped that Australia could one day find similarly unusual bowlers, which could only happen if they were encouraged at under-age levels. But Warne doesn't believe it should be a major point of concern.

"I don't think in Australia we do that. We do the basics, we're traditional," Warne said. "Sure, we do a few things out of left field and always look to improve the players, but I don't think we're into all the different [styles]. How do you coach it? If someone comes along that's really unique you'll embrace them and encourage them, but you're not going to go and teach doosras and all those sorts of things, because really, great if you can do it, but for me I'm all about the basics.

"It's all about the mindset and how they approach the game. Sure, you have to spin the ball if you're a spinner… That's the first thing you work on is spinning it and if you can make it go a few different ways, then great. But I wouldn't be coaching different sort of techniques that might push the 15-degree level."

And that goes to the heart of Warne's argument about the state of spin bowling in Australia. Get the basics right, play a role and don't worry if it's the fast men who take all the accolades. Because as Warne himself showed on Tuesday, it's not always easy to make the ball talk. Even if you were once the best in the world.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Meety on (October 25, 2012, 11:03 GMT)

@rickyvoncanterbury on (October 25 2012, 08:39 AM GMT) - no worries.

Posted by rickyvoncanterbury on (October 25, 2012, 8:39 GMT)

@Meety and Stephan Miller I must learn to construct sentenses a bit better, (not a strong point) The point i was trying to make was that scoreboard pressure as well as the quality of fast bowlers allowed Warnie more cheap wickets than a lot of other spinners, but the same can be said for some fast bowlers Warnies pressure gave them some cheap wickets. No way was i saying anyone was better than Warne and Stephen I have seen plenty of Warnie, and i did see plenty of heroics.

Posted by Meety on (October 24, 2012, 23:30 GMT)

@rickyvoncanterbury on (October 24 2012, 09:08 AM GMT) - as per S Miller's comments, I think Warne would of been great no matter how good our batting was. On Ajmal, I think the REAL question is, "Imagine how good he would be IF he had 9 half decent fielders & a keeper!"???

Posted by   on (October 24, 2012, 11:57 GMT)

@rickyvoncanterbury. Did you watch Warne? He often did best precisely when Australia were in trouble. The 2005 Ashes is a case in point. And he bowled well on surfaces not known to be spin friendly.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (October 24, 2012, 11:01 GMT)

@Meety. Thanks, mate. At least you understood what I was driving at (some others just didn't get it) & I think your point about more relaxed coaching methods in the subcontient makes good sense. Bradman taught himself; he was no text-book stylist but his absolute effectiveness can never be doubted. Some, perhaps most, of the mystery spinners today don't appear to have been coached (thank heavens!); they have just found a way of maximising what benefits their anatomy have given them. Next topic for debate: great cricketers are born, not made/coached.

Posted by PFEL on (October 24, 2012, 10:00 GMT)

In my opinion there aren't any spinners in Aus cricket, but hthe moment even close to world class, except maybe Brad Hogg, but he seems past his best. It's annoying that we had 2 of the best spinners in the world in MacGill and Hogg who hardly got a game through the 2000's and now the cupboard seems pretty bare. I agree Lyon had tremendous potential, but not any more so than Beer, Holland, O'Keefe etc. Hauritz/Krejza should never have been dropped, and at least they could bat a bit to contribute when they weren't required to take wickets.

Posted by rickyvoncanterbury on (October 24, 2012, 9:08 GMT)

When comparing any spinner to Warne, you have to ask yourself how would say Ajmal go if teammates consistently scored 400 or more in the first innings, then have them 2 or 3 or more down when you come on. taking nothing away from the great man.

Posted by Meety on (October 24, 2012, 8:20 GMT)

@PFEL on (October 24 2012, 06:53 AM GMT) - in my books wickets are wickets. Lyon gets a lot of tailenders due to him bowling most of his overs in his short test career after the pacers have run through the top order. As far as getting wickets on a dustbowl, again the fact is he had to take those wickets - if not him who else? What do you define as world class? I don't disagree that our depth in pace bowling means he'd be lucky to be in our top 20 bowlers. Whilst it is one thing to dismiss Lyon's wickets as tailenders - I'll give you a couple of bits of food for thought - 1. The last time the Saffas played Tests here - we generally ran thru the top order, look at how we went against the tail! 2. Warne took more tail end wickets than Murali - does that mean Warne was less of a bowler? BTW - I think Lyon is a promising spinner, who if stuck with could become our best (or one of) offie ever (Oz don't have too many greats in that category). Early days though!

Posted by PFEL on (October 24, 2012, 6:53 GMT)

I don't believe Lyon is even close to world class, and probably not even in the top 20 bowlers in Aus at the moment. Numbers aren't everything and his "decent" test stats are a result of luck more than anyone else. He made his debut and took 5 for 30 on a dust bowl where any club spinner could have taken wickets, and if you watched any of last summer's tests you would notice almost all his wickets were tail enders, and pup mostly brought him on for when the tailenders came out to bat. Given that Australia's best bowlers are all quicks, it would make sense to play 4 quicks and select a spin option who can contribute significantly with the bat, if at all.

Posted by Meety on (October 24, 2012, 4:39 GMT)

Gilly4ever on (October 24 2012, 03:02 AM GMT) - not disagreeing with your POV, but are you saying Lyon is not world class, given his averages in Tests are superior to most of our pacers?

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (October 24, 2012, 3:02 GMT)

4 fast men. 4 fast men. 4 fast men. This is the way forward for Australia. If and only if we have another true world class spin bowler should we bother with one. Right now, we have at least a dozen fast bowlers who are better than our best spinner. We should go with our strengths. Just make sure to have variety in the fast men, with left/right swing/pace etc.

Posted by PYC1959 on (October 24, 2012, 2:46 GMT)

Warne is spot on with the comments regarding leg spin at a junior level. 99% of coaches at this level take a leggy off if he gets hit for a boundary in an over. There is NO understanding of the art. Even at state Junior, well meaning coaches try to change the action and fiddle with variations that even they do not understand. Not everyone is going to be a Warne, but I hate to think how many good young leg spinners have fallen by the way because of complete lack of understanding and encouragement by un-qualified junior coaches who have a win at all cost mentality and not a mentality of development and encouragement....

Posted by mikey76 on (October 24, 2012, 1:36 GMT)

Far too much made of so called mystery spin. Swann has proven over the last 2-3 years that if you spin the ball hard and vary your flight you can be just as successful as Ajmal and more so than the likes of Narine and Mendis. England had a decent stock of spinners coming through, I don't think we need guys with bent arms bowling doosra's. We just need bowlers that can spin the ball and know how to vary their pace, something Panesar has found difficult to master.

Posted by Sulaimaan91 on (October 24, 2012, 1:24 GMT)

@jonathonjosephs agree with all of what you have written but not about 'warne chucking'.It is a known fact that a conventional leggie cannot throw, its simple to understand why as well. What the biomechanics did find was that a great no. of fast bowlers including the like of McGrath,Akhtar all did chuck the ball and this is something which most aussies and other haters quickly forget.

Posted by Meety on (October 24, 2012, 0:19 GMT)

@Nutcutlet on (October 23 2012, 07:56 AM GMT) - mate, when I first started to read your post I thought "uh oh" - this will be trouble. LOL! Then I saw the point you were trying to make & wonder how plausible that could be. It is probably a combination of what you are saying & the fact that Oz, SA, Eng & NZ are a bit more traditional & textbook-like in the way we teach kids to bowl. @PFEL on (October 23 2012, 19:51 PM GMT) - not sure if my original post made it thru, but I believe Afro-Americans have slightly achiles tendons than other races, I was NOT alluding to anything else!!!

Posted by Meety on (October 24, 2012, 0:15 GMT)

@johnathonjosephs on (October 23 2012, 23:48 PM GMT) - settle down matey! Just so you know - there is a fundamental differnce between the words "bent" & "chuck" - on this article, nobody has suggested anyone chucks - except for you! There is nothing wrong with bowling with a BENT arm, the only issue arises when a bent arm is straightened. The good news is, for the future, that there is technology that is available now that will be able to be used whilst matches are in play & not just in a lab. The reality is, that until Murali was cleared by biomechanics, his tecnique qas extraordinary & to the naked eye looked at the very least rubbery & the opposite to textbook. I think Murali is a great human being & sportsmen (in every sense of the word), but he like Ajmal have some different attributes that possibly allowed him to do what he did - that is what the likes of @nutcutlet & @Moppa were saying I believe.

Posted by johnathonjosephs on (October 23, 2012, 23:48 GMT)

How can so many people here say that subcontinent spinners are "encouraged" to spin with bent arms and that they know for a fact that those spinners are breaking the rules. All of a sudden, these people know more than the biomechanics (those who devote their life to this sort of thing). Face it folks, Murali, Ajmal, and Harbhajan were all cleared by some of the best biomechanics in the world. Those same biomechanics that said that 99% of all bowlers "chuck" including Shane Warne. I think I (along with the ICC and most cricket fans with brains) am more willing to take the word of actual biomechanics who tested these players themselves than fans who just look at the telly all day. And yes, lets start with the facts: Murali is greater than Warne statistically and Ajmal is simply the best spinner at the current moment statistically (better than Swann). Make up all the excuses you want, it won't change anything.

Posted by PFEL on (October 23, 2012, 19:51 GMT)

Nutcutlet what a load of rubbish! The higher proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibres has long been accepted as the reason for the advantage african-american people have in sprinting, but trying to equate "Mystery spinners" with genetics is absurd. The problem is in Australia they will not be allowed to bowl with a bent arm, whereas growing up in India/Sri Lanka they would be encouraged.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (October 23, 2012, 19:02 GMT)

@ Francis Fabian. I'm not talking about greatness, I'm asking about specific sporting/athletic abilities that seem to be found in some peoples & not in others. I am certainly no expert & if you'd bothered to read my post in full, you'd realise that I'm asking a question: do you have an answer? Do you contest my thesis? If you do, please provide examples that refute my contentions.

Posted by landl47 on (October 23, 2012, 16:26 GMT)

Richie Benaud, one of the best legspinners and most astute people ever to play, was given a piece of advice by Bill O'Reilly, which he in turn passed on to Warne. A bowler wanting to be a good legspinner must develop a stock ball which turns viciously from leg to off. This will take FOUR YEARS to develop. Benaud says it did take him four years, but Warne was so gifted that he mastered it in two years. Warne was the best bowler, of any type, that I have ever seen (and I did see Laker, Hammond, though not O'Reilly) and is an exception, but other bowlers could be top quality if they put in the work. 'Mystery spinners' have either naturally or manufactured bent arm deliveries. Australia and England aren't manufacturing them, so we have to wait for someone congenitally deformed to come along, or put in the work to bowl spin the traditional way.

Posted by   on (October 23, 2012, 16:03 GMT)

One of the best test spinners, and his biggest weapon was doing the basics with incredible precision and heart. But that doesn't necessarily mean that is the only way. The equally brilliant (if not better) spinner Murali was unorthodox and went on to become the world's leading wicket taker in ODIs and Tests, while satisfying the 'under the 15 degrees' rule (as proven several times). Maybe not coach magic like that, but encouraging unique styles could be useful for Aus. Even if they cannot find someone of Murali's genius, an unorthodox spinner like Ajmal, Narine etc may be useful. Otherwise, just by looking for 'normal' spinners like Warne, or even Swann, may be limiting options too much. But agreed that there is nothing wrong with having an attack of class fast bowlers like SA do, but the quality of Aus fast bowlers is definitely not up there, yet.

Posted by Hammond on (October 23, 2012, 13:34 GMT)

@Rajesh_india_1990- to me the greatest spinner of all time must be either Jim Laker or Bill O'Reilly. Can't see anyone else taking the mantle.

Posted by rollertroy on (October 23, 2012, 12:19 GMT)

32 overs of spin on day 1 at AO today. 4 spinners selected...

Posted by IndianInnerEdge on (October 23, 2012, 11:17 GMT)

If thatz a recent pic of Warnie, he looks in top shape....!!!!!-if he somehow qualified to play for india, i guess he would be an automatic selection!! I think his take on the quality (or paucity) of spinners in the Aus ranks is spot on, firstly you cannot expect your next spinner to be another warnie-this was a one-off, Secondly with the advent of the multiple 20-20 leagues, will be difficult to spot the next genuine wrist spinning leg spinner with the flight, guile and loop that warnie had, Thirdly-bounce played an imp role in majority of warne's wickets-i donot think the Aus pitches or indeed pitches worldwide offer that amount of bounce for a spinner (turn-yes/maybe)-again a knockover effect of 20/20 ? @ nutcutlet-interesting thought-i have pondered on the same as well...i thought the subcontinentals would'nt be good in impact sports but then India did win medals in boxing inthe last 2 olympics!

Posted by   on (October 23, 2012, 11:05 GMT)

Moppa I don't think Warne has had that positive an influence to be honest. Because Warne was so good, and unlike 99% of legspinners he could both take wickets and bowl economically at the same time, he raised expectations of what should be expected of a wrist spinner to a ridiculous degree. Very few spinners can go for under 3 an over and still pose a match winning threat. In terms of wrist spinners that is even fewer.

In reality leg spinners are luxury items as they are attacking weapons that can't be expected to bowl economically. As such they need to play as part of a 5 man attack in which they can be protected.

In the short term Australia needs to cut its cloth and find a spinner in the mould of an Ashley Giles or Paul Harris. Basically a spinner who can hold an end up, bowl economically and allow the fast bowlers to be rotated. They might not win many test matches but they would allow the rest of the bowling attack to function to its optimum.

Posted by   on (October 23, 2012, 10:12 GMT)

Nutcutlet is a bio-mechanics expert? That canard about certain races being better at different skills can't go unchallenged. The history of cricket has shown short, tall, batsmen & bowlers from every ethnic group being great (and not so great).

Posted by Rajesh_india_1990 on (October 23, 2012, 10:11 GMT)

arguably the best spinner ever ahead of murali and kumble...

Posted by Moppa on (October 23, 2012, 9:39 GMT)

@kensohatter, fair go, you can hardly expect the simple existence of Warney to then mean that we get another genius within 20 years! He is a freak and we'll be lucky to get one half as good in the next 20 years (we've already used that one up: MacGill). But I think he has 'revived' the art of leg spin bowling to a large degree, at least in Australia. I remember as a kid wondering what on earth Peter Sleep was trying to do flapping his arms around like that. Now I think I have an idea. (OK, maybe that was a bad example - I'm actually not really sure what Peter Sleep was trying to do). Now a whole generation of club cricket captains and cricket watchers at least understand and appreciate the art - hopefully we'll appreciate the next Test quality (but mere mortal) leg-spinner that comes along, rather than crucifying him for not being Warne.

Posted by rickyvoncanterbury on (October 23, 2012, 9:16 GMT)

its a good thing our next overseas opponent have absolutely no idea how to play spin, whoever we pick will look like Warne.

Posted by Green_and_Gold on (October 23, 2012, 8:49 GMT)

@Meety - Yes, yes he would be out of place against the Saffas! He would probably take wickets but would def be out of place!

Posted by   on (October 23, 2012, 8:45 GMT)

Shane has hit the nail on the proverbial once again...smart, sensible and astute. Nice one mate!

Posted by Hammond on (October 23, 2012, 8:44 GMT)

Young blokes in Australia are too interested in their IPads to be worrying about trying to learn the complex (and long gestation period) of leg spin bowling. Hordern, Mailey, Grimmett & O'Reilly all spent years practicing on their own before they became any good. Young blokes these days are more like to be master of the Twitter rather than the Flipper.

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (October 23, 2012, 8:44 GMT)

Roughly translated this means "Unfortunately, I was the only decent spinner in the country & it seems I still am"

Posted by kensohatter on (October 23, 2012, 8:26 GMT)

Whats most disappointing is that for all the talk of Warne reviving the lost art of leg spin I dont really see any spinner in the Australian ranks that is going to dominate a game even half as much as Warnie did. The other disappointing this is the pitches which as Warne points out in this article are not spinning tracks making it even harder for spinners to dominate especially in 4 day games. Something needs to be done to help spinners get to the national team against the odds. Maybe we protect spinners at shield level by enforcing a min number of 'spin' overs. Or perhaps if they must play only 4 day games the pitch will remain uncovered for the day before so the last day is akin to a last day test pitch.

Posted by disco_bob on (October 23, 2012, 8:25 GMT)

If Warney wants to be taken seriously he'll need to put on about 15 kilos.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (October 23, 2012, 7:56 GMT)

Interesting. Oz, like England seems unable to discover a spinner with a completely unorthodox, 'mystery' ball or two, yet there are several that have non-white ethnicity who are currently regarded as the most challenging slow bowlers on the planet (with the possible exception of Swann). What's more, I strongly suspect that A Mendis, Ajmal & Narine will not be alone. There must be a score waiting in the wings - and no guesses for where these headline-makers of the near future are living. In batting too, it has long been acknowledged (since Ranji onwards!) that subcontinental batsmen display a range of wristy shots that are seldom if ever matched by their white-skinned counterparts in Oz, NZ or England. When it comes to supple wrists (and powerful prehensile fingers) the evidence suggests that this anatomical advantage lies with the subcontinental peoples. And in athletics, the world will never see a non-black 100m champion again. Is there an explanation for these wonderful differences?

Posted by Meety on (October 23, 2012, 7:49 GMT)

Looking in such good shape (judging by the file pic), would he be out of place with a Baggy Green on against the Saffas????

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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