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March 4, 2013
Shane Warne's manifesto for Australian cricket has finally ventured into the area he knows most about: spin bowling. In summing up the underlying reasons for a dreadful dearth in genuinely accomplished spinners around the country, Warne all but acknowledges that his was an impossible act to follow.
While offering the novel suggestion that spin bowlers the world over would benefit from an increase in the height and width of the stumps to compensate for advancements in bats and the reduced size of grounds, Warne's main point revolved around how spinners are viewed in Australia.
He reasoned that spin bowlers are now expected to provide exactly the sort of threat he once did - simultaneously an attacking weapon and defensive bulwark, able to dry up runs then clamber all over an opponent with wickets the moment circumstances changed. This, Warne said, was a commission too great to expect of the vast majority of young slow bowlers.
"I think the problem lies in what we expect from our young spin bowlers and the way they are handled at domestic level by their captains and coaches," Warne wrote. "The attitude should always be about taking wickets and not about economy rates: 4/100 off 25 overs is a good result and better than 2/60 off 25 overs.
"I believe the expectations are too high and the young spinners are put under a lot of pressure to be both attacking wicket takers as well as tight economical bowlers, which is very hard to do.
"My guidelines on what to look for in a young spinner is pretty simple; someone who can spin the ball. Any fast bowler that can swing or make the ball move has a chance to take wickets; if they bowl straight they will struggle. The same criteria applies for spin bowling."
Among the problems faced by young spinners is the expectation, both from themselves and their captains, that they will be capable of bowling equally well across all three formats, when the subtleties and requirements range from first-class matches to Twenty20s is vast.
Warne did not play T20 until his career was entering its twilight - how different might he have turned out if he had been juggling the shortest form with first-class matches and his early Tests in 1992?
"Twenty20 and 50 over cricket are a hindrance in the development of a young spinner as you have to bowl differently in those forms; with so many $'s involved in the various 20/20 competitions around the world, it's not an easy situation," Warne wrote. "This is where the responsibility falls upon the player.
"If the young spinner wants to play Test cricket for Australia, then maybe they have to back themselves to learn how to bowl before taking up the options available to them around the world in the shorter forms of the game.
"Easy to say, I know, but I believe we should identify our top four spinners and put them on a decent contract and have them play nothing but first class cricket for twelve months and then take a view and re-assess."
Lastly, Warne emphasised the importance of a strong, constructive relationship between a spin bowler and his captain. While Michael Clarke has largely set a decent example of this for Australia in recent times, stories are legion of Shield and club captains either misusing their spinners or ignoring them completely.
"They also have to play under a captain who is prepared to back the spinner and play them in all 10-shield games not just in Adelaide or Sydney where the ball spins," Warne wrote. "This way, the spinner gets experience in all the different conditions and the good spinners will adapt and find a way to be successful.
"The more a captain can put a young spinner, and the team for that matter, in situations where they have to learn how to win a game for the team or help contribute to a win, the faster the jar of experience strengthens along with their confidence.
"Nothing beats knowing the captain has faith in you and will back you, as Alan Border did with me when I started. It means a lot, eases your mindset and boosts your confidence."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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