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Warne's spin on Australian slow bowling

Daniel Brettig

March 4, 2013

Comments: 39 | Text size: A | A

Nathan Lyon sends down a delivery, West Indies v Australia, 3rd Test, Roseau, 5th day, April 27, 2012
Australian spin bowlers have suffered from an emphasis on economy over wickets © Associated Press

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 here

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Posted by AKS286 on (March 5, 2013, 19:10 GMT)

@Ozcricketwriter As you say "we need a spin bowling coach" but it whom will be ? Because Lyon is better than warne, murli, gibbs, kumble, saqlain, swann, ajmal, harbhajan, herath, monty. IMO lyon don't need any spin coach & he is the future captain and coach of Aus.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (March 5, 2013, 15:26 GMT)

@ Eight8: Getting a batsman to play on is not a complete victory for a bowler. Just because Tendulkar chopped one back onto to his stumps does not make Lyon spin the ball any more than Ben Hilfenhaus. If you're a fan of spin bowling though, there are years' worth of videos of Swann ripping it square on flat decks to indulge in.

Posted by stoos on (March 5, 2013, 10:01 GMT)

makes you really feel for macgill and what a record he would have had

Posted by whatisitbillie on (March 5, 2013, 1:37 GMT)

I think the problem goes much deeper than just the current crop of spinners not receiving the experience and the support they need. I have a 10 year old son who has bowled leg spin since he picked up a cricket ball four years ago. He just has a nack for it but now that's he's older and needing to refine his skill finding specialised spin coaching is just about impossible. At clinics the emphasis is on pace bowling while just lip service is paid to spinners. This has the effect of young spinners not receiving the coaching they require but also our young batsman aren't experiencing what it's like to play a spin bowler. No wonder Phil Hughes and co look like rank amateurs against the Indian spinners. There needs to be more focus on identifying these young players with potential as spinners at the grassroots level so they can develop what is without doubt one of the great arts of this amazing sport.

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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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