Lyon out of Cup before Test series
Nathan Lyon has revealed the extent of his typecasting by the national selectors, who told him he would not figure in Australia's World Cup plans even before the Border-Gavaskar Test series in which he was the leading wicket-taker on either side.
As Australia's ODI team limbers up for the Cup, Lyon has been turning in strong displays for the Sydney Sixers in the Big Bash League, helping his side to Wednesday's final against the Perth Scorchers at his old home ground of Manuka Oval in Canberra.
His aggressive finger spin has kept the runs down while also claiming vital wickets, and Lyon disagrees with the view that appears to have formed that he would struggle to contain batsmen with only four fielders outside the circle in 50-over contests.
"I personally don't believe so," Lyon told ESPNcricinfo. "If you're bowling well enough and your skills are at the top of their level then it doesn't matter how many fielders are out. You try to control where the batter is hitting - I know the skill of the batsmen can put you off your game but if the skill of the bowler and especially the spin bowler can come out on top you will end up with the goods anyway.
"I've just got to go out and keep bowling well and keep putting my hand up for selection. There's no point hiding from it, I want to be the spinner in all three formats, so it's a good challenge for me."
Lyon's brief stints in the ODI team reaped decent enough results in Zimbabwe and the UAE, where his spin, flight and loop notably troubled Pakistan's batsmen in the first two ODIs of a three-match series. But he was rested from the third match in Abu Dhabi then did not get another opportunity, and was informed of his World Cup omission before a match-winning turn at Adelaide Oval. To this day he has only ever played a single ODI in Australia, as far back as the summer of 2011-12.
"I really enjoyed my time back in the one-day side, while it lasted," Lyon said with a rueful chuckle. "I played my last game then I got rested, and then went from being rested to dropped completely. That's how it goes, and when I get my opportunity next I need to take it with both hands again and keep bowling well as I feel I'm bowling at the moment.
"I felt I bowled quite well in the one-day games there, I was really happy and pleased with the way they came out against a quality opposition against spin bowling. To be honest I was over the moon with it. I basically got told before the Test series started [he wouldn't be in the World Cup squad]. So I didn't have to worry about it - I'd known for a while."
The return to the Sixers and the BBL has taken Lyon back to the arena where he first gained wider attention, confounding a series of batsmen by trying to get them out rather than trying to avoid being hit for six when playing for South Australia in 2010-11. He looks back often on that footage, when he sported a straggly mop of hair, a surfie necklace and a most uncomplicated outlook.
"I always check in on it," Lyon said. "My natural skill was at its best there so I try to go back and replicate those things. I definitely do watch my footage from then and try to keep getting better and better. I do that quite regularly to keep everything in check. I just look at how relaxed I am and the rhythm that I had. A lot of it is pretty mental really, going back to what it felt like to bowl then. It's something I do to tick all the boxes."
Though discarded from the ODI team, Lyon's reward has been to play in front of two larger crowds in his last two matches at the SCG and Adelaide Oval than anything the Australian team has witnessed outside of Boxing Day this summer. Manuka will be a smaller gathering, before he goes back to the Sheffield Shield and longer spells.
"I've got some fond memories of Adelaide Oval, so going back there the other night was something pretty special, especially with the way they run a show down there," Lyon said. "Credit goes to the Strikers and South Australian cricket Association really, to have 52,000 people at a Big Bash game, to be a part of that was awesome.
"I've been really happy with the way they're coming out. Been doing a lot of work with John Davison still and having that confidence to back my skill in the shorter formats and really enjoying the BBL experience playing with the Sixers. Looking forward to tomorrow night.
"All I can do is control how the ball's coming out of my hand and if I keep doing the one per cent things at training hopefully things will turn around for me. I just need to keep worrying about how they're coming out of my hand and putting on good performances for the Sixers and NSW. I'll go straight back into Shield cricket, which is exciting, and I'm hopefully looking forward to some long spells and finding that rhythm I did have throughout the Test series."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig