Australia v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 1st day November 28, 2008

Spinners struggle in revolving-door policy

Nathan Hauritz became the sixth specialist spinner Australia have used in Tests this year and his chaotic first day at work highlighted how unpredictable life is for his type in this country

Nathan Hauritz: "It was a strange chain of events, being 12th man last week and then being picked in this" © Getty Images (file photo)

Nathan Hauritz became the sixth specialist spinner Australia have used in Tests this year and his chaotic first day at work highlighted how unpredictable life is for his type in this country. The nation's leading slow bowlers don't know where they stand within the haphazard selection policy, so it's no wonder they serve up a pot-luck selection as well.

Two days ago Hauritz was in Sydney, preparing to be 12th man for New South Wales for a second consecutive Sheffield Shield game. He finished his first day of Test cricket since 2004 with a fortunate pair of wickets and plenty of conceded runs and, to add to the drama, a sprained left ankle that kept him off the field for most of the final session but is unlikely to stop him bowling on the second day.

Hauritz had played eight first-class matches in the past three years and it should not have been an enormous surprise that he struggled to find his rhythm. His initial over went for 17 as Aaron Redmond slog-swept a pair of sixes and it was a flashback to Jason Krejza's first Test over in Nagpur. But Redmond is no Virender Sehwag and Hauritz is no Krejza. The former New South Wales team-mates are very different offspinners - the self-confident Krejza is a natural attacker who rips the ball viciously and tosses it up; the more conservative Hauritz feels safer with a flatter trajectory and a liking for arm-balls.

Krejza's aggression earned him 12 wickets on debut but a similar ankle injury has stopped him taking his place in Adelaide. The more defensive approach of Hauritz makes it tougher to collect huge hauls. After the high of his one Test in Mumbai four years ago, Hauritz experienced a first-class trough and inadvertently turned himself into a tight one-day specialist. It is a habit that is changing, but slowly.

He grabbed two wickets on his return to Tests, although Jesse Ryder's misplaced pull to midwicket was more batsman error than threatening bowling. As the day wore on, Hauritz gave the ball a little more air and a well-flighted delivery lured Redmond into holing out to deep midwicket. He also nearly had Peter Fulton, who played for the spin - Hauritz found very little turn all day - and edged to slip, where Matthew Hayden spilled a gettable chance.

Gradually, Hauritz had started to feel more relaxed. But it's hard to disguise the tension when you know that a demotion might be only a few days away. It's a feeling that over the past few months has been familiar to Cameron White and Beau Casson, who were tried and discarded despite being the only slow bowlers with current Cricket Australia contracts. Hauritz said being called into the Test team when he was the No. 2 spinner at New South Wales behind the struggling Casson was unexpected.

"It only takes a couple of wickets here and there to turn it around. He is a confidence player," Hauritz said of his good friend Casson. "He has shown how good a bowler he is last year and in the West Indies."

Dan Cullen and Cullen Bailey, who had Cricket Australia deals two seasons ago, are playing grade cricket in Adelaide on the weekend as they have both slipped out of South Australia's starting line-up. Bryce McGain, the Victoria legspinner, is also in Adelaide to watch the Test. McGain knows that but for a shoulder problem sustained in India, he could have been the slow man Ricky Ponting turned to against New Zealand instead of Hauritz.

Injuries have played a part in the high attrition rate among spinners but the selectors' tendency for quantity over quality has been just as much a factor. Their process is like that of a novice photographer - try enough angles and you're bound to come up with one that works. Digital cameras have made poor photos easily disposable and Australian spinners are becoming just as expendable.

"It was a strange chain of events, being 12th man last week and then being picked in this," Hauritz said after finishing the day with 2 for 63. "It definitely took me a little while to work out what was all going on."

Team balance and a need to improve over-rates - one reason Hauritz bowled 16 overs on the first day of a Test - have prompted Ponting to call on the selectors to pick a slow bowler for 95% of Tests. The problem is the leading wicket-takers among spinners in the Sheffield Shield this year are the batting allrounders Marcus North and Aaron O'Brien.

Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania regularly employ a quality seam attack backed by part-time spinners. It means the Australian selectors have been looking beyond the players making regular state appearances and that turns the selection process into a lucky dip. But rather than being worried about the disparity between state and national spin trends, Hauritz is simply happy opportunities are being presented.

"You've got guys like Brad Hodge who's scored 100,000 first-class runs but because our side is so strong he can't make it," Hauritz said. "But just for the fact that we've lost a guy who's taken 700 Test wickets [Shane Warne] and Magilla [Stuart MacGill], we're getting more opportunities as young spinners and we're only going to develop as we get older."

However, Hauritz made the point that as a new man in the team he found it "pretty nerve-racking to start off". If Australia cannot settle on a spinner and the revolving door stays in place, every Test they might have a man who takes a while to settle his nerves. Spinners thrive on being unpredictable and hard to read but it's not something they need from their selectors.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Adrian on December 1, 2008, 13:44 GMT

    A very good article and a fair criticism of the australian selectors. They do need to pick one spinner and give him a fair go and I think that will be Jason Krejza. Though Hauritz has performed well in his two tests, one was in spin-friendly India, and the other was against a disappointing New Zealand on a spinning wicket in Adelaide. I think Krezja is still a risky choice but who isn't? The selectors have to give someone a few consecutive tests to settle in before they can determine his worth at international level, and barring an ankle injury to Krejza, he would have played this week. The selectors do have a tough go of it because every decision is scrutinised by the pirahnas of the media (See 'Andrew Symonds') and that is more evident in the spinners department due to the huge gap Warne has filled. They will give Krezja a go and if he underperforms in the tests against South Africa they have little choice but to drop him for someone else.

  • Ashwath on November 28, 2008, 19:25 GMT

    I agree with the comment oh atifhaariz. Krezja seems to be the best spinner on view for the Aussies at the moment. Krezja seems an attacking option and i would like to see him against the proteas at Sydney..

  • Rajesh on November 28, 2008, 18:46 GMT

    One feels that Krejza got 12 wickets in the Nagpur Test Match because the wickets had to fall to someone and no one else took it, so Krejza had it...... This is not to undermine his efforts but just to point out that though he took 12 wickets he was far from intimidating or imposing as one would expect of a person who gets 12 wickets in a Test Match....... And it was only natural that after Shane Warne's retirement Australia would have to try out several spinners to finally settle with one because Cricketers like Warne don't get replaced that easily. And that's what they are doing right now, trying out one by one........

  • Atif on November 28, 2008, 17:02 GMT

    First of all I think Andrew_S I would have to disagree with you, because if Krezja did not pick up those 12 wickets I think Australia would have lost the match by a bigger margin. Because whatever said and done at the end of the day if you have picked up a good haul of wickets and gone for a few I think the team would be happy. Secondly I don't think there is any good spinner in Australia. I mean Nathan Hauritz can't make it to is state side starting line-up but makes it to the Aussie one. Utter rubbish. But I think Jason Krazja has showed some promise and after he's back from injury Australia should look to give him a long-run in the side. Peace.

  • Ned on November 28, 2008, 15:54 GMT

    Brad Hodge has scored a hundred thousand first class runs?!? Wow...

  • Yogesh on November 28, 2008, 15:39 GMT

    Shane Warne is talking to captains on how to handle spinners. Perhaps first and foremost, he needs to talk to Hilditch and co.

  • John on November 28, 2008, 14:33 GMT

    Get used to it because they're about to start rotating the seam attack aswell. Apparently they will be trying new combinations against South Africa

  • Andrew on November 28, 2008, 11:37 GMT

    I think its a bit unfair on the Australian selectors to accuse them of a haphazard approach to selecting spinners. Of the six spinners used in tests this year, Hogg was only brought into the side due to injury to MacGill, then Casson was initially given his test debut due to the retirements of both MacGill and Hogg. Hauritz is only playing due to injury to Krejza and even Cameron White and Krejza are unlikely to have made the test side in India if McGain had been fit. So the only changes due to selection are the dropping of Casson (who hasn't exactly set the Sheffield Shield on fire this season) and White (who was given 4 tests and took only took 5 wickets in India). The reality is no Australian spinner is looking convincing in either tests or first class cricket - in my view Krejza cost Australia the series in India because even though he took 12 wickets the Indian top order were able to smash him for six an over on the first day and a half which put Australia on the back foot.

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