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If Australia's recent limited-overs troubles in the UAE are anything to go by, a good spin bowler is once again rapidly becoming an invaluable commodity. One has only to look to the advantage that Saeed Ajmal, R Ashwin and Sunil Narine have brought their sides to understand how quickly the art has developed over a short period of time, as well as the difficulty those nations not-so-well-versed in spin (read: respectively, England, New Zealand and Australia) have had in keeping up.
There are a number of reasons that may have contributed to this - including the perfection of the doosra, the changing role of spin with Twenty20, and the nature of Asian pitches - but these are unimportant. What matters is how countries such as Australia will look to counter the problem.
There are three foreseeable ways we in Australia might go about this. The first, and arguably least desirable, is that Australia may go the way of England and New Zealand, and opposite to India, choosing to prepare fast pitches favouring and fostering only our young pace talent. One can dream of a four-pronged pace attack (Cummins-Pattinson-Starc-McDermott) to rival the great West Indies sides, but that dream is becoming a less-and-less reasonable one as the importance of spin in the shorter forms grows more evident. We certainly don't want to be caught out, as the Indian side looked against pace in unfamiliar conditions last summer.
More likely is that Australia will continue on its current path, developing traditional spinners like Nathan Lyon, who will most likely go on to have regular (if not entirely impressive) success at Test level. If we're lucky, Lyon will continue to blossom and also become a strong contributor in limited-overs formats. Meanwhile our captains will continue to treat our required spin overs as necessary evils, and our batting in the subcontinent will continue to be pulled along by Michael Clarke and the occasional Hussey or Marsh.
Ideally, something or somebody will come along to pull the Australians out of their spin stupor. Perhaps Cameron Boyce or young Ashton Turner will develop to rock the foundations. In the meantime, we already seem to be taking a proactive step in turning a weakness into a strength: playing allrounders to fill the spin overs. This solution - sacrificing the spin attack for batting depth - is decent in theory. The only problem lies in that our allrounders belong mostly to the up-and-coming generation, and lack experience and confidence.
Personally, I like the idea of Michael Clarke coming out of T20 retirement to play as a bowling allrounder. His experience, confidence, accuracy and wide point of delivery from around the wicket make him one of the strongest spinners in Australia right now. Played alongside another spinning allrounder, such as Stephen O'Keefe or Steve Smith, it is not unreasonable to think that any lack in bowling strength would be made up for in batting talent. Although not the ideal fix, this is just one way in which the problem could be addressed proactively.
The less high-pressure Test arena, as well as the more experienced line-up Australia boasts in the format, has meant that the spin issue is a less urgent problem in the longer game. But if Australia should ever want to become No. 1 again, and outside of home turf, particularly in the short formats, it is an area of development to which we will definitely need to devote some real resources and brainpower.
© ESPN EMEA Ltd.
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