World Cup 2015 January 11, 2015

Lyon thwarted by fielding restrictions


Nathan Lyon's lone appearance in Australian colours on home soil was as far back as February 2012 © Getty Images

One fielder was the difference between Xavier Doherty and Nathan Lyon - the extra boundary rider removed from the shot locker of international captains in October 2012 - in the World Cup deliberations of Australia's selectors.

The national selector Rod Marsh and his colleagues Darren Lehmann, Trevor Hohns and Mark Waugh, effectively concluded that their leading Test spinner Lyon was not up to the task of bowling with only four run-saving men shielding the boundaries. In the same breath they decided that Doherty was capable of doing so, in concert with his state captain George Bailey.

Marsh also offered up the old argument that spinners need contrasts. The allrounder Glenn Maxwell's place in the squad has often precluded Lyon from greater opportunity in limited-overs matches, and as a left-arm spinner it is thought that Doherty will pose different questions for the batsmen.

"Xavier is a proven one-day bowler," Marsh said. "We know exactly what we're going to get with Xavier, we've got one guy in the squad who spins the ball into the right handers and we need a guy who is going to take the ball away from the right handers.

"That's where Michael [Clarke] comes in as well because he's another option there as is Steven Smith. But having said that it's a little bit different these days because there's only four men outside the circle and it makes it a little bit more difficult I think for some spinners and I'll leave it at that."

Lyon's only chance to apply for a World Cup berth arrived in Zimbabwe and the UAE last year. Marsh said the selectors had "fiddled around" with various options, also including the legspinner Fawad Ahmed, on the way to deciding that Doherty was their man.

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We know what we will get from Doherty - Rod Marsh

"We had to find what we thought was the best option and we fiddled around a bit and I think we had to do that to prove to ourselves what we wanted really and in the end it boiled down to the fact we thought Xavier was the right man," he said. "We did fiddle and we make no excuses for that. We had to find out what we wanted to find out."

Regardless of the fiddling, Lyon was not given the chance to play even a single ODI in Australian conditions after the fielding restrictions were changed from five to four. "No he hasn't," Marsh said, "and it's hard to dispute that fact because it's a fact." Lyon's lone appearance in Australian colours on home soil was as far back as February 2012.

Some had raised the possibility of a more left-field selection choice for the Cup - namely Cameron Boyce or Adam Zampa, who have impressed in the Big Bash League. Boyce was also notably effective in his Twenty20 international appearances against Pakistan and South Africa at the start of the season.

But in explaining their omission, Marsh returned to the theme of the missing extra fielder. "Both good young bowlers but we didn't think either was ready for this tournament, to be honest," he said. "The fact that there are only four men out counted against them.

"But we hope they develop because there's nothing more exciting in any form of the game - apart from raw pace - than maybe leg-spin bowling. If we had Shane Warne we may have picked him..."

So it is that Doherty gets his chance to bowl for Australia at a World Cup, four years after injury kept him out of the 2011 tournament in the subcontinent. He can thank the ICC's amended playing conditions for his chance, just as Lyon can curse them for his omission.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 13, 2015, 7:45 GMT

    Totally ridiculous. He's probably more likely to get tonked than Lyon or even the young kids. Very average bowler and has zero chances of taking wickets. Spin bowlers are there to take wickets, not save runs. Has more to do with them picking favorites again.

  • James on January 13, 2015, 3:16 GMT

    At the end of the day it depends what Australia wanted - an economical bowler who can tie down the middle overs but will only take about one wicket per game, or a wicket-taker who is easier to slog? I guess the decision makes sense if they feel they have enough wicket-takers in their pace brigade. There are plenty of other players around the world who get picked in short formats simply because they can keep it tight.

    Another thing to consider is that they simply couldn't pick Lyon because he hasn't played much white ball cricket. There was really only one option as the spinner, given Doherty played in the SA ODI series and has been playing in the Big Bash.

    @Big_Maxy-Walker - Doherty is on par with Lyon as a fielder and is a more reliable bat (check their batting stats if you need confirmation).

  • Sharad on January 12, 2015, 12:18 GMT

    @STEVO_ I think you meant R.Marsh is the current chairman of selectors not G.Marsh.

  • Eddie on January 12, 2015, 7:37 GMT

    Silly stuff here. Doherty will be pasted into every stand around Australia. He is a terrible fielder and poor lower order batsman. I would take the lion hearted Lyon over him anyday. Even if Lyon can be inconsistent

  • adeel on January 12, 2015, 5:16 GMT

    doherty's ground fielding and speed might've gone in his favour too..lyon is a good catcher and fielder but not not as quick as the end they went with the safe bet instead of giving away some runds

  • Michael on January 12, 2015, 3:45 GMT

    What non-sensical rubbish. Apparently having only four fielders outside the circle means that an offspinner isn't suitable? Why then pick Maxwell? But they won't choose a legspinner either, for the same reason (either Boyce or Zampa). So effectively, the selectors don't want to pick a spinner at all because they're afraid of going for runs. Hence they pick Doherty, a 'proven' limited overs bowler who doesn't spin the ball, just because he keeps it tight. What he's proven is that he can't take wickets - in fact he was the only specialist Australian bowler to take less than one wicket per match in 2014 (5 wickets from 6 matches. Meanwhile Lyon took 10 in his 6 matches, at an economy rate of 0.17 higher).

  • Steven on January 12, 2015, 1:40 GMT

    @MYSECRETME - M.Marsh is not related to G.Marsh

  • Alex on January 12, 2015, 0:06 GMT

    Doesn't Finch bowl left arm ortodox. So if Clarke & Finch play you have 2xSLA on top of XD. Surely that's variety enough.

  • mysecretme on January 12, 2015, 0:05 GMT

    Mate, you just dropped the cup.(@Marsh) You did not give Lyon a single game in Australia with fielding restrictions,but decided he can't cope? WOW! If the all rounder role is filled with your son and watson, you don't need a dart thrower. You need a wicket taker. I know why Ostrich is Australia's national bird now :) Speaking of Maxwell, you talk as if he is a certainty in the team. Even if he is there, I hope you are not asking him to bowl. He will give away more runs than he can make :)

  • Dummy4 on January 11, 2015, 19:27 GMT

    AJ_Tiger86- Not a fan of the Aussie team, so I can be very neutral with my opinion, but when thinking about Lyon's 35-odd bowling average, you have to factor in the pitches that he plays on. Pitches are more like roads these days, and even in conditions like Sydney, the supposedly most spin friendly surface in Australia, the pitch has been flattened out to make sure that the game lasts 5 days. In conditions like these, the main role of the spinner is to keep it tight, which he does (and picks up wickets as well). I'm not saying he's great, but he's serviceable, and definitely better than average. Doherty, on the other hand, can't even spin the ball. As a matter of fact, I doubt he can turn a doorknob either...

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