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

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