The Ashes 2013-14 November 15, 2013

Australia spin coach to travel for Ashes


Australian cricket's hierarchy has finally responded to calls for spin bowlers to be afforded specialist guidance during the Test summer, with the National Cricket Centre spin coach John Davison expected to be on hand at training before four out of five Ashes matches.

Noted for his close relationship with the nation's leading spinner Nathan Lyon, Davison is based in Brisbane and will be present in the nets at the Gabba before the first Test. ESPNcricinfo understands he has also been cleared by Cricket Australia to travel to Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney before the second, fourth and fifth matches of the series, missing only the Perth Test at the WACA ground.

Davison's presence is expected to be a major encouragement to Lyon, who has developed a strong bond with the former Victoria, South Australia and Canada offspinner, and was delighted by the results of their work together on the Australia A tour that preceded the previous Ashes bout in England earlier this year.

"In international cricket there are a lot of people with a lot of different opinions and that's something I've learned," Lyon said in England earlier this year. "You have to figure out things for yourself, take on advice, and you might pick up something from someone who may not have played the game at the highest level. John Davison's been fantastic for me, I've worked with him really well and I've got a lot of trust in Davo."

The lack of a specialist spin-bowling coach on the road with the national team has been one of the major gaps in the support staff structure put in place following the Argus review in 2011. Davison has travelled only occasionally with the team, otherwise leaving Lyon and others to their own devices. By contrast the England spin coach Mushtaq Ahmed has been present on each of the past two Ashes tours.

CA had sought to improve the support available to Lyon by asking the fielding coach and former Test wicketkeeper Steve Rixon to also be responsible for the slow bowlers in the team, a dual position he assumed in November 2012 ahead of the home Tests against South Africa.

However the matter of Lyon's role in the team was the source of considerable debate over the summer, as he appeared to take on a defensive commission, bowling his overs quickly and accumulating maidens while the fast bowlers rested. It was a thankless task. Lyon was dropped after one Test in India for the more limited Xavier Doherty then reinstated, taking nine wickets in the final match at Dehli.

He then worked closely with Davison in England and felt he was bowling as well as ever, before again losing his place, this time to the left-arm wunderkind Ashton Agar, for the start of the Ashes series at Trent Bridge and Lord's. Recalled for the Old Trafford Test, Lyon bowled encouragingly in the remaining matches, and has been named in the squad for the Brisbane Test, where Davison will be present.

In between tours Lyon moved from South Australia to New South Wales, his state of origin, and has bowled well for the Blues in limited-overs and Sheffield Shield matches so far this summer without snaring a huge haul of wickets.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Hamish on November 20, 2013, 0:44 GMT

    The most important thing to note about SOK is that he doesn't turn it that much, bowls darts and most importantly, rarely plays the first spinner for NSW. I'd go on to say that most of his wickets are from batsmen's mistakes and the pressure built up from the other bowlers. Lyon is a far more attacking bowler than O'Keefe and will certainly end up as a far more successful bowler. If SOK played tests it would be a better result than Doherty, but not by much. You see turning it is kind of necessary in test cricket.

  • Tom on November 19, 2013, 1:08 GMT

    On the other hand, there is every chance Lyon will get dropped in favour of the next person named Ashton who happens along, and not get picked ever again, or not regularly.

    If Lyon was a wicket taker Australia would play him in a 4 man attack.

  • Graham on November 18, 2013, 22:38 GMT

    cricketsubh; That is a ridiculous comment, I would say Anderson, Broad and the rest are way better bowlers than Saker ever was. But being better does not make you a better coach.

  • Graham on November 18, 2013, 22:36 GMT

    At Lyon's age Swann was still around 4 years shy of playing test cricket. Think everyone is being a bit harsh. He averages in the low 30's and at times is employed to do the holding role which he does well. With the improvement he has shown there is every chance come the end of there careers he could have better stats than Swann. Also, Australia is a hard place to bowl spin but you need one as its hard to get through a 90 over day with an all out pace attack, just look at Swanns figures on the last tour in a dominant 3-1 win (from memory it was early 40's)

  • W on November 18, 2013, 13:48 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx, good points man.

  • Dummy4 on November 18, 2013, 12:23 GMT

    This is the weirdest thing I have heard for The Ashes build up. (John Davison - Spin Coach). The last was Mickey Arthur's "HOMEWORK" controversy during the India tour....Hope the Aussies do well & win the Ashes...Love them to win!!! No offense to Mr. Davison as he is the National Cricket Centre spin coach... must be a joke!!!

  • Aaron on November 18, 2013, 0:56 GMT

    Swann's figures in the last Ashes series were greatly boosted by his haul at Lords where many of his wickets were a result of mindless slogging by the aus batsmen. At the end of the day, when both Lyon and Swann were playing (tests 3-5) Lyon was getting more revolutions on the ball, more turn, and was clearly the more dangerous bowler. This was reflected in the fact that he had a better average than Swann in those tests, despite being robbed of the chance to bowl on the 5th day at Old Trafford. Swann was virtually ineffective against Australia's right hand batsmen.

    Swann is at the twilight of his career, Lyon potentially has a ten year career ahead of him. There is every chance Lyon will finish with more test wickets than Swann at a better average.

  • Brady on November 17, 2013, 22:35 GMT

    Here is my question for Inverarity and co.: if you had a guy playing domestic cricket in Australia with nigh on 100 FC wickets at an average better than Shane Warne would you pick him?

  • Dummy4 on November 17, 2013, 22:28 GMT


    Fair enough! I just couldn't resist!

    After all, Troy Cooley and David Saker are hardly household names, but have had great success coaching bowlers.

    It just seemed too great an opportunity not to have a crack!

  • Tom on November 17, 2013, 13:42 GMT

    @xtrafalgarx It's true, Australia do seem to have a policy of chucking spinners in at the deep end long before they are ready.