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