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June 6, 2008
Beau Casson says he is ready to become Australia's latest Test debutant if the opportunity arises when the third Test against West Indies begins in Barbados next week. Casson is the only backup slow bowler in the touring squad and the unexpected retirement of Stuart MacGill has suddenly thrust him into contention for an international call-up.
Timing has been on Casson's side. After a couple of lean state seasons, including 2006-07 when he moved from Western Australia to New South Wales and carried a shoulder injury through the summer, Casson came good in 2007-08 when a Test spin position finally became available. He said preparing against Australia's top order during the West Indies trip had given him extra confidence.
"We've got some of the most exceptional players of all time, not just of a certain era, and if you think if you're going okay against them, you think you're going to be pretty comfortable playing Test cricket," Casson told the Sydney Morning Herald. "The way they go about their work, I'm learning a hell of a lot every day.
"I would be kidding myself if I said I pictured it exactly like this. But it has always been a goal to play at the highest level and develop. After hurting my shoulder, that really set me back a bit and it was a bit of a long path to get it stronger and be able to bowl the overs I need to."
While Casson is thinking about a possible Test debut, there is no guarantee he will be the No. 1 spinner for New South Wales next season if MacGill continues to play state cricket. MacGill believes he still has plenty to offer the Blues but his plans were not received well by Terry Jenner, the spin coach who has worked with some of Australia's young slow bowlers.
"I hear he is going to play for New South Wales and I say why? It's over," Jenner told AAP. "He would be better now to move on, do some more wine shows and things like that and pass a few bottles of red around to us. The ideal thing would be for him now to make way, he's had his moment and it didn't quite work I think probably because his wrist never really recovered."
If MacGill does not return to the New South Wales setup it might open a door for Nathan Hauritz, who fell off the radar after playing his sole Test in India in 2004-05, to force his way back into first-class cricket. Hauritz, 26, has become a one-day specialist in state cricket but Jenner wants Australia to ensure the younger generation, including Dan Cullen and Cullen Bailey, get plenty of experience at first-class level.
"These guys have got to learn to be four-day bowlers," Jenner said. "Dot-ball bowlers aren't four-day bowlers. It is difficult when you lose Warne who was the best ever, MacGill who is the best understudy ever and of course Brad Hogg who is the best one day spinner that was going around in world cricket. A year or so down the track ... we will have people I think knocking on the door."
But none of those younger spinners are guaranteed to take over MacGill's Cricket Australia contract for 2008-09. The chief executive James Sutherland and the operations manager Michael Brown discussed the issue on Friday and decided there was no rush to replace MacGill in the 25-man squad and instead they may wait and see if any players put their hands up with strong performances later in the year.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Plays of the Day from second ODI between South Africa and Pakistan, in Port Elizabeth
Plays of the Day from the third ODI between India and West Indies, in Kanpur