Ashes 2013 preview – Part three: the spinners

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Being a patron of the dark arts, it warmed my heart to see David Warner imitate Shane Warne and rip a couple of wrist spinners on a crumbling Adelaide Oval Pitch.

Much has been made of the ‘missing generation’ of Shane Warne fans who grew up imitating the legend and therefore should be feeding into our teams now. This is complete nonsense.

If we look back a couple of years to the tour of Sri Lanka, Cricket Australia in their infinite wisdom took along two very promising leggies.

They were exposed to the foreign conditions, and they had an opportunity to observe the Sri Lankan spinners and develop.

These two spinners were Adam Zampa, from Warilla in NSW, and the slightly older Cameron Boyce from QLD.

Zampa is a particularly promising player, having earned huge plaudits at an early age from Greg ‘Mo’ Matthews.

These two provide great hope for our legbreak stocks – provided we are persistent with them (remember, Shane Warne’s first test wasn’t the most successful of his career).

A captain is crucial for the development and strength of a leg-spinner. Michael Clarke, being a spinner and an attacking captain, is the perfect captain to bring these players through.

Leggies often need at least two to three overs to find a perfect rhythm, and will occasionally bowl half-trackers and get pulled for four (yes, even at Test level).

This is the reality of the wrist spinner – pump one ball, wicket the next.

Those captains who persist are rewarded not only with wickets, but also with a leggie who grows in confidence, matures and bowls less pump.

Unfortunately Ricky Ponting, in my view, was not this sort of captain.

Some final points to note in relation to our spin stocks leading into the 2013 Ashes:

David Warner shows great potential. A couple of the balls he got to grip and rip in Adelaide were Warne-esque. However, it is patently clear that he needs coaching (he needs to drive through the crease, which would reduce the frequency of his half trackers), and it is high time for Cricket Australia to pay Shane Warne whatever he is worth (and then some) to come in and mentor the young spinners.

If you have ever watched the Shane Warne Masterclass, you will see how brilliant a coach Shane is – not just from a technical perspective, but also for his ability to draw (almost photographically) from his database of dismissals to teach the mental side of beguiling and thinking a batsman out. This is the most important part of leg spin.

Nathan Lyon is the youngest Australian off-spinner to have reached 50 Test wickets. Lyon goes about his business and takes wickets with pedestrian off spin. He doesn’t seem to get the drift of a Hauritz or the sharp turn of a Swann, but he manages to get the odd one to bounce.

My only criticism is that Lyon tends to bowl the same line and length over and over, and this can get mechanical. He needs to think about bowling the occasional full and wide ball to entice the drive, or alternatively a shorter topspinner wide of off stump to entice the cut.

Variation is critical when you don’t do much with the ball. Lyon could probably gain a lot from watching videos of New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori.

What do you think Roarers? Should Australia take a risk and take Zampa or Boyce along to England? Or should we retain Lyon, with Warner’s part time legbreaks?

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