Nathan Lyon’s a pretty laidback character. A groundsman first picked for South Australia after doing well in the nets, Lyon impressed in the Twenty20 Big Bash and for Australia A before going on to take a wicket with his first ball in Test cricket.
It was that of Sri Lankan superstar Kumar Sangakkara.
Since then he’s managed to hold his own in Test cricket, with 42 wickets at an average of just under 28. To put this into perspective, since 1990 only S.K. Warne, S.C.G. MacGill – and oddly enough, M.G. Bevan – have had better records bowling spin for Australia.
And yet, to read the news you’d feel as though Lyon wasn’t performing. That he hadn’t taken 12 wickets in his last two Tests.
Brisbane Times journalist Phil Lutton described Lyon’s position in the Test team as being “worthy of debate” after Queensland batsmen spanked him around the Gabba earlier this season. There was an article on Cricinfo suggested Lyon isn’t a lay down misere for the first Test against South Africa.
When it comes to spin-bowling, it seems you really do have to prove yourself before getting a clear run at the Test team. And yet, is the pressure on Lyon really fair?
Certainly, he’s had some dry spells. His first five innings against India yielded just three wickets; after a five-wicket haul in his very first Test innings he then took just three in the next six innings he bowled in; and his eight wickets at just under 50 in England paled against Jon Holland’s 10 at 27.
But there’s a few things still in Lyon’s favour, not least his age (Lyon turns 25 in late November). Add to that the fact he’s shown himself as a fighter, coming back strongly against India and the West Indies after poor starts to those series.
Certainly, his Test record compares well to Warne’s after the same number of Tests (Warne had 47 wickets at just under 27). He also seems to know who to listen to and who to block out.
Most importantly though, dropping Lyon for another spinner would send the wrong message to both him and spinners around the country. Australia have gone through spinners the way Lady GaGa goes through outfits.
If conditions suit a second spinner or if Lyon is unavailable, then by all means give someone like Holland a go.
But right now, we’ve got a big talent in our hands.
Let’s not waste it.