The Fed Express!

The Fed Express!

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Where are the next Shane Warne's?

Shane Warne hair transplant
No not an overweight Aussie, embroiled with online casinos and hair loss treatments! What is the raison d'etre behind why Australia have failed to produce any world class spinners of note since one of the greatest bowlers to play the game retired in 2007?

This was first drawn to my attention after re-watching England's comprehensive victory down under in the 2010/11 Ashes. As I looked on, with unconcealed joy I might add, what was plain to see was the dearth of quality Australian spin bowlers. Test cricket isn't exactly inundated with brilliant, prolific spin bowlers right now, compared to the recent all time greats of Muralitharan, Warne, Kumble and of course Phil Tuffnell (I kid).
Perhaps I am being too harsh on Australia but the likes of the Singh, Swann, Kaneria and to a lesser extent Narine, Ajmal and Herath have proven to be consistent and effective wicket takers across all formats of the game.
This cannot be said for Australia's spin bowlers with the countries sole optimism surrounding the incumbent Nathan Lyon, who's form of late has been patchy to say the least.

Crisis is a strong word, but when a 43-year-old Shane "the king of spin" Warne still believes he is good enough to return to the International fold (a view echoed by current captain Michael Clarke), despite being hammered for 41 off two overs in the Big Bash series opener and only claiming for wickets in seven matches throughout the tournament, the alarm bells are surely starting to ring quite vehemently.
For a country boasting the most extraordinary cricketing history, it is quite astonishing that eleven, yes ELEVEN, spinners have failed to make their mark on test level since Warne's retirement.

Surely, after the success of Warne's glittering career, this would have inspired a generation of future top class spin bowlers. What is puzzling is this has failed to eventuate. "Thousands of Australian youngsters have been coached this way but none have made it to stardom" commented former selection chairman Trevor Hohns.

Shane Warne - One of a kind?
Australian legend Allan Border adds credence to this view by suggesting Warne's leg spin action is unduplicable. "Warnie was a freak. He had these big fingers, strong wrists and shoulders and he could do it all off a few paces. I reckon it might be time to try something new like a Kumble who you could reasonably copy." Furthermore in answer to the country's lack of spinners Border commented that, "Batsmen are pretty aware these days. They have heavy bats and use their feet to give them lots of option."
But surely there is more to it than not being able to replicate Warne's style? Just what is holding back a plethora of Australian spin bowlers achieving this stardom?

Sheffield Shield
One obstacle has proven to be the Sheffield Shield, proclaimed as the strongest domestic competition around, which promotes attacking, seam bowler (not spinner) friendly cricket. It's structure encourages an offensive outlook with six points for a win, two for a first innings lead and surprisingly nothing for a draw.
Ground staff prepare "green top" pitches, which are not conducive for spin bowling, (pitches with more grass than usual that reward seamers, batsmen and not spinners) on a regular basis throughout the country. This has been widely and perhaps rightly criticized as players (especially spinners and batsmen) are left,  according to South Australian coach Darren Berry, "unprepared for test cricket due to the conditions".
Green top pitches

Surely this could be solved by introducing a variety of different pitches instead of this current homogenisation of green top surfaces? In any case with the status quo, spin bowlers are not given sufficient time to hone their skills which perhaps goes some way to explaining why so few spinners make the grade.

This leads onto the next point, regarding the much maligned Australian test selectors.
It appears that there is a sense of inertia from Australian selectors in terms of seeking to address the paucity of spin bowlers and when a potential spinner does come along, they are dismissed far too quickly. The likes of Beau Casson, Cameron White, Michael Beer, Jason Krejza and veteran Bryce McGain, who impressed domestically, have a combined test cap total of nine, with White weighing in with a whopping four!.....
Though these spinners hardly set the world on fire, bar Krejza who took an astounding 12 wickets on debut against India, but neither did Muralitharan, Warne or Kumble in their debuts with a collective nine wickets.
The point I am trying to make, is that one test match performance that fails to have an instant impact should not mean the end of your International career, as was the case for many of these Australian spin bowlers.

This partly illustrates the lunacy and impetuous nature of the Australian selectors who seem unwilling to blood new spin bowlers for more than a handful of tests, hardly the best way to encourage and inspire confidence for future spin bowlers!
Jason Krejza

So does the fact that Warne appears to be a one in a million, the "green top" pitches, the preponderance towards seam bowlers in the Sheffield Shield and the impatient Australian selectors, explain the lack of Australia's spinning prowess? Still not convinced? Maybe there is further evidence that requires more digging?

Where does everything in sport begin? At grass roots level of course!
This fanatical sporting nation needn't worry in terms of participation, with a record 880,291 taking part in 2011/12, equating to a 3.54% rise from the previous year. However at the ages of 14-16, successful spin bowlers have become few and far between. Reportedly spinners are generally not being given sufficient time and patience levels are in short supply and Warne believes this is a major cause for concern.
"You need encouragement at junior level, the talent is there but if they get smacked around the park or bowl a few double bouncers the encouragement isn't there, at the moment we aren't encouraging spin bowling."
It may be a bit too easy and harsh to lay the blame at the feet of mid-adolescent captains across the country but who is to blame?

Perhaps there is not one standout reason as to why Australia is failing to produce any top class spin bowlers, perhaps it is because of all of these points? Maybe the demand for spin bowlers is falling and the importance of seam bowlers, where Australia are experiencing an embarrassment of riches, is growing. Whatever the case may be, it appears that, at least in the short term, there are no up-and-coming Shane Warne's but with the way things are going, Australia may not even get close.

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