Following yet another Ashes demolition of England in the 2006/07 season, one of Australia’s greatest cricketers hung up his baggy green cap for the last time. After 708 test wickets, Shane Warne departed the test stage with Australia again dominant and seemingly poised to continue it’s stranglehold on world cricket for years to come. Despite captain Ricky Ponting labeling it the “end of an era” at the time, few cricket fans realised how true those words would prove to be…
Amazingly, with the debut of Nathan Lyon in Sri Lanka this week, the Australian test side has now blooded eight spin bowlers since Warne’s retirement. This is the same test side that relied almost solely on one man to lead the spin attack for over a decade (with a handy contribution from Stuart MacGill). The problems Australia have encountered trying to replace their number one spinner seems to coincide with their slide down the ICC test rankings, and perhaps reflects on a system that has struggled to keep up with the advancements made by the rest of the world’s cricketing nations.
Of course, every country would struggle to replace names such as McGrath, Gilchrist, Waugh, Hayden, Langer, Martyn and Gillespie. But our selector’s desperation to find the next ‘Warnie’ appears to have formed a team in which potential has replaced statistics as the number one selection criteria. Gone are the days of state level cricketers dominating Sheffield Shield and County competitions for years on end before receiving their baggy green cap. There will never be another Shane Warne, yet it seems we as Australian cricket followers can’t help but compare his record with our new brigade of spinners.
Are serviceable performers such as Jason Krejza and Nathan Hauritz unlucky to have been dropped from the side? Michael Beer, and now Lyon have been promoted, despite each having just five first-class games to their name. Will one grasp their opportunity and establish a regular test spot, or is it a matter of time before they pile on top of the scrap heap with the likes of Dan Cullen, Beau Casson, Steve Smith and Xavier Doherty? Are the selectors searching for something that simply isn’t there or is the merry-go-round of spin bowlers just breeding nervous cricketers who are constantly looking over their shoulder for their next replacement? Maybe 20/20 cricket is to blame for our lack of quality test bowlers? Let’s hope Lyon can build on his impressive debut and become the permanent spin option Australia so desperately need.