India will prove how much we still need Warne

Date: February 21, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

According to chairman of selectors, John Inverarity Australia will most likely take one specialist spinner into tomorrow’s opening Test against India at Chennai.

On ABC Radio’s Grandstand program on Sunday afternoon Inverarity said, with regard to the pitch at the Chidambaram Stadium, that “there is not a blade of grass, so you’d suggest it is a wicket for the spinners”.

He then went on to say – “We’ve got the option of playing two pace bowlers and two spinners, but it would be more likely that we’d go with three pace bowlers and one spinner plus some spin support”.

Those comments clearly underline one of the major issues facing Australian cricket – what has happened to the country’s spinners?

Aside from Nathan Lyon, what options did the selectors have as specialist spinners?

Left-arm orthodox Xavier Doherty is in India, chosen to tour on the back of two wickets at 80 from his four Sheffield Shield matches this summer.

Glenn Maxwell, whilst considered an all-rounder, has claimed 27 wickets with his off-spinners at 34 in his 15 first-class matches to date – less than two scalps per outing.

Such is the concern over the lack of choice in the spin department, 19-year-old West Australian Ashton Agar, who was sent over early as a net bowler, was actually kept on with the chance he could make his Test debut at Chennai.

Had he done so, it would have been his fourth first-class match.

In the end he was told to fly home on Monday night having played in Australia’s last warm-up match, where incidentally, he returned figures of 20-2-107-3 compared to Doherty’s 24-2-108-3.

Seldom has Australia’s spin bowling stocks been so thin.

It is time that Australia turned to Shane Warne.

And no, before you get up in arms, I am not suggesting a comeback by the svelte, tanned, one-time Test wicket world-record holder.

I am suggesting that he immediately be engaged by CA to try and solve our parlous spin bowling situation.

And if it costs some significant bucks, than bad luck – it has to be done.

Warne has been busy of late tweeting his dissatisfaction with the state of the current cricket scene in Australia and has followed up with the release of several manifestos suggesting how the game, and by extension, the national side can be improved.

So far he has penned three papers on what needs to be done in the future.

He has stated his next one will be on spin bowling and what needs to be done there.

The key question is whether he will put his name forward as one of the saviours.

In his first manifesto he threw out the following names who he felt could assist the game in the short term – Rod Marsh, Damien Martyn, Mark Waugh, Glenn McGrath, Mark Taylor, Stephen Fleming, Darren Lehmann, Michael Hussey, Michael Bevan, Merv Hughes, Bruce Reid and Ian Chappell.

Plenty of experienced heads and, no doubt, a fair degree of ability.

But where was Warne himself?

Surely there is nobody better placed in this country to help mentor aspiring spin bowlers than Shane Keith Warne.

He has never been shy in promoting himself but, thus far, he has chosen to promote others.

Warne has said in his manifestos that he has a tremendous passion for Australian cricket and he fears the way it is heading.

Many have agreed with elements of the Warne Grand Plan but nobody I know has endorsed it in totality.

If Warne does care so much about the game’s elite future in this country the best thing he can do is to offer his services to CA in a significant way.

He may argue that he has too many corporate and personal responsibilities to get involved in a hands-on fashion.

Yet, he is happy to suggest that the likes of McGrath should travel around to largely empty stadia and sit there for days at a time in the role of selector.

I’m sure McGrath also has plenty of other things on his plate as well.

Warne has so much to offer as a coach/mentor for up and coming spinners, and especially leg-spinners.

Spin bowling, when it comes to success in this country, has been built firmly on wrist-spin.

The five most prolific spinners in Australian Test history have all been ‘wristies’ – Warne (708 wickets), Richie Benaud (248), Clarrie Grimmett (216), Stuart MacGill (208) and Bill O’Reilly (144).

We were told in the 1970s that every young boy was charging in and trying to bowl fast in the mould of their heroes Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson.

In the 1990s and 2000s we were told that kids all wanted to be Warnie and were trying to rip ‘em in driveways and nets all over the country.

Somewhere along the way they all headed off to other pursuits for the cupboard has been largely bare since he and MacGill hung up their boots – and for that matter, while they were still around.

Most would say that it is nigh impossible to emulate Warne – and it is hard to argue against that assumption – but you would have thought some would have percolated to the surface, even if their skill level was well below that of Warne.

Australia will certainly struggle in India given its lack of serious spin options.

But it isn’t just in the sub-continent that Michael Clarke’s side will rue the lack of a quality spinner, especially late in matches.

Lyon had his chances this summer to make life tough for teams in the fourth innings on Australian pitches but failed to come up with the goods.

Leaving Warne’s genius aside, MacGill was an incredibly potent force in home Tests – 27 matches, 135 wickets at 27.7 with 9 five-wicket hauls and twice ten-in-a-match.

Oh, what Clarke would give for a player of his quality right now, both home and away.

There are a lot of compliments flying around at the moment for 20-year-old New South Wales leggie, Adam Zampa.

He is playing his third first-class match currently against South Australia at Adelaide.

He is raw but he has potential.

He needs to spend time with Warne – considerable time.

And so does any other spinner in the country who shows he potentially has the goods to make it in the big league.

On a first Test pitch tomorrow in Chennai, that the national chairman of selectors says will favour spinners, Australia is most likely going to go in with Lyon, who will be backed-up by the likes of Clarke, Warner and Maxwell, should he be selected.

I doubt that prospect will cause any sleepless nights in the Indian team hotel.

We should all look forward to part four of the Warne manifesto.

Here’s hoping that his name will feature loud and proud.

Australian cricket needs him.

Almost as much as we did when he had ball in hand.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 20 February 2013