Tuesday, 7 October 2008

To spin or not to spin: The Australian selection dilemma

Australia's spin department is cursed one might think. Ever since the king of spin, Shane Warne retired, a horror run with injuries, retirements and losses of form has left Australia with the unsavoury decision of whether to throw in an uncapped spinner against the world's best players of spin, India, or turn to the power of a promising pack of pacemen, led by Brett Lee and Stuart Clark, on the world's biggest turning pitches.

With both of Warne's initial replacements, Stuart MacGill (who walked out mid-series due to debilitating injuries) and One Day specialist Brad Hogg both retiring within a year of making their long awaited returns to test cricket, Australia's hopes now lie in the hands of the talented Tasmanian Jason Krejza, and Victorian batting all-rounder Cameron White, one of the country's most talented young batsmen, but certainly not so in the bowling department. Their First Class bowling averages are 50 (Krejza) and 38 (White) respectively, which shows how desperate Australia have become for a wild card to emerge from the pack.

Interesting is Beau Casson, the second choice spinner (who played after MacGill retired) in the West Indies, now seeming to be on the outer, merely because he's a left arm spinner, especially when Bryce McGain, clearly the best spinner in Australia, fell to injury and was forced out of the tour, White's inclusion ahead of Casson seemed an interesting bet.

While it can be said that White's batting will come in handy, it is still a mystery as to whether his bowling is good enough to trouble the Indians. White is as unorthodox as they come, his stock ball is a wrong un, he doesn't extract much turn, and he relies more on changes in pace, and often just being slogged at the wrong time, to take his wickets.

Krejza on the other hand is capable of getting good turn, and decent flight too, but he has never taken a 5 wicket haul, and would seem more of a future project than someone ready to be playing test cricket.

It seems that Australia has the choice of either sending in a raw, and perhaps unprepared spinner, or to play four pacemen instead. With Lee, Clark and Mitchell Johnson are all shoe-ins, so the question is whether Australia will use batting all-rounder Shane Watson as their fourth paceman, and then use either Krejza or White as the 5th bowler, or whether they will use one of the country's most exciting bowlers, Peter Siddle, already earmarked as part of the future after a breakthrough season for Victoria, or New South Wales' Doug Bollinger, a more experience option, though one that did not play in the Aussies' tour game.

It seems most likely, however, that the Aussies will stick with Krejza, despite being belted around the park in the tour game (he conceded over 6 an over across the match, and took no wickets) with logic dictating that a good spinner is required to win test matches in India, but it certainly seems that with the spinners' track records, Siddle or Bollinger would be a better option. To spin or not to spin? That is the question.


Anonymous said...

It's interesting to note that the two finest spinners of their generation, Warne and Murali, both averaged around 40 when playing in India.

I think Australia will play both White and Watson which will mean that the team bats very deep.

Pup Clarke who is a pretty good left-arm orthodox will bowl some overs in combination with White and Katich but Australia's tactics will rely on scoring heavily and the pacemen bowling tightly to canny fields in an attempt to frustrate the Indians into giving their wickets away.

Worked on the last tour because the Indians prefer to score in boundaries and aren't keen on having to sprint most of their runs.

Pampered millionaires aren't keen on the hard graft especially when they are over 30!

Tim said...

Really interesting stuff (great you're back!)...Australia are certainly facing a real dilemma. I'm not sure if they should play Krejza just for the sake of it...I would be tempted to play Watson at 6, White 7 and Haddin 8, giving a really deep batting line-up.

Why is Noffke not in the squad by the way?

Anonymous said...

Noffke went on the A tour to India that White captained last month. He took the most wickets (with White) returned to Brisbane spat the dummy and retired.

Apparently he was pissed off at being overlooked for Brett Geeves in the series against Bangladesh.

I expect he'll be off to the ICL as soon as possible!!

Chrispy said...

Australia want to sort that issue quickly before the ashes. Although with that pace attack they might not need one in England!

Dean Sherr said...

Noffke has threatened to move to the ICL after not being picked for this tour, in combination with that Bangladesh tour.

The only reason Geeves was picked ahead of him was because Geeves is more of a strike bowler, as Lee was injured and Tait not ready.

Still, there's a bit of argument about it. He was probably unlucky not to get picked in the end but long term Siddle is a better prospect and short term Bollinger is better. Plus the selectors love Watson, so Noffke really had no room.

It's certainly not as if he set the world on fire during his ODI opportunities though.