By now surely everyone has heard of Alex Hales’s debut innings in the Big Bash against the Sydney Sixers. As of yet undiscovered Amazonian tribes would be well aware of how he bludgeoned 89 off 52 balls in an innings that has since entered into Aussie folklore as the time ‘that pommy bastard nearly hit the clock tower at the SCG’. One fact that has gone largely unreported on though, is that Hales made most of his runs by dismantling the bowling of Stephen O’Keefe. Who is that you ask? He’s one of those ‘new Shane Warne’ types that Australian cricket keeps discovering and abandoning every few weeks or so.
Twelve months ago we published an article examining Australia’s Test spinning stocks, and O’Keefe’s name featured prominently. Between then and now most of the names on that list have disappeared off the radar entirely, never to return. O’Keefe, Jason Krejza, Nathan Hauritz and Steve Smith (despite his sterling effort in the ODI series against Sri Lanka) have been culled as a whole new group of aspirants have emerged (although O’Keefe is still an outside chance for selection). The selectors are essentially hoping their scattergun style of selection will magically turn somebody into the new Shane Warne.
Below we look over those who will be hoping to accompany the master himself, Nathan Lyon, on the tour of India, with a view to participating in the Ashes tour beyond.
And what a place to start. Maxwell has 27 First Class wickets at an average of 33.8. In the Big Bash this season he was trusted to bowl a grand total of three overs. Yet this is the man whom many seem to believe will be Australia’s second spinner on the tour of India. He is essentially a worse version of Cameron White (yes, that sounds like a contradiction in terms to us too). Exactly what the selectors see in him is unclear, but since he was added to the squad for the SCG Test against Sri Lanka, they seem to think he can ‘do a job’. Exactly what sort of job is beyond us, as we don’t reckon he’d even be dextrous enough to operate the deep fat fryer in Maccas.
Yeah, this guy. Everyone knows Doherty is rubbish, including seemingly the national selectors who haven’t felt the need to go back to the Tasmanian since he was dropped during ‘that’ Ashes series. In the intervening period Doherty has done very little to suggest he should be recalled, but since he is a spin bowler who isn’t either injured or over 40 years old, he’s now in with a real hope of getting a second chance.
The most recent ‘second spinner’ for Australia, Beer last played in the second Test against the West Indies early last year. The problem is that since then Beer has been dire, taking eight wickets at an average of almost 50 in this season’s Sheffield Shield. Up until last week we could have said the fact that he is not injured means he will come into consideration, but he went and screwed that up by busting his shoulder carrying a case of Swan lager, or something. In any case, like nearly all Aussie spinners, his career appears to be going rapidly backwards.
A player who came to prominence owing to his performances in the Big Bash, Boyce has the fact that he is a genuine wrist spinner in his favour. The fact that he doesn’t have blonde hair, however, is not.
A blonde leg-spinner who took a Pfieffer on his First-class debut? Get him on that plane! That’s basically the reasoning behind the 19 year old Zampa’s rise to fame. A few decent performances in the Big Bash have also helped raise his profile. Does he deserve to be considered for national team selection? No, not really. Will he be picked for the tour of India anyway? Quite possibly, yes.
Holland manages to achieve the remarkable feat of being an outsider amongst a group of outsiders. His stock has risen dramatically recently owing to the fact that he has been injured, which means people have forgotten how rubbish he actually is (First Class bowling average of 39) and hold to the hope that he’s the answer to all of Australia’s problems. We are, understandably, not convinced.
That pretty much sums the sorry bunch up. The fact that there are no outstanding candidates should be obvious from the fact that Nathan Lyon’s grip on the first choice spinner spot remains total. Outside of the selectors choosing a complete unknown, like Pakistani refugee Fawad Ahmed (who was recently selected to play against the West Indies as part of the Prime Minister’s XI), one of the above will receive some serious match time in India.
For what it’s worth, our prediction is that Glenn Maxwell will be selected as a backup ‘all-rounder’ for Shane Watson, whilst Zampa will go as the second spinner/work experience boy.