Many things can be said about the man who these days appears to be donning a Shane Warne mask, who, I am reliably informed, is in fact Shane Warne; chain-smoking womaniser, hair-loss treatment and sports bet endorser, awkward tweeter (or twit), Coldplay fan (usually enough to void all of one’s opinions), Alastair Cook subverter, and, most importantly, far and away the greatest bowler our nation has ever produced. The competition for which is pretty heated. So when the soon to be Sir Shane (fingers and toes crossed) opines on spin bowling, you question him the same way you would question the expertise of Bob Hawke on the intricacies of necking a beer.
During one of his usually bizarre commentary stints Sir Shane came upon a slogan Tony Abbott would be proud of, “In T20 if you want to win, bowl spin”. A slogan that, when you examine the best teams in T20 cricket (of which Australia is not one), seems to hold up due to the prominence of ‘mystery’ spin bowlers.
Pakistan have Saeed Ajmal, the world’s best spinner, and Shahid ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi, one of cricket’s most entertaining characters/ball tamperers/ball strikers and white ball bowlers. India have a never ending supply of spin bowlers who can make a cricket ball turn ferociously both ways. Sri Lanka are stocked with Herath and Senenayake, and the Windies are set with Narine and Badree. What do all of these bowlers have in common other than suspect actions and mediocre test records? All are T2O match winners.
The old cricket adage of “batsman save matches, bowlers win matches” applies even to the shortest form of the game. Yes, Australia have a batting order that should make any punter in the crowd a chance of taking a catch in the 30th row, but that’s incredibly devaluated if you’re opening the bowling with Brad Hodge.
It is clear Australia made two severe errors in judgement on this tour. First, with the selection of the bowling makeup, and second, an ignorance of the sub-continental conditions. How Steve Smith, the second best player of spin in the country, was left out of the squad is beyond me. Dave Warner and Shane Watson have historically struggled mightily against spin early in their innings, despite their IPL experience, and should not have been solely relied on with breakout star Glenn Maxwell to score all of our runs against such wily and talented spin bowlers.
Now to the greatest sin. – Australia’s bowling. How can you play a tournament in the subcontinent with Brad Hogg (43 years young) and James Muirhead (14, give or take) as your spin options? Not surprisingly both were given the same respect as a Clive Palmer speech in Parliament. Mitchell Starc, obviously out of match practice, was carted to every stand in Dhaka despite his strong T20 career record. Relying on our pace attack (minus Johnson, Harris and Pattinson) on such low, slow wickets smacked of arrogance, or worse – ignorance, by selectors.
Until we develop a spin bowler with a conspicuous action who can turn the ball prodigiously both ways, it is highly unlikely that Australia is going to have any profound international success on the T20 stage, or in the sub-continent.
Then again, it’s only T20. Apart from the BCCI and India Cements, who really cares?