Last year Stephen Okeefe was the leading spinner in Sheffield Shield format. Cameron Gannon was the leading fast bowler in the same format. I bet you can’t guess how many wickets Sok took?? Cameron took 38 wickets in a condensed season whereas Sok took 16. 16!!!! Now Sok only bowled 145 overs compared to 295 overs from Cameron, but if you go down the list of spinners to take more than 10 wickets last year in Australia, there is only 3. Okeefe (16), Lyon (15), and Swepson (14).
I personally don’t know if I have ever seen such a bare cupboard for spinners in Australia. Right now you could name about 6 spinners all up that are playing first-class cricket and who are playing well. Take out Lyon and Okeefe you then have Mitchell Swepson (QLD) then Jon Holland (VIC), Ashton Agar (WA), and Adam Zampa (SA). The last two guys hardly played last year because of their white-ball commitments.
You might be reading this and beginning to think, why in the world would I be a spinner in Australia?? I think you have to look at it the other way and go wow what an opportunity to be a spinner in Australia. There is no one banging on the door to play test cricket behind Nathan. Adam and Ashton are playing a lot of white-ball cricket and they have both said publicly they have improved and are wanting to be that 2nd spinner. I have to agree with them both as you can see how much their game has evolved over the last year or so just in white-ball cricket, but the real test will come when they have to do that for long periods, I believe they will both be fine and now the rumor is out that Adam Zampa is moving to NSW then it only strengthens his case to push for that 2nd spinner.
There were reports early this year that Swepson was going to Bangladesh as the 2nd spinner to potentially play a test and learn more about his craft while he is over there. Mitchell’s bowling has really improved over the last year and will only get better and better the older he gets. I’d love to see him get more of an opportunity but the reality is at QLD he isn’t going to get more overs, in fact at times he has done well to get the overs he has in the games he has played. I think the issue is going to be more of the team makeup then Mitchell not getting a chance. Test players are back and with Marnus able to bowl more than handy leg-spin, why use that spot (at the Gabba) with someone who may bowl some overs. QLD is better off playing a dynamic all-rounder who can bat at 7 or 8 and bowl 20 overs.
My real concern at the moment is the fixation that CA has on using these Duke balls. Seriously why are we still using them? We aren’t playing in England anytime soon and we have our biggest series coming up (hopefully) next year against the Indians here.. I can’t see CA deciding to change the state of wickets at present to make them more spin-friendly, I can actually see them go the other way in preparation for that series. My good mate Usman recently come out and said that the wickets last year were tough and that Hobart was a green monster, how is a spinner supposed to develop their game in these conditions? The simple answer is you cant! You can bowl all you want in the nets but the reality is if you are a spinner or batting all-rounder for Tasmania (for example) you are playing 5 games a year on a pretty poor wicket and you won’t bowl a great deal, then when you travel you have Perth and the Gabba which are both bouncy wickets and seen less useful for spinners, then you have the last 3 grounds available to make an impact. It makes for a tough season, you would want to be scoring runs with the bat because you know that the first thing the coach will say is that you aren’t contributing enough with the ball!!
How do we fix this?? Well to be honest I think the 2nd x1 competition should be tailored more to accommodate the spinners in the country. It would be great to see wickets drier and dustier from day 1 in that competition. It wouldn’t just help the bowlers but it would also help the batters and the ability to play the spinning ball. It would give guys like Mitchell Swepson or Lloyd Pope a chance to bowl on turning wickets if they aren’t playing for their state and actually get some match overs under their belt. We could play that competition on good grounds that cater to that type of wicket. This way if Mitchell doesn’t play the first few games this year, he has still bowled 150 overs in 2nd x1 cricket in preparation for his chance. I don’t just mean a normal wicket, I mean an actual spinning wicket. A wicket that is turning from Day 1. A wicket that when you walk out has craters on it Day 4. We need to develop our batters and bowlers to become more adept at playing in these conditions. If we don’t we will just have the same results year in and year out and I will be writing the same article this time next year!!