When cricket legend Shane Warne retired from the game in 2007, Australia was faced with a problem it had not faced in a long time.
The country recognized the lack of quality spinbowlers outside of the man in question.
Warne was, of course, an outlier. The best who ever did his trade.
But there really wasn’t anyone who slammed the door to usurp the Spin King when he decided to leave the throne.
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Dozens of tweakers have been given a chance to cement their place, but Australian selectors have never settled on one. Nathan Hauritz, Steve O’Keefe, Xavier Doherty, Jason Krejza, Michael Beer, Brad Hogg. The list goes on.
Even Fawad Ahmed had a visa obtained so that he could choose, only to never get a baggy green. Such was the plight of Australia.
Voters were so desperate that they got a groundskeeper from the Adelaide Oval, flew him to Galle and presented him with a cap in 2011. Nathan Lyon beat Sri Lanka 5:34 in his very first Test innings, and the rest is history.
In the decade since that fateful debut, Lyon have played 100 friendly matches and won 399 wickets. He earned the nickname ‘GOAT’ (best of all time) for being Australia’s most successful finger spinner of all time.
But while he was a constant on the test team, he has certainly not escaped review or criticism for underperformance.
Against India last summer, he only took nine wickets averaging 55.11. That’s a miserable return compared to his career average of 32.12.
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To be fair, there are few series that are bad for Lyon. Last summer he dominated New Zealand with 20 wickets in three tests at 17:25. The last time he played England he picked up 20 wickets at 33.40 on foreign soil during Ashes 2019.
Cricket legend Mark Taylor is certainly not ending the 33-year-old’s testing career yet, but he has re-voiced his concern about Australia’s spin depth.
If Lyon is injured or underperformed during the looming Ashes streak, there is no obvious option to replace him in the XI, according to Taylor.
“Voter concern is support for Nathan Lyon,” Taylor told Wide World of Sports.
“Lyon have thrown many overs so far without much success. His job will be to keep things pretty calm, but also to collect some handy wickets, especially in the middle overs of the test match after lunch.
“Australia will hope that Lyon will do 12-15 wickets in the series.
“The problem I see is that we still don’t have anyone to pressure Nathan Lyon. If things don’t go well or Lyon is injured, who is our next weirdo?
“Who’s the guy we put in?”
Mitchell Swepson is the only other spin bowler to join Australia’s 15-player roster from Ashes this week.
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The 28-year-old Leggie has played 48 top-notch games and holds an average of 33.66.
In the Sheffield Shield this season, Queensland’s left orthodox weirdo Matthew Kuhnemann has taken 15 wickets and leads the way alongside Victorian Paceman Scott Boland.
The second best weirdo of the competition is young South Australian Leggie Lloyd Pope, who has collected nine poles for the season.
Taylor fears none of them are seriously heating up Lyon and threatening to throw him off the test site.
“It’s a development thing, it gives these people a chance,” Taylor said of the country’s spin bowlers.
“None of them really ask for a selection by picking up normal wickets in shield cricket.
“It makes it difficult for voters to say who that person will be.”
The Ashes kicks off at Gabba on December 8th.
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