According to Brad Hogg, the veteran chinaman spinner, the development of Australia’s newbie spinners are being hampered by the flat conditions on offer in the First-class games in Australia. While Aussie batsmen have known to struggle against spin bowling of late due to the practice of playing on batting friendly wickets, as per Hogg, even the spinners are being affected by the flat decks.
“If you’re saying it’s a batsmen’s game I think the wickets have got a lot to do with that,” Hogg said. “You look at the first-class wickets, especially in Australia, they are becoming very similar across the board. The WACA has still got a bit of pace in it, Queensland still has that bounce and seam in it, but the other wickets have lost their characteristics," the 45-year-old added.
Sydney, a ground in Australia famous for its assistance to spinners has also turned into a batting paradise of late with mammoth scores being piled up in First-class games and Hogg feels that it is not good for cricket in Australia.
Pitches have to be changed
He thinks that a re-look of wickets prepared for First-class cricket is essential to ensure everyone has a chance of being successful.
Hogg’s comments come in the aftermath of another dismal performance in the sub-continent by the Test side. An embarrassing whitewash (3-0) at the hands of a relatively young Sri Lankan side in a Test series showed Australia are nowhere close to mastering spin. The losses piled up as the ODI side went through a 5-0 drubbing in ODIs by South Africa.
In Sri Lanka, the trio of spin bowlers — Nathan Lyon, Jon Holland, and Steve O’Keefe — were largely unsuccessful whereas the Sri Lankan tweakers fared much better.
In South Africa, the young leg-spinner, Adam Zampa, touted as the next Shane Warne struggled against the home side and recorded figures of 3/218 across the five matches. In contrast, South African spinners, Tabraiz Shamsi, Imran Tahir and Aaron Phangiso found a lot more purchase from the wickets.
Cricket Australia is aware of their misery against spin and has an artificial "dustbowl" training wicket at Brisbane, which attempts to mimic the wickets found in Asia. The body also holds an annual week-long spin camp for both established and upcoming spinners.
Asia and South Africa have an advantage
But Hogg feels this is not enough as spin bowlers in Asia and South Africa have an advantage as they play on spin-friendly decks more often. He feels the need to address the facilities and pitches in Australia as only this would bring spinners into the game. Unless and until that is done, Australia are going to have a hard time in the sub-continent according to the chinaman spinner.
“Cricketers have got to be adaptable as well and they’ve got to take ownership of it. When you do go over to India you’ve got to make sure you make the most of it,” Hogg said. “To have to adjust the rules to allow spinners to bowl, you’ve got to ask questions about the facilities that are being produced, the wickets being produced,” he added.
Hogg is right. Australia have failed to find a match-turning spinner in the longer form of the game apart from Nathan Lyon, who has been decent. Several spinners - Steven O'Keefe, Jon Holland, Ashton Agar, Fawad Ahmed, Michael Beer - have come and gone but none impressed like Lyon.
“If you can’t bring the spinners into the game because the wickets are not conducive to spin they are not going to learn. I think that’s why we struggle sometimes over on the subcontinent.”
Cricket Australia might need to step up their efforts to help their spinners which in turn would also be of great use to their batsmen. Until they do that, a victory in the sub-continent looks a far-fetched dream.