As Nathan Lyon plays his 100th test, spare a thought for fellow former South Australian non-spinner Dan Cullen.
Barely three years older than Lyon, Cullen, 36, could theoretically still play test cricket if it were an easy adventure.
Instead, Cullen lasted for a test and last played first class cricket in 2009.
Elite level off-spin bowling for Australia is as difficult as it gets.
Guard of honor of Nathan Lyon
“It’s very difficult in Australia,” former Australian captain Ian Chappell told Wide World of Sports.
“A finger spinner in Australia… it’s hard work anywhere but it’s bloody work in Australia. I would say probably as hard as anywhere.
“The important thing with Nathan Lyon, as with all players, is that he has improved over the years.
“This is what you should do and this is what you have to do to keep your place. And when you think about the lack of spinners Australia had in their day, it’s also good that it has improved because Australia would have been in trouble without it. “
Australia have struggled to develop young spinners at the first-class level, still torn between match results for the States and the interests of the national team. Particularly after Shane Warne, this has been an awkward and unexpected problem.
Just when Australia thought leg thrower Mitchell Swepson – Sheffield Shield’s top bowler this season – might be ready for a Test appearance, he was saddled with an Indian XI in a tour (1-148 in the second round). The great importance of Lyon was once again highlighted.
Thinking of Cullen, who took 1-54 in his only 2006 test, think of Nathan Hauritz. He played 17 tests in 2006-2010, taking 63 wickets at 34.98.
Hauritz’s average is three points higher than Lyon’s (31.98) and he took 3.7 wickets per test; 0.3 less than Lyon, which has now played 99 tests for 396 wickets. Hauritz’s average is just a shade higher than New Zealander Daniel Vettori, who played 113 tests for 362 wickets at 34.36.
The margins are fine and unforgiving on bowlers, fingers or wrists.
Then there are the others who played test cricket after Warne, omitting the remarkable Stuart MacGill: Beau Casson (one test, one wicket at 43:00), Cameron White (four tests, five wickets at 68.40), Jason Krejza (two tests, 13 wickets at 43.23), Bryce McGain (one test, no wickets for 148 races), Xavier Doherty (four tests, seven wickets at 78.29) and Michael Beer (two tests, three wickets at 59.33).
Tried, worked … thrown aside.
Then came Lyon, the Young, NSW product and former Adelaide Oval walker who gradually became a mainstay of the Test after his debut in 2011. He has stood up to all the challengers of his own time and built a colossal career. Good, Garry.
Ashton Agar (nine tests, nine wickets at 45.55), Steve O’Keefe (nine tests, 35 wickets at 29.40) and Jon Holland (four tests, nine wickets at 63.77) had chances. O’Keefe proved his class in the limited opportunities offered to a second spinner, but ended up playing 90 fewer tests than Lyon.
Nice margins indeed. The difference between getting a game and greatness.
Lyon broke the previous record for Test scalps by an Australian off-spinner (Hugh Trumble’s 141 wickets, between 1890 and 1904) in 2015 and it’s not nearly done, with 400 the next major milestone. This can happen during the 100th GOAT test; he needs four wickets at Gabba, the exact number of scalps he has averaged per game over a decade, although he only has six wickets from three tests so far in the series against India .
“I am far from finished,” said Lyon. “I’m still hungrier than ever. I want to go and play as much cricket as I can for Australia … win a lot of test series for Australia.
“Obviously I learned a lot, I gained a lot of confidence.”
Growth never reached a plateau. Lyon continues to rise.
“He keeps improving. I don’t know if he’s peaked or not, but he’s certainly not backing down, which is a good thing at his age,” Chappell said of Lyon, who did it all without the modern bells and whistles. like the doosra or carrom ball.
“I think that’s a bit of a misnomer, all the other stuff that a lot of commentators talk about (modern non-spin variations). If you play well … it has enough variation that it doesn’t have you don’t really need the rest, I don’t think so, ”Chappell continued.
“Stealing is the thing. If you don’t trick the batsman in the air it’s hard to beat him off the pitch. I think that’s one area he’s improved on is his ability. especially in getting the dive and rebound.
“It’s something you need in Australia because in a lot of places you’re not going to have a lot of spin so you really rely on that dive and that rebound a lot to cheat the batsmen.”
But more than that, Lyon prospered thanks to his willpower. Along with the wicket keeper, the spin thrower (except subcontinent tours) is the only player on the Australian squad fighting for a single spot. You are the best or you are missing. His career paradigm is as fierce as it gets, even before Rishabh Pant starts hitting you six straight times on the last day of a test.
“There can be a lot of reasons guys get it wrong, but usually it’s temper with a spinner. You have to have the heart for the fight and Lyon have shown he has that,” said Chappell. .
“This is usually the main reason why guys don’t pass for a while, that’s the great thing. To play 100 tests you have to do a lot of things right, but you absolutely have to have the heart for it. fight and Lyon had that.
“It’s two or three things [for a spinner]. It is courage, of course, but it is also intelligence. You need to be able to put things aside, like getting hit for six or getting hit for a few limits or someone mistaking you for a few overs. This is where the courage to continue comes in.
“But you also have to have the intelligence to determine, ‘OK, what is this guy doing to me that’s causing me a problem and what do I need to do to start causing him problems?’ You need this combination.
“I think that’s an area where he’s really improved, his ability to keep thinking and thinking hard to outsmart the drummer. He’s done really well in that regard.”
Lyon are 33 years old but have an almost impeccable injury history. He had a classic response when Warne suggested he take a rest for the 2019 SCG test, to give Swepson a match.
“Did Warney ever want to rest and try Stuart MacGill? I won’t be rested,” he said.
Warne has since predicted that Lyon could play for so long that Muttiah Muralitharan’s world record of 800 tryouts could be reached. Warne’s 708 counters are the Australian record.
“Who knows [how long he’ll play] but so far his injury history has been really good, which is important. Australia really has had no one else to take its place. It was crucial that he stayed in shape, ”said Chappell.
“And he’s part of a very, very good offense. He’s benefited from having the right bowlers around him, but he’s been smart enough to do his job and I think there are ways that it benefits the quickies.
“The fact that he can hold an end for a long time gives the captain the ability to spin his quickies on the other end. It’s very, very convenient for a captain.”
He was one of the most humble superstars in Australian cricket history, but Lyon joins a pantheon of greats by reaching 100 tests. His fellow Australian centurions are Ricky Ponting (168), Steve Waugh (168), Allan Border (156), Warne (145), Mark Waugh (128), Glenn McGrath (124), Ian Healy (119), Michael Clarke (115 ), David Boon (107) Justin Langer (105), Mark Taylor (104) and Matthew Hayden (103).
“I look at the other 12 guys who have played over 100 test cricket matches for Australia and they are pure legends,” said Lyon.
“Not just for Australia but [other 100-Test players] all over the world I will pinch myself every day to see my name compete against these comrades.
“It’s pretty amazing. I’ve tried in the past not to look too far ahead.
“But I’m very excited about it … just playing 100 test matches for Australia is very humbling.”
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