In the last few years of modern cricket history, spinners have been more important than ever before. By forcing the batsmen to make mistakes, teams, which at first would use spinners to reduce the batting team’s run rate, now see spinners as a wicket-taking option. Recently, stars like Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan and Pakistan’s Imad Wasim or Shadab Khan have seen themselves towards the top of ICC Rankings.
For Australia, although they’ve had a weak One-Day International (ODI) year since the bans of Cameron Bancroft, David Warner and Steve Smith, their fast bowling line has not been compromised and they recently came back from losing 2-0 against India to win the series 2-3 in India. There is faith in the batting with Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja up top and the bowling department won’t disappoint in England this summer during the World Cup. But are Australia lacking a match-winning spinner? Right now, sure.
But there may be some good options available. In Australia’s radar, there are definitely a few names in the likes of Ashton Agar, Nathon Lyon or Adam Zampa, but maybe Cricket Australia can consider someone else, like Fawad Ahmed for example.
On the plane to England, it’s likely the Aussies will take at least two spinners, but let’s take a look and see which of these four names would be the best fit for Australia.
Adam Zampa’s been around the Australian side for a while, but he just doesn’t seem convincing enough. In ODIs, Zampa’s played 39 matches, picking up 53 wickets, 1.36 per match, at an average of 35.2 runs. A lower average would be more preferred, but he doesn’t seem like a major wicket-taking option.
Nathan ‘Gary’ Lyon
Even if Nathan Lyon doesn’t start in the World Cup for Australia, he’ll definitely be on the plane to England. A player of his caliber and ability cannot be ignored. Even if he doesn’t start, he’s the most experienced currently-playing spinner in Australia, and can surely guide the other Australian spinners.
But here’s the catch. He’s the most experienced due to his test cricket. In ODIs, he only has 20 matches under his belt, 21 wickets to his name. That’s 1.05 wickets per match, a rate worse than Zampa. Though he does a good job of keeping the run scoring low, possessing an ODI economy of 4.83, he won’t be as effective in removing the batsmen with his average of 43.04.
So will he be finding himself in England this summer? Sure. Will he actually start matches for Australia? Probably not the big ones against the likes of England or South Africa.
Yeah, there’s a reason Agar hasn’t played that much for Australia, and it seems he won’t be playing much more for them this summer. In nine ODIs, Agar has just managed eight wickets, and his average is even more concerning: 51.75. Even if Australia decide to take three spinners over two, I highly doubt Agar will be one of them. Especially when there’s another name lurking around as of late.
He might not even be Australia’s best option, but I back Fawad Ahmed to have a successful World Cup. The 37-year old has only played three ODIs for Australia, but his T20 form as of late has been decent. In the Pakistan Super League, recently for Quetta Gladiators, Ahmed took 3-15 against Islamabad United and has been acclaimed by Damien Martin to be the best spinner in Australia since Shane Warne.
Despite all this, however, Fawad Ahmed can be expensive. His economy in ODIs so far has been 6.04 with a high average of 48.33. But if it were up to me, I’d back his performances for Melbourne Stars and Quetta Gladiators and capitalize of Ahmed while he’s in form. He turns the ball much more than Agar or Zampa and is better suited to play limited-overs cricket than Lyon.
Verdict: Australia should take only two spinners, Lyon and Ahmed, and rather focus on their batting. If they bat consistently like how they did against India, they should move far into the World Cup. Place faith in the fast bowling line of Australia. They rarely disappoint.