Lyon becomes international off-spinner from a groundsman

July 26th, 2011 - 8:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, July 26 (IANS) The shock selection of off-spinner Nathan Lyon in the Australian squad for the tour of Sri Lanka next month explains how desperate the selectors were to induct a fresh slow bowler. The South Australian comes in after playing barely four first-class games and with four wickets at an average of 43.

Lyon, who was on the ground staff at the Adelaide Oval during the last Ashes series, just couldn’t believe his luck, describing the selection as “unreal.”

“It has certainly come out of the blue but I am not going to knock it back, that’s for sure,” he said. “Every kid dreams of playing for their country and to get the opportunity … is going to be an unbelievable experience,” said Lyon, who got the nod ahead of Jason Krejza.

“He nearly needed a heart starter when I told him,” quipped chief selector Andrew Hilditch.

“In an ideal world, you would have wanted him to play more. But that is not where we’re at at the moment, we’re looking for our best spinners.”

Michael Clarke will be leading the Test team as a full-time skipper for the first time in Sri Lanka, the series starting August 31 at Galle. The Test series will follow two Twenty20 internationals and a limited-overs series.

His predecessor Ricky Ponting, 36, who was replaced as captain after Australia’s quarterfinal exit at the World Cup, is in the squad as a specialist batsman.

Hilditch would not see the large-scale changes in the bowling attack is a direct offshoot of the Ashes setback.

“We’re picking the best team for Australia. It’s not something we are just picking young players because that is the way we want to go,” British daily The Telegraph quoted Hilditch as saying.

“But we need some experienced players, which we think we have got, and we also need to find a couple of new champions in the next couple of years.”

As for the two medium-pacers Trent Copeland and James Pattinson, there is a contrast.

Copeland comes in after taking 87 wickets from his 17 first-class matches for New South Wales, while 21-year-old Pattinson is seen as a star in the making even though he has played only eight matches for Victoria. James’s older brother Darren played one Test for England against South Africa in 2008 after just 11 first-class matches.

“It happened all really quick for us … (but) it’s come as a good shock,” Pattinson said. “It looks like they’re going to blood a few young players … I’m definitely aiming to get a game over there.”

Hilditch said Copeland and Pattinson were preferred to the more experienced Ben Hilfenhaus and Doug Bollinger because having some young fast bowlers would allow Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle perform in a more attacking role.

“We really thought long and hard about trying to make sure we got an attack which could maintain pressure as well as strike bowlers, and trying to get an opportunity for people like Mitch Johnson and Siddle to be more strike bowlers as opposed to bowling a lot of overs,” Hilditch said.

Left-arm spinner Michael Beer stays in the squad, having played just one Ashes Test.

“It will be an important tour for Michael on grounds where we expect spin to play a major role,” Hilditch said.

Australia hasn’t settled on a main spin bowler since Warne and Stuart MacGill retired and selectors were heavily criticised for constantly rotating the slow bowlers during the Ashes.

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