As Australia’s selectors ponder whether to use a specialist spinner in the Ashes, they will be keeping a close eye on proceedings in Townsville. Three slow bowlers are in the Australia A squad playing there this week and it’s the most unheralded of the trio, Victoria’s Jon Holland, who will create the most interest.
The selectors already know what to expect of Jason Krejza and Cameron White, who are also in the squad. Holland is more of a mystery. A left-arm orthodox bowler - that in itself is rare in Australia - with only four first-class games to his name, he has earned such impressive reviews that Allan Border even suggested he should have been picked ahead of Nathan Hauritz on the Ashes tour.
That endorsement wasn’t based on statistics. Holland, 22, made his state debut last October and has nine first-class wickets at 49.11. He hasn’t yet won a permanent spot in Victoria’s line-up but such is the dearth of spin options around Australia that Holland can jump the queue with strong performances against Pakistan A.
“I was fairly surprised. A few people had said it was coming up and I might be a chance but I hadn’t really thought much of it,” Holland told Cricinfo of his Australia A selection. “It’s come out of the blue because I didn’t finish the year playing for Victoria. I only got a couple of chances and I didn’t really cement my spot, so I was a bit shocked when they told me I was in.”
It wasn’t a surprise to those who had been following Holland’s progress for the past few years. Ray Bright, the Victorian selector and the most recent left-arm orthodox spinner to play Test cricket for Australia, has been watching Holland since he starred in an under-19 state carnival in Perth four years ago.
His highlight in that tournament was 11 wickets against South Australia and Bright believes even now Holland isn’t fully aware of his own potential. He has spent plenty of time working with Holland, inevitably nicknamed Dutchy, who Victoria rate so highly that already they have him pencilled in for a 10- to 15-year state career.
“His strength is he’s an attacking bowler,” Bright said. “He’s a very relaxed individual. That’s when he bowls at his best. I get the feeling there is a bit of a thought process around from some people that they’re trying to make him into more of a defensive bowler and I think that would be completely against what his strengths actually are.”
The spin coach Terry Jenner has kept track of Holland’s development and watched him bowl at the Centre of Excellence this month. He has seen glimpses of Daniel Vettori in Holland and he believes his biggest weapon is terrific subtlety in his change of pace. Like Bright, he wants Holland to retain his willingness to flight the ball.
“Most guys just dart it in and Dutchy doesn’t,” Jenner said. “I hope he never loses that. It’s a natural gift for a young guy to have. Vettori isn’t a big spinner - in fact I think Jon spins it further - but Vettori varies his pace and that change of pace is one of Jon’s attributes too.”
However, Jenner hopes Holland isn’t thrust into the national team before he is ready and thinks a promotion in the next couple of seasons might be too soon. The selectors have found it hard to get the best out of their young spinners in recent years. Dan Cullen and Cullen Bailey were rushed into Cricket Australia contracts only to slip quickly from the radar. Krejza, White and Beau Casson have discovered how fickle the selection process can be.
As Krejza learnt when he was axed after his second Test, wicket-taking potential is rapidly forgotten when runs leak. Hauritz is the only spinner not to have fallen out of favour lately and his role is primarily to keep things tight, although there is no guarantee he will be in the starting line-up in the Ashes. Part of the problem is a lack of willingness from state captains to trust their slow bowlers.
“There was a round last year where … no side out of the six Sheffield Shield sides played a specialist spinner,” Bright said. “There is a bit of a dearth around. Nathan Hauritz is struggling to get a game at New South Wales and yet he’s the one spinner in the Australian side.”
In the meantime, three slow bowlers will take the field for Australia A. The first of two four-day games against Pakistan A begins in Townsville on Friday before the sides head to Brisbane for three one-dayers and a Twenty20. It is the perfect moment for Holland to shine, as he not only aims to impress the Australian selectors but also the Victorian selectors, who will need to juggle him with Bryce McGain next summer.
“It’s a good time,” Holland said. “If I can get a few games for Victoria and Australia A I’ve just got to take every opportunity that I can get, hopefully perform well, and the opportunity is there.”
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Thursday, June 25th, 2009 and is filed under Cricket, General.
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