Australia’s own spin troubles may have been brutally revealed at the World Twenty20, but coach Darren Lehmann believes exposing rising legspinner James Muirhead to an international tournament could pay long-term dividends.
Australia’s top-order have been in a spin facing slower bowlers on the dusty wickets in Bangladesh, losing all top six wickets to spin bowlers against the West Indies on Friday after the top five had suffered the same fate against Pakistan a week earlier.
The inability to negotiate offspin, legspin, wrong-uns and carrom balls has put the breaks on Australia’s innings in both losses – and could ultimately be blamed for ending hopes of claiming the last piece of silverware which has never sat in Cricket Australia’s offices.
Lehmann doesn’t believe Australia has a spin problem anymore than they have issues with pace bowling or any other aspect of the game – it just needs work.
But he was impressed by the performance of Muirhead, a player captain George Bailey says enjoys the contest more when the pressure is on and looked to have landed a telling blow when injected into the match at the halfway point of the West Indies’ innings.
The 20-year-old removed Chris Gayle with a clever wrong-un, showing in just his fourth T20 for Australia that he has a long future in the green and gold – and perhaps the white as well.
Lehmann believes Muirhead’s big-turning ability and unbridled confidence will serve him well in the next decade, tipping the young Victorian, who has eight wickets at 43.5 in his three first-class matches, has a future in all three formats for Australia.
“Yes, he does, but he has to be consistent,” Lehmann told reporters.
“The biggest thing with one-dayers is you know (batsmen) are going to come after you.
“In Test match cricket they can sit on you a little bit.
“I think he has struggled (in the Sheffield Shield), but he’s certainly got the potential and we’re really pleased with him so far.
“He was bowling to one of the most intimidating batters in the world in Chris Gayle and he bowled really well.
“The pleasing thing about James is he seems to step up in the game.”
While Lehmann was measured in his praise of Muirhead, he was equally reluctant to focus too heavily on Australia’s spin frailties.
“(It’s) not a weakness, because certainly spinners didn’t get us out – we got ourselves out,” Lehmann said.
“So we’ve certainly got some work to do in that area, but that’s like every area: fast bowling, playing short-pitched bowling, it’s no different.
“The wickets certainly haven’t spun as much as we thought, so that’s no excuse for our batters.”