Mallett: These days, even ordinary spinners are getting many wickets

Even as Steven Smith’s men gear up for a rather long limited-overs series against in-form India, the 72-year-old is more concerned about his side’s chances in the upcoming Ashes.

Mallett: "(For me) One-day series is not important. The most important is Test cricket."   -  V. Ganesan

Ashley Mallett has always been right on the money. A Test cricket devotee, the former spin great of the Baggy Greens, doesn’t have much fondness about the shorter format of the game.

And he doesn’t hesitate in admitting it.

Even as Steven Smith’s men gear up for a rather long limited-overs series against in-form India, the 72-year-old is more concerned about his side’s chances in the upcoming Ashes. “One-day cricket is not important,” he says, while speaking to Sportstar from Down Under on Monday morning.

And throughout the conversation, he makes that evident with his crisp and precise answers.

There has been an eventual Ashes ‘spin’ to all the answers, even though the questions remained on this week’s ODI series.

“I am not too sure even who the spinners are for the India tour,” Australian spinner Steve O’Keefe’s mentor, Mallett, says, before laughing out loud. For someone, who has played 38 Tests and just 9 ODIs, shorter-format of the game is certainly not a Mallet thing!

Excerpts from an exclusive interview

There was a time when the Australians would find the Indian wickets quite alien. But things seem to have changed over the years. What do you think is the reason behind this?

They (the Aussies) are playing more regularly in the sub-continent. The one thing, which I have found recently, is that the standard of batting against spin bowling has fallen quite alarmingly, and that has happened worldwide.

Why are you saying this?

Pretty ordinary spinners are getting so many wickets these days. Look at Moeen Ali. He is a part-time spinner and he got hundred wickets. He is predominantly a batsman and not even a frontline spinner. Him coming up and picking up hundred wickets reflects how poor the batting has been worldwide.

What are the reasons behind this trend?

The growing popularity of T20s and ODIs has meant the batsmen are busy delivering with slogging, and that is being carried on into Test cricket. They don’t value it that much. Over all, that’s the situation.

The fact that Sri Lanka, England and Australia are acclimatising better is because they are travelling there more often.

But the results haven’t always gone in their favour…

Surely, if you keep going there and keep failing, you must be doing something wrong. (Erapalli) Prasanna talked about length and I think he’s right. In India, the Australian spinners need to bowl the length for the particular wicket. We get away with slightly short-of-a-length deliveries in Australia because of the bounce but that’s not the case in the sub-continent. It’s not rocket science. It’s about adapting to the conditions. (If the wicket is dry) you need to be a little fuller, that’s obvious. But it has taken a while to pick that one up.

Mallett: "One-dayers and T20s are good on the day, and the next day, you can’t even remember what happened."   -  R. Ragu

 

Australia has rested coach Darren Lehmann for the India tour. Ahead of the Ashes, do you think, this tour will help the team?

No, I don’t think so. It’s just a stand-out thing that sometime helps. But generally speaking, it’s a different game. I think people who do well at the Sheffield Shield stand a chance of going on to the India series.

In his tour-opening presser in Chennai on Sunday, Australia captain Steve Smith said that his spinners are doing well in limited-overs format but are slowly learning it in Test format. What is your assessment?

I think Mitchell Swepson, a young leg-spinner, should get an opportunity against England in the Ashes. He hasn’t played a Test match. He was with the Test squad in Bangladesh and is improving a lot. He is going to be something special. In the next year or so, you could see that.

Ashton Agar has improved. He bats pretty well, and is a steady bowler. He is not a champion spinner; he is not a frontline Test spinner yet. But yes, he has improved well in the last three or four years. He should be a good support for Lyon. But I think, in the next few years Swepson will make it count. There is lot to like about him. He is the best young leggie we have had since Shane Warne has retired. He’s the best thing.

A lot has been said about Sridharan Sriram. Many in the Australian cricket circuit feel that the Indian has actually helped Australian spinners grow. What’s your take?

He is very good. I met him at the National Cricket Academy in Brisbane. I remember Steve O’Keefe did not get wickets initially, he talked to him and the result was Steve getting six wickets. He is quite good.

Who could make the difference for Australia in the ODI series?

(For me) One-day series is not important. The most important is Test cricket. One-dayers and T20s are good on the day, and the next day, you can’t even remember what happened. I am not too sure even who the spinners are for the India tour.

Could you tell me? (Laughs)