Amidst of Mitchell Starc spewing venom with his relentless pace, Josh Hazlewood hitting the impeccable line and length, here is a guy who quietly goes about his job often remaining unnoticed.
Yet, he ends up picking more wickets than the two bustling pacers on many occasions. For the last 4 years, ‘Garry’ has always been ‘nice’ with the red ball.
After Shane Warne hung up his boots, it took a while for Australia to find a quality spinner.
Brad Hogg, who was already 37 back then, announced his retirement from Test and ODI cricket in 2008. Nathan Hauritz faded away after a couple of promising years in international cricket. Australia also turned to Xavier Doherty and Jason Krejza but that didn’t work out either and progress in the spin department was going nowhere.
In 2011, a 23-year-old knocking over Kumar Sangakkara, on his very first delivery in international cricket was perhaps the best thing to happen to them.
The bowler was none other than Nathan Lyon! Since then, it has been a remarkable journey for him in whites. But in abbreviated versions of the game it has been a ‘stop-start’ journey so far.
Lyon made his ODI debut in March 2012. Almost 6 years later, he has played only 13 ODIS. However, he has always found himself off the selection radar despite having done well in the limited opportunities.
For someone who caught the eye of selector Greg Chappell with his potential in limited over formats, it is strange to see that his ODI career has never got going. In 13 ODIS, Lyon has picked 17 wickets at an economy rate of 4.93, numbers that don’t make a bad reading at all.
After making his debut in 2012, he played 4 matches in Zimbabwe, where he picked 7 wickets and had a good time. Thereafter, he was dropped from 2015 ICC World Cup squad as Doherty got the nod which was surprising. He made a comeback against West Indies in June 2016.
Lyon won a man of the match award for his 3/39 in his comeback game at Guyana but was surprisingly left out again! His last appearance in ODI cricket was against Sri Lanka in August 2016 when he returned with 1/49.
There were times in the past when Australia had missed him in ODIS but were reluctant to turn to him, a notable instance being their India tour last year. When Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar were torn apart, there was no one with a wealth of experience to handle the spin department ably. Indian commentators were shocked to hear about his exclusion, for he really would have been handy on the slow and low tracks of Chennai and Nagpur.
Lyon's List-A figures read, 71 wickets from 55 games at 33.64 apiece. Zampa could be Australia’s go-to man to handle the spin department in ODIS at the moment. But Lyon has got all the credentials to play the second fiddle to Zampa, if not the first choice spinner. The Aussies have never been great producers of off-spinners. In fact, Lyon is the only Australian right arm off-spinner to pick 100 test wickets on home soil, the next best being Bruce Yardley (79).
At 30, Lyon still has a long way to go in his international career and there is no reason why he shouldn’t be considered for selection in abbreviated formats of the game. If Lyon converts his success at Test level into the ODIs and perhaps in T20Is as well, he will be doing his teammates very proud and would justify his nickname ‘G.O.A.T’ (greatest off-spinner of all time)!