Crash Craddock: Queensland leggie Mitchell Swepson can land a baggy green thanks to old formula

Richie Benaud spoke about it, Shane Warne put it into action and now Mitchell Swepson is riding it all the way towards a baggy green cap.

It’s a simple little formula which sounds boring but history tells us it works.

It’s the mantra which suggests leg-spinners should resist the temptation to be too funky and concentrate mainly on their stock ball – the leg-spinner – to do the damage they crave.

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It’s easier said than done because it is much like telling a magician not to worry about that magnificent trick with the disappearing elephants and concentrate on juggling those three boring tennis balls.

If there’s one things leg-spinners love it’s getting wickets through the trickery of their exotic wrong uns and flippers and listening to commentators laud them for being masters of deception.

But, as Benaud said 40 years ago: “Leg-spinners can be magicians but they should never forget that the No 1 rule of their craft is to master the hard-spun leg-break – you can get distracted by the tricks.’’

Benaud admitted he had not always practised what he preached.

Teammate Peter Burge reckoned Benaud became so obsessed about trying to bowl the flipper – a tricky back-spinner delivered with a click of the fingers – it corrupted the rest of his bowling to the point where Burge told him “I would give the flipper a rest Rich.’’

Shane Warne had his flirtation with the flipper, loved the challenge of trying to master it, sometimes did and sometimes didn’t but never over-bowled that ball or the wrong ‘un.

He knew his stock ball, the leg-spinner, was a gold plated meal ticket.

Which brings us to Swepson, the 27-year-old Queenslander who has taken 15 wickets in two games in the Sheffield Shield competition this season to be an odds on chance of playing with Nathan Lyon the next time Australia chooses two slow bowlers, perhaps in the Sydney Test against India.

He did pick up one wicket with a flipper this season when Tasmania’s Nathan Ellis went back and edged one to slip but generally it’s been his stock ball that’s done the damage on spin-friendly Adelaide decks.

“Batters these days watch the hand very closely and are not really fooled by the stuff that comes out,’’ Swepson said.

“They see so much footage it is hard to have too many secrets. That is why I have gone to the subtle side.

“My best ball to get them out is the leg-spinner but don’t get me wrong as soon as the tailenders come out I pull the tools out of the kit bag and have some fun.

“I have bowled a wrong un for a long time but I have used it a lot less this year. I have backed my leg-break, and variations of it, and that has helped me with my accuracy. Different angles with the seam and different angles.

“I have had a lot of people tell me Warnie did not use his variation balls that much.

“The flipper is not one I pull out very often and I am still trying to work on it. I find it hard to bowl because its so different to everything else. It has to come out perfectly. You can make the batsmen look silly if you get it right but if you don’t.’’

Swepson has never played a Test but COVID-19 almost certainly cost him a baggy green cap because he was set to go as the No 2 spinner to the cancelled tour of Bangladesh where Australia was set to play two spinners.

“I was definitely disappointed. Because I was given the nod for the Sydney squad I would have liked my chances there but it was not meant to be. I just have to keep working hard and hopefully a chance might come sooner rather than later.’’


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Originally published asMitch dunks the funk to open path to baggy green

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