Help for Lyon as Rixon's role is given a tweak
Form … Nathan Lyon is still Australia's top spinner. Photo: AFP
AUSTRALIA have moved to help Nathan Lyon combat South Africa's world-beating batsmen this summer by expanding fielding coach Steve Rixon's responsibilities to also cover spin bowling.
Lyon, 24, has not enjoyed a prosperous start to the domestic season, although he feels he is bowling well.
He arrives in Brisbane on Monday to join the Australia squad, and remains a likely starter for the first Test against the Proteas beginning on Friday, with captain Michael Clarke always hesitant to go into a Test without a specialist spinner.
Much has been made of the dearth of top-class spin bowling talent in Australia and, until now, the national team's coaching staff has not had a coach dedicated to the craft. That void has been filled with Rixon - an assistant coach with Justin Langer (batting) and Ali de Winter (fast bowling) - having spin added to his portfolio.
The former Test wicketkeeper is expected to work less on the technicalities of releasing the ball but heavily, at least initially, on field placements and the intricacies of bowling to a specifically placed field.
There may be criticism that a former spin bowler has not been handed the job but the appointment shows Cricket Australia has realised there is a decline in the quality and quantity of elite slow bowlers.
Despite Lyon's modest start to the season, and a concession by national selector John Inverarity he was ''concerned'' by the off-spinner's form, he was always going to be chosen for the Gabba Test for the simple reason there is no one else knocking on the door.
Victoria's Jon Holland had been identified as the country's No.2 spinner by selectors but a shoulder operation has put a line through him for the summer.
State teammate and all-rounder Glenn Maxwell is seen as the next in line while Michael Beer, an international tourist in April in the West Indies, has been all but forgotten. Whatever the case, it is not a list to strike fear into opposition batsmen.
Sri Lankan spin great Muttiah Muralitharan recently blamed the direction given by coaches for a lack of creativity among Australian spinners and, while Rixon's new role will have no impact on the production line, he will oversee the movements of whoever is in the national team.
Lyon flies to Brisbane having not had the ideal preparation for a Test against the world's No. 1 nation. He bowled only four overs in South Australia's Sheffield Shield win against Tasmania, with a green top in Hobart proving unsuitable for anything more substantial.