Nathan Hauritz continues proud, if slender, line
Sydney: Off-spin bowling in Australia has always been a relentlessly demanding and unfashionable craft requiring deep reserves of patience and resilience.
Patience is essential on unyielding pitches offering little to finger spinners. Resilience is a prerequisite in a culture where fast bowlers and wrist spinners dominate.
Nathan Hauritz possesses both virtues in abundance, overcoming a series of setbacks and open scepticism over his ability back home to confirm his current spot as Australia`s number one test and 50-overs spinner.
Reflecting on his early days in an interview before Australia`s mid-summer tour of England this month, Hauritz said he had started life as a batsman and medium-pace bowler in his native state of Queensland before switching to off-spin.
"I was not very good at medium-pace," Hauritz told Reuters.
"There was only one spinner in the sides that ever got picked so if you can keep it half good when you are 13 you are in the side.”
"I batted three or four and as I got older spin became the main thing. I worked on it and under-19s was my big break. And it just blossomed from there."
Hauritz`s "big break" was his selection as the Australian under-19 captain. He then made his test debut in Mumbai on Nov. 3, 2004 at the age of 23, taking five wickets in the match including that of Sachin Tendulkar.
Then followed a swift, brutal lesson in the harsh realities of international sport.
On his return from India, Hauritz was dropped from the Queensland side and, after a second barren season, moved to New South Wales where his fortunes changed.
Australia chose a succession of spinners to try to paper over the huge gap left by the retirement of Shane Warne, returning finally to Hauritz for tests against New Zealand and South Africa in 2008 and the subsequent Ashes tour of England last year.
Hauritz is aware of the slender line of eminent Australian test off-spinners compared to the more glamorous leg-spin heritage of Clarrie Grimmett, Bill O`Reilly, Richie Benaud and the incomparable Warne.
Flight and rigorous control have been the common denominators.
Ian Johnson, virtually a pure flight bowler, held down a place in Don Bradman`s last and greatest side immediately after World War Two and went on to captain his country. Tim May was an effective foil for Warne, particularly on the 1993 Ashes tour.
Possibly the best of them all was Ashley Mallett, a fixture in Ian Chappell`s side of the 1970s who was also an outstanding gully fielder.
Off-spin since those days has undergone a revolution with the invention of the doosra, the ball delivered from the front of the hand which spins away from the batsman and has been used to savage effect by Sri Lanka`s Muttiah Muralitharan. Hauritz is now adding it to his armoury.
"It`s coming along well, I`ve bowled it a few times, I bowled it a little bit against Pakistan and I bowled it against West Indies, it`s not a ball I bowl every two or three overs or something like that," he said.
"I`ve been doing it for about 18 months, it could take a lot longer but I`m still going to keep working on it."
Another unplanned bonus is the opportunity to pitch the ball into the footmarks left by the Australian left-arm fast bowlers Mitchell Johnson and Doug Bollinger.
Otherwise he has learned to accommodate his bowling to the conditions, pushing the ball a little quicker through the air in England, trying for bounce in Australia.
Hauritz, who is currently receiving treatment on an injured left foot after experiencing pain in the first two one-day internationals, remains aware that as an Australian off-spinner he will always be among a minority.
"There just weren`t a lot of off-spinners about," he said. "And there`s not a lot of off-spin at the moment."