It was a hot day in Mumbai, with the temperature hovering in the mid-30s, when the Australian squad began their first training session of their six-week-long tour of India, at the Brabourne Stadium. It was so hot that the Australian players were seen soaking their heads in ice towels every now and then, in between gulping down chilled water and other energy drinks.
Over at the nets, a 23-year-old leg-spinner, wearing a training jersey, shorts and a cap, was bowling under the watchful eyes of the spin-bowling consultant of the tour, former India left-arm spinner Sridharan Sriram.
If anyone watching from the Cricket Club of India’s pavilion had mistaken this young bowler for a certain Australian cricketing legend, they could have been given the benefit of the doubt. Mitchell Swepson’s run-up, or rather walk-up, and bowling action is rather reminiscent of the most successful leg-spinner in history, Shane Warne. No, it wasn’t the heat. Australia’s “surprise element” on this tour of India, as Steve Waugh put it, is Warne 2.0.
Letting it rip
Actually, calling Swepson a Warne 2.0 is rather unfair. The youngster from Queensland is yet to play a Test and comparing him to someone who has taken 708 wickets is not right, even if his action bears some resemblance with Warne’s. “I never really modelled my bowling on anyone,” Swepson said recently. “I have looked at footage from Shane Warne bowling but more as a fan.
“I see myself as a standard leggie who likes to rip the ball. I’ve always been taught since I was a youngster [that] bowling leg spin [is] to give the ball a good rip. You’ll go for a few runs, you’ll bowl some pump, but if you give yourself a chance to spin the ball hard and get the ball to talk through the air, that’s how you’ll get your wickets. That’s how I go about it. I know I’ll go for runs and bowl some poor balls, but if I get the wickets that’s what I’m looking for.”
Swepson sure knows how to rip a ball, as David Warner learnt in Dubai during Australia’s training camp ahead of the India tour:
Swepson has only played 14 first-class matches, but has picked up 41 wickets in them at an average of 32.82. In the recently concluded Big Bash League season, he took 12 wickets at 21.25 for Brisbane Heat. It was during the BBL that Swepson received the call about his selection in the India squad, where he will vie for a spot with Nathan Lyon, Steve O’Keefe, Ashton Agar and Glenn Maxwell.
Whether Australia captain Steve Smith will pick Swepson in the playing XI is anyone’s guess, but the leggie has done everything right to make himself noticed. In a column written last month after the squad was picked, Smith heaped praise on Swepson. “Just three months ago, I went up to the Gabba for a Shield game with NSW (New South Wales) and saw first-hand how far this kid has come. He’s improved so much over the past 18 months and he’s got a lot more consistent with the way he bowls. What’s exciting is that not only is he accurate, but he really gives the ball a good rip. That’s a dangerous combination.”
India would do well to look at some tapes of young Swepson as well along with the other more experienced Australian bowlers. In the series against England, they had some trouble against the leg-spin of Adil Rashid. Even if he is still uncapped, Swepson is by no means someone India can afford to dismiss in terms of their preparation. Especially after what he did against India A recently: