The Warne V Murali debate has reignited, and whilst I'm not going to buy into that here, I thought I would look again at the issue of pitches, and what bowlers are suited where. Why do Indians play Warne so easily, and why does Murali get carted by Australia?
Australia has never produced great off-spinners (well, not since 1900 anyway). The pitches simply don't suit them, and the change to covered pitches has reduced their effectiveness in England as well. There is little spin to be had for off-spinners on hard pitches that don't break up excessively. If you try to come up with a list of good Australian offies, it is pretty hard. Ashley Mallett was pretty handy, but the cupboard is pretty bare after that. Tim May did OK, but was hardly a world beater. Australian left arm orthodox is even less impressive. Anyone remember Murray Bennett, Ray Bright (most over-rated test cricketer ever) or Tom Hogan?
Offies will always have a role in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, as their pitches tend to have a softer crust, and to crumble. This suits an offie, as they get bite with their flatter trajectory from the front of the hand. A 'loopy' leggie (like Warne and MacGill) will not have the same effect as they bowl the ball over the wrist (which naturally throws the ball out slower, but on a higher trajectory). India has produced very few loopy legspinners (with the notable exception of the great Gupte), instead having bowlers like Chandra and Kumble who spear the ball through at a faster pace. A loopy leggie will get extra bounce from hard pitches, and therefore do well in Australia, but the lack of bounce in India etc will enable batsmen to sit back and cover the spin easily.
We saw this with the last Australian tour of India, when Michael Clarke was the most effective Australian bowler as he darted them in. Hauritz gave it too much air, and didn't get the best out of the unstable pitch. Australia needs to look at what bowlers are going to perform well in certain conditions. Hogg looks a far better bet than MacGill for games in India and Pakistan, as his style is better suited to those pitches.Greg Matthews and Ray Bright both have taken bags of wickets in India, and yet look like absolute no-hopers in Australia. The selectors may well gamble on the best young offie (or Cameron White if he starts bowling again) in Australia as backup for Hogg on the next tour, as history would indicate this strategy is more likely to achieve success than a loopy leggie like MacGill.