What happens if Australia want to play two spinners, like New Zealand are currently with Patel and Vettori? Currently the backup spinner for the NZ tour is Steve "The Golden Boy" Smith. Smith has had opportunities handed to him on a platter for all types of cricket, primarily on the strength of being a good 2020 fielder and a blond leg spinner.
The Australian contracted players list has no other spinners. So who is the best spinner in first class cricket?
My boy Bryce McGain. Yep, old Brycey boy has rebounded from being given a pasting in his only test on a non-spinning South African wicket to again be the leading shield wicket taker, despite only playing 8 of a possible 11 games. McGain took 26 wickets at 32, well ahead of the Golden Boy Steve Smith (21 wickets at 44). Other notable spinners include 3rd placed O'Keefe (NSW) with 15 wickets at 31, Krejza with 14 wickets at 54 and perennial Rushed Behind whipping boy Aaron O'Brien with 14 wickets at 63. Bryce also was the match winner in the Shield final, taking 4/70 in the final innings to win the game for Victoria.
McGain's career first class average is 35. That doesn't seem exceptional at first sight, but look at some other averages and you'll see that it takes an exceptional spinner to succeed in the Sheffield Shield. Nathan Hauritz averages 42 (driven down by the inclusion of his test figures in the first class stats). Steve Smith averages 49 (so at least he improved this season). Jason Krejza averages 49 too. Stuart Macgill only averaged 31. Hell, Brad Hogg averaged 41.
It is blatantly obvious who the best spinner in the Shield is and yet because of one bad game he has seemingly been banished forever. With the Ashes in Australia next summer, do we really want to risk the whole series on the fitness and quality of the Ritz, with the only backup the good fielding but mediocre everywhere else Golden Boy? And then we have the 50 over World Cup in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The Ritz is a capable one day spinner, but on subcontinental pitches we need another spin option.
And for Fred's sake South Australia, don't pick Aaron O'Brien as a bowler. His first class average is 58 and even getting worse.