Mitchell Swepson‘s international career hasn’t quite taken off yet, and it might not get off the blocks this summer against India either, unless the pitches at home have turned more subcontinental than possible, what with Nathan Lyon the immovable object at the top of the spinners’ queue. The 27-year-old is fine with that, though, and is happy to be around the group and “be a bit of a sponge and soak it all in and hopefully learn a few more things”.
“Gaz [Lyon] is obviously the premier spinner, has been for a while, and has proven himself time and time again in Test matches, so [I am] not counting my chickens too much to getting a go above him. But the way the ball is coming out at the moment for me, I feel like I am in a really good place,” Swepson told reporters on Saturday. “And if given a chance and opportunity, I feel like I am ready to go.
“Obviously that opportunity has to be there, and if conditions suit…you have to be ready to go no matter what. I will be preparing to play all four games. If the chance comes, I will hopefully take it with two hands, and if not, then so be it. I’m sure there will be more chances in the future.”
Swepson did get called up to the Test party late last year, when New Zealand went across, but didn’t get his baggy green. Then he was a chance to get a debut on the tour of Bangladesh, where spin-friendly tracks might have necessitated a partner for Lyon, but that tour was scrapped because of the Covid-19 situation.
“It’s just another challenge and another thing that excites me, to be able to test myself against another great cricketer, and their whole batting is world-class, so the opportunity to bowl at those guys is just another test for myself, and a challenge I can’t wait to get”
Mitchell Swepson on going up against Virat Kohli
“There was a great vibe around the team last time and I just learnt a lot just by being around them, so to be included from the get-go this time will be great – be a bit of a sponge and soak it all in and hopefully learn a few more things,” he said. “I got to bowl alongside Gaz while I was down there last time, and he’s always been great to offer up his advice; I got to have a little session with Warney [Shane Warne] in Melbourne last year, and again, another learning experience. So it would be silly of me to say I didn’t take anything out of that and that didn’t help my bowling.”
Proof of that is the form he has been in for Queensland in the first part of the Sheffield Shield season, with 23 wickets from three games putting him right on top of the wicket-takers’ list, eight clear of second-placed Jackson Bird.
“I think that experience definitely helped my bowling. But where I am at now, it’s been a long grind, it’s been a long process, that’s not the sole reason why my bowling has gone to where it is now,” he said. “It’s been a long grind in Shield cricket for me for a while now. Just glad that I am sort of getting the rewards now for that hard work. So yeah, it’s been great.”
With all the Shield games taking place in Adelaide this season, because of Covid-19, Swepson has had a greater role to play for Queensland than he would likely have back in Brisbane, where Queensland would normally have played their home games.
Swepson agreed with that, adding that the work he had put in on his fitness in the off-season had worked its magic too. “That physical aspect is always something you always work on as a professional cricketer, it’s something that the pre-season part of the year is when you work on that physical aspect, and for me, I think that it just comes down to bowling lots of balls,” he said. “We’re lucky to have the facilities we have in Queensland, so early in the year, up and running that I was able to come in and bowl so many balls during the pre-season.
When it comes to the Indians, the Test touring party will get cracking with two three-day tour games against an Australia A squad, both in Sydney, in early December after the ODIs and T20Is. Swepson is a part of both ‘A’ squads, but might not actually get to play the second of those (from 11 to 13), since the plan is for the squad to travel to Adelaide with time in hand ahead of the first – day-night – Test, starting December 17.
If that happens, and if Australia pick only one spinner in their XI for the first Test, and Lyon if good to go, not only might Swepson’s Test debut have to wait, he is unlikely to “test myself” against Virat Kohli either. The Indian captain will be on paternity leave after the first Test, and will miss the first tour game because the T20I series will still be on at the time.
“Hundred percent, you want to challenge yourself against the best and no secret he [Kohli] is up there with the best,” Swepson said. “For me, it’s just another challenge and another thing that excites me, to be able to test myself against another great cricketer, and their whole batting is world-class, so the opportunity to bowl at those guys is just another test for myself, and a challenge I can’t wait to get.”