Nathan Lyon now has belief in his ability. Picture: Getty Images
Nathan Lyon now has belief in his ability. Picture: Getty Images

Spinner’s rise from timid mouse to roaring Lyon

Mitchell Starc has given a revealing insight into Nathan Lyon's transition from insecure performer to rampaging superstar.

It seems incredible that until recently Lyon's self-conscious demeanour gave off the vibe to even his closest teammates that the custodian of the team song was "making his debut every week".

But almost overnight, the timid mouse from country NSW has become the box office Lyon King about to usurp Dennis Lillee in the record books with the 350-wicket mark fast approaching.

Once upon a time it was Lyon's job to complement the heavy lifting done by the big name quicks, but Starc is adamant the attack now revolves around the off-spinning phenomenon.

Lyon's former habit of seeking positive reinforcement from the likes of Brad Haddin or Peter Nevill after every over has given way to a Shane Warne-like presence with ball in hand.

"We do joke about it, but the past 12 months he's found a confidence he didn't really think he had in himself," Starc told The Sunday Telegraph.

"At times it felt like he was making his debut every week.

"… Whether it was needing a bit of a pat on the back at times or just needing to hear from someone else that he was pretty good. Now he's starting to believe how good he is. And that's showing in his results.

"He's been unbelievable to be honest.

"He looks like he can get a wicket every over. Now he has that self-belief, which I guess is half the battle."


Nathan Lyon makes a loud appeal during the Indian series. Picture: AAP
Nathan Lyon makes a loud appeal during the Indian series. Picture: AAP



In conditions where fast bowlers are supposed to dominate, Lyon has 16 wickets at a mesmerising average of 19.43 from the first two Tests against India.

The next best wicket-taker is five behind him in Jasprit Bumrah, and Starc is the next Australian on the list with 10.

Starc isn't exactly certain what the turning point was, but if you look at Lyon's career record - a clear change seemed to come over him after he was on the verge of being dropped during the 2016-17 Test summer.

After going 540 deliveries without a first-class wicket, it was understood at the time Lyon only survived in the XI because Steve O'Keefe did his ­hamstring. But from there, the 30-year-old bit back hard against South Africa and Pakistan.

Matthew Wade started his iconic "Nice, Gary" chant later that summer and in the months that followed, Lyon dominated in the sub-continent for the first time with massive hauls in both India and Bangladesh.

Stuart MacGill believes Lyon is the best spinner in the world, because he can have a major impact in all ­conditions - even when it's a pace ­bowler's deck.


Mitchell Starc congratulates Lyon after a wicket. Picture: AAP
Mitchell Starc congratulates Lyon after a wicket. Picture: AAP



Fast bowlers have always been the main event in any Australian attack, but Starc explains how Lyon has changed the game.

"It's been shown the past two weeks. He either takes a wicket or holds up an end (every time he bowls) and it allows the other three of us to come through from the other end a little bit fresher and bowl quicker and more consistently," Starc said.

"When you've got a left-armer, two right-arm quicks that do different things and one of the great spinners in the world, it's a great group to be a part of.

"It doesn't matter what shirt he's got on or what cap he's got on, he's in the game at all points, in any conditions against any opposition. Which as fast bowlers, makes our job easy."

Mysteriously, Lyon continues to be chopped and changed out of Australia's limited overs teams despite his sheer dominance at Test level.

According to the likes of Warne and Michael Clarke, selectors should be locking Lyon in for next year's one-day World Cup.