Infotainment Factory: The man behind Lyon's startling batting feat

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Sunday, 23 December 2018

The man behind Lyon's startling batting feat


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Over the past week, Nathan Lyon has been described by Mitchell Johnson as “definitely” Australia’s first player picked and backed by Ashley Mallett to surpass Shane Warne’s Test wicket-taking tally.

Such is the scintillating form of the tweaker nicknamed the GOAT that he almost seems to stand alone between India and one of the cricket-mad nation’s final frontiers: a Test series victory in Australia.

Not only is he the leading wicket-taker with 16 wickets from two Tests, he also tops the batting averages with 76. That’s more than 30 runs clear of the best batsman in the world, Virat Kohli, whose 44.25 is good for third on the series batting averages list.

Naturally, Lyon’s place at the bottom of the batting order has played a significant part in padding his stat line, with the No.10 only dismissed once so far this series.

However, what is unmistakable is his more assured appearance with willow in hand, a shortened backlift and a stillness at the crease that some of his top-order mates would do well to copy.

It’s no fluke that Lyon has become a handy contributor with the bat and one of the sounds of the summer so far has been Kerry O’Keeffe and his Fox Cricket colleagues lauding the batting whisperer behind the improvements.

No longer Lyon’s best kept secret, his older brother Brendan, a batting coach based on Sydney’s northern beaches, has played a key role in lifting the off-spinner’s Test batting average out of ‘bunny’ territory, to a respectable 12.53.

“I’m just doing the same stuff with him as what I do with all the kids I work with,” the 34-year-old owner of coaching business Lyon Cricket tells Wide World of Sports in an exclusive interview.

“I give him ways to stay stable at the crease and I'm really big on my players having a lower backlift. Backlifts have really crept up on the back of training methods but also T20 cricket.

“He's had a bit of time at home so he had the chance to work on some things and he’s bought into what I’ve been trying to get him to do.

“He’s had some help with his stance from some other guys and (former Canadian international and Lyon’s personal coach) John Davison came up with a way to get him into positions that I want him to, so that allowed him to be more confident in the technique that I've tried to instil in him.”

Over the course of just “five or six” net sessions in the lead-up to this Test series, Lyon’s brother has transformed him into a batsman that has scoring options rather than just the stubborn forward defence that has often brought him in up the order as a nightwatchman.

The developments have pleased but not surprised Brendan, who points out that Lyon was an all-rounder growing up and has always had the potential to contribute more with the bat.

“He's always been able to bat but being in a professional set-up, he's always required to bowl and it's often not the most pleasant experience when he's facing the bowlers, the big fast bowlers who could do some damage to him,” Brendan said.

“I think he's always been aware of that and I'd suggest he's been hit a few times, so for that reason he maybe hasn't put the emphasis on it.

“Definitely the absence of a couple of star batters (suspended pair Steve Smith and David Warner) has pushed him to take it upon himself.”

The greater emphasis on developing his batting is reaping its own rewards for Lyon but doing it against a world-class pace battery can be a double-edged sword.

Lyon lost his wicket for the only time this series shortly after being struck on the helmet by Mohammed Shami amid a terrifying spell of fast bowling that coaxed the demons out of the green Optus Stadium pitch.

It’s a moment that his brother watched from the vantage of a concerned family member more than a coach – although he emphasises the importance of preparation when it comes to facing fast, short-pitched bowling.

“You do worry about him,” Brendan said.

“The game's changed forever unfortunately after the death of Phillip Hughes, so you are aware of that and it's hard to put to the back of your mind, especially when they're bowling as sharply as they are.

“But you hope that you've prepared him well enough and I think he played it quite well on the truer pitch in Adelaide, he swayed out of the way and played a few shots, which was good.

“But when the pitches are uneven and less reliable, yes it makes it exciting but it makes it a lot more difficult and it’s only natural that you’re concerned for his safety.”

Lyon will go to Melbourne with the bouncer that hit him fresh in his mind and his brother admits only time will tell if it undoes some of the work they’ve done together in the nets.

But for now, he and the rest of his family are enjoying the new string to his bow and seeing the weeks of hard work paying off.

“You wouldn't have thought he'd be topping the batting averages but he has been hitting the ball quite cleanly and he's been able to repeat it under pressure,” Brendan said.

“It's not his role in the team to make the runs but you've got 10 wickets and everyone needs to contribute if they can.

“He's chipping away and hopefully he can contribute a bit more before the end of it.”

Over the past week, Nathan Lyon has been described by Mitchell Johnson as “definitely” Australia’s first player picked and backed by Ashley Mallett to surpass Shane Warne’s Test wicket-taking tally.

Such is the scintillating form of the tweaker nicknamed the GOAT that he almost seems to stand alone between India and one of the cricket-mad nation’s final frontiers: a Test series victory in Australia.

Not only is he the leading wicket-taker with 16 wickets from two Tests, he also tops the batting averages with 76. That’s more than 30 runs clear of the best batsman in the world, Virat Kohli, whose 44.25 is good for third on the series batting averages list.

Naturally, Lyon’s place at the bottom of the batting order has played a significant part in padding his stat line, with the No.10 only dismissed once so far this series.

However, what is unmistakable is his more assured appearance with willow in hand, a shortened backlift and a stillness at the crease that some of his top-order mates would do well to copy.

It’s no fluke that Lyon has become a handy contributor with the bat and one of the sounds of the summer so far has been Kerry O’Keeffe and his Fox Cricket colleagues lauding the batting whisperer behind the improvements.

No longer Lyon’s best kept secret, his older brother Brendan, a batting coach based on Sydney’s northern beaches, has played a key role in lifting the off-spinner’s Test batting average out of ‘bunny’ territory, to a respectable 12.53.

“I’m just doing the same stuff with him as what I do with all the kids I work with,” the 34-year-old owner of coaching business Lyon Cricket tells Wide World of Sports in an exclusive interview.

“I give him ways to stay stable at the crease and I'm really big on my players having a lower backlift. Backlifts have really crept up on the back of training methods but also T20 cricket.

“He's had a bit of time at home so he had the chance to work on some things and he’s bought into what I’ve been trying to get him to do.

“He’s had some help with his stance from some other guys and (former Canadian international and Lyon’s personal coach) John Davison came up with a way to get him into positions that I want him to, so that allowed him to be more confident in the technique that I've tried to instil in him.”

Over the course of just “five or six” net sessions in the lead-up to this Test series, Lyon’s brother has transformed him into a batsman that has scoring options rather than just the stubborn forward defence that has often brought him in up the order as a nightwatchman.

The developments have pleased but not surprised Brendan, who points out that Lyon was an all-rounder growing up and has always had the potential to contribute more with the bat.

“He's always been able to bat but being in a professional set-up, he's always required to bowl and it's often not the most pleasant experience when he's facing the bowlers, the big fast bowlers who could do some damage to him,” Brendan said.

“I think he's always been aware of that and I'd suggest he's been hit a few times, so for that reason he maybe hasn't put the emphasis on it.

“Definitely the absence of a couple of star batters (suspended pair Steve Smith and David Warner) has pushed him to take it upon himself.”

The greater emphasis on developing his batting is reaping its own rewards for Lyon but doing it against a world-class pace battery can be a double-edged sword.

Lyon lost his wicket for the only time this series shortly after being struck on the helmet by Mohammed Shami amid a terrifying spell of fast bowling that coaxed the demons out of the green Optus Stadium pitch.

It’s a moment that his brother watched from the vantage of a concerned family member more than a coach – although he emphasises the importance of preparation when it comes to facing fast, short-pitched bowling.

“You do worry about him,” Brendan said.

“The game's changed forever unfortunately after the death of Phillip Hughes, so you are aware of that and it's hard to put to the back of your mind, especially when they're bowling as sharply as they are.

“But you hope that you've prepared him well enough and I think he played it quite well on the truer pitch in Adelaide, he swayed out of the way and played a few shots, which was good.

“But when the pitches are uneven and less reliable, yes it makes it exciting but it makes it a lot more difficult and it’s only natural that you’re concerned for his safety.”

Lyon will go to Melbourne with the bouncer that hit him fresh in his mind and his brother admits only time will tell if it undoes some of the work they’ve done together in the nets.

But for now, he and the rest of his family are enjoying the new string to his bow and seeing the weeks of hard work paying off.

“You wouldn't have thought he'd be topping the batting averages but he has been hitting the ball quite cleanly and he's been able to repeat it under pressure,” Brendan said.

“It's not his role in the team to make the runs but you've got 10 wickets and everyone needs to contribute if they can.

“He's chipping away and hopefully he can contribute a bit more before the end of it.”

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