This Australian team could be vulnerable on turning tracks in the up-coming four-Test series. The side, presently, lacks a spin spearhead who can inflict damage on the host in these conditions.
India’s strategy of preparing spinning pitches against England earlier this season boomeranged since Alistair Cook’s side possessed two game-changing spinners in Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar. When the ball turned and bounced, off-spinner Swann and left-armer Panesar combined to ambush the Indian batsmen.
The present generation of Indian batsmen often struggle against quality spin for two reasons — the international cricketers do not play enough domestic matches and the number of contests in the abbreviated format adversely impact their footwork and defensive skills.
And England found the right mix with Swann’s flight, deception and turn complementing Panenar’s hard-spun quicker-through-the-air variety. England beat India at its own game.
The eight members of the Australian team, who arrived here on Thursday, spent a quiet day here on Friday.
But then, the 25-year-old off-spinner, Nathan Lyon, might already be feeling the weight of expectations.
With 61 wickets in 19 Tests at 32.16, he is the leader of the Aussie spin pack. Lyon can be a useful bowler, but does he have the control and the variety to assume a more threatening role that his illustrious predecessors did in India?
Richie Benaud proved the destructive leg-spinner in two victorious Australian campaigns in India.
In 1956-57, he dismissed 23 batsmen in three Tests at 16.86. Then, in 1959-60, Benaud sent back 29 batsmen in five Tests at 19.58.
Warne, who gave the ball more air than Benaud, had his moments of anguish in India but did play a crucial role in Australia’s series triumph in 2004 when he prised out 14 batsmen in three Tests at 30.07.
And lanky off-spinner Ashley Mallet — a great believer in subtle changes in length to unsettle batsmen — provided the star turn for the Aussies in the dramatic but eventually fulfilling 1969-70 series in India with 28 strikes in five Tests at 19.10.
So there is Aussie history for Lyon to seek inspiration from. He seemed to have the right idea as well when he said on arrival, “I personally think that two spinners should play (in the Test XI) in India.”
Lyon also revealed that he had watched Panesar and Swann bowl during the Test series in India. “I did watch Swann very, very closely, and I hope to take a few things from him and put the same methods into practise against India,” he said.
Australia has come here with five spinners, and Lyon, who started his foray into cricket as a curator, said healthy competition would enable him and the bowlers of his ilk to push themselves harder.
Apart from Lyon, Australia has left-armer Xavier Doherty as the second specialist spinner. The 30-year-old Doherty is more a one-day specialist with just three wickets in his two Tests.
Spin-bowling all-rounders Glenn Maxwell and Steven Smith are also part of the squad. Maxwell is still a work-in-progress as an off-spinner.
And Smith has shown an inclination to develop into a batsman rather than a match-winning leg-spinner that he once promised to become.
Smith has just three wickets from five Tests and his first class record — 46 wickets in 38 matches at 56.41 — does not present his bowling in favourable light.
It is a measure of Aussie concern that 19-year-old Ashton Agar, with just two first class matches behind him, has been roped in as the 18th player who will bowl at the Australian batsmen in the nets and, perhaps, figure in a side-game.
The Aussies are clearly concerned about the turning ball.