There has been confusion in cricket circles this week over who should be Australia’s fourth bowler for the third Test against India in Perth.
Australia rarely goes into a Test without a specialist spinner, but bouncy conditions and a green eyed monster auger well for a four pronged pace battery. So where does that leave Nathan Lyon?
Lyon’s introduction to Test cricket has been impressive under normal circumstances (24 wickets at 30 in nine Tests).
Compared to his immediate predecessors though, it’s been overwhelming. It’s much easier following the likes of Xavier Doherty, Michael Beer and Bryce McGain that it was for these individuals following Warne and MacGill. He’s unlikely to ever be a superstar but can still fill a void until the next said superstar does emerge.
There has been talk from former players during the week suggesting that Lyon should be included for the Perth Test because of the variety it adds to the lineup.
I’m not sure how valuable that variety is against players who rarely struggle against off spin and have been playing Lyon with relative ease, despite their wobbles against the quicks at the other end.
It’s not good enough to be selected just because you are different.
Eight years ago the same argument was being touted from Brad Williams, who felt aggrieved that he was being overlooked for Nathan Bracken only because of the latter’s reverse dexterity.
Lyon’s strengths and weaknesses are almost one and the same.
He’s consistent and bowls with good flight, but bowls a low percentage of genuine wicket taking balls, especially in conditions that don’t suit.
He also lacks a ‘doosra’, ‘carrom’ or ‘sudoku’ ball (take your pick?) i.e. a ball that spins from right to left which has been the mystery ball for many finger spinners over the last decade or so.
Michael Clarke has already shown a liking to using his pace bowlers in short burst of four to six overs and having a fourth quick, in this case Mitchell Starc, would be a better option given that the 6”5 left armer’s height advantage and potential to get steepling bounce.
Clarke himself would then be required to mix things up with some spin to help the over rate.
The fact that Clarke turns the ball away from India’s predominantly right handed top seven potentially makes him more threatening than Lyon in any case, as was evident with his smart piece of bowling to remove Tendulkar in Sydney.
Whatever happens in Perth it’s almost guaranteed that Lyon will play in the fourth test where conditions are historically more spinner friendly.
Until then though, it may be his turn to jump off the horses for courses carousel and sit this one out on the sideline.
Fortunately for him though, he should be able to jump back on when the ride stops in Adelaide.