Previewing the Chennai Test for The Roar, I wrote, “Australia has selected her XI as if the Test was to be played in Brisbane or Perth rather than in Chennai. What, three quickies and only one spinner, I asked myself in horror?
“England had won the series in India a few months ago thanks to their spinners Graeme Swann and Monty Panessar. But Nathan Lyon does not fall in their category.”
In the first Test in Ahmedabad last November, England made the same mistake Australia did in the Chennai Test this month – they picked only one spinner, Swann.
And just as Australia lost by eight wickets yesterday, England had lost by nine wickets in the first Test three months ago.
In the subsequent Tests, England added offie Panessar to their spinning arm and won the second and third Tests by huge margins and drew the fourth Test to win the series 2-1.
Although Lyon, Xavier Doherty and Steve Smith are not in the same class as Swann and Panessar, having two spinners will give Australia a better chance to draw the series level in the second Test in Hyderabad, starting on its spinner-friendly pitch.
If I were a selector I would drop Philip Hughes and include Usman Khawaja in the Hyderabad Test and include Doherty or Smith at the expense of Mitchell Starc.
Although the Chennai pitch favoured spinners, it was not the reason for Australia’s eight wicket loss. Face it, they won the toss and thanks to skipper Michael Clarke’s superb 130 and debutant Moises Henriques’ 68, totalled 380 despite spinner Ravichandran Ashwin’s seven wicket haul.
The pitch started deteriorating on the third day but in spite of this Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli and captain MS Dhoni played confidently – especially Dhoni. His magnificent double century will be remembered for a long time. That was on day four.
The above four are exceptional batsmen, however even debutant fast medium bowler Bhupendra Kumar, batting at no. 10, hung around for 167 minutes, adding 140 runs for the ninth wicket with Dhoni (224 runs with 24 fours and 6 sixes).
On the same pitch, Australia lost 9 for 175 before being rescued by Henriques (81 not out) and no. 11 bat Lyon’s 11 off 77 balls. If a 10th wicket pair can add 66 runs, the highest partnership in the innings, why can’t the others?
The dusty pitch took spin but that was not the only reason for defeat. Good footwork as shown by Dhoni, Henriques and tail-enders Kumar and Lyon on day four showed that the pitch was not unplayable.
The Aussies were psychologically paralysed.
Just as the Australian team of 1956 had developed ‘Lakeritis’ after England’s off-spinner Jim Laker had taken 19 for 90 in the Manchester Test, Clarke’s men should not suffer from ‘Ashwinitis’ in this series.
If Henriques can conquer the spin-top pitch, so can others.