If Aussies don’t back their spin, they just won’t win
Australia's spinner Nathan Lyon. AP Photo/Andres Leighton
On the odd occasion I get to have a game of golf, I usually play with my Dad at his home track (Whittlebury Park, very good if you ever get the chance).
The second hole on one of the club’s three nine-hole courses is a relatively short par four that lends itself to a mid to long iron and a sand wedge.
Every now and then, however, if everything is in your favour, it is just about drivable but it often makes for tricky chip and it generally pays to play the conditions for what they are.
That perhaps isn’t the greatest example but the principle of what is about to be offered is more or less the same.
Frankly, the decision to go into the Chennai Test with just the one recognised spinner was either startlingly naïve or plain idiotic.
A powder-dry surface that couldn’t have been any more geared towards those of a slower-bowling persuasion needed, actually demanded, that a pair of spinners were selected. Yet the Australian brains trust put rational reasoning to one side and instead opted for its cousin, who should not have been listened to.
With a good dose of hindsight, which every review has the benefit of, the outcome of the contest could have been very different if a few factors had played out in alternative fashion.
At 8-406, just 26 runs in the ascendancy, the first innings lead garnered by the hosts could have been substantially less than the 192 that materialised.
A little bit more circumspection, as shown by the impressive Moises Henriques, by the rest of the order could well have produced a better score first up and a more stubborn effort the second time around.
And had Nathan Lyon been at the races then the Indians would have had more difficulty in building such an impregnable position.
But all of this doesn’t detract from the obvious mistake that Michael Clarke and Mickey Arthur made prior to taking the field.
At the time it would have seemed like the right choice to take, of course it would, and every coach in every team sport will have had similar experiences, but next to nothing pointed to what they came up with in this instance.
This kind of stubbornness – no spinner on an Oval dustbowl in 2009 springs to mind all too readily – should be a thing of the past and if either Glenn Maxwell or Xavier Doherty weren’t considered to be up to it last week then they shouldn’t be on the sub-continent at all.
Test standard or not, they are in India for a reason and need to be trusted to do what they are there for.
In such arid conditions, spin has a greater chance of consistently succeeding than seam and the logic that if the third seamer is superior to the second spinner then he should be preferred is plain daft.
On the whole, Peter Siddle or Mitchell Starc are comfortably better than either Maxwell or Doherty but one of the latter has to be given his head and if the same tactics are used again then it is tantamount to running with your ankles tied.
You’ve got what you’ve got and if Australia don’t invest some faith in their spin they’ve got next to no chance of clawing their way back into the series.
Driver or long iron?
Alec Swann is a former Northants and Lancashire opener turned cricket writer. Outside of the joys of a Test match, Newcastle United and golf generally occupy his other sporting interests with a soft spot for the Newcastle Knights.