Australia needs pace in India, not spin

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

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    India’s tour next tour of India looms large with the first Test exactly two months from today.

    Much of the focus will be on whether Australia has the requisite spin bowling stocks to have an impact against a powerful batting line-up.

    Perhaps, it is not that important a discussion.

    I was lucky enough to commentate on Australia’s historic series win in 2004, the first since the Bill Lawry-led side in 1969-70.

    In 2004, the Australians principally won the series on the back of their fast bowling.

    In the first Test at Bangalore, which the tourists won by 217 runs, their only spinner, Shane Warne, sent down 60 overs in the match for figures of 2-78 and 2-115.

    Jason Gillespie (5-96), Glenn McGrath (6-94) and Michael Kasprowicz (4-66) were the more influential bowlers.

    The second Test at Chennai was a draw with two days’ play lost to rain.

    In the third match at Nagpur, where Australia secured the series on the back of a massive 342-run victory, it was again the quicks that did damage.

    Warne returned four wickets for the match and was required to bowl only 38 overs with India dismissed for 185 and 200 while Australia compiled scores of 398 and five declared for 329.

    Between them, Gillespie (9-80), McGrath (5-106) and Kasprowicz (2-74) claimed 16 of the 20 wickets to fall.

    The final Test was played on a pitch that was not up to Test standard from ball one with neither team able to score more than 205 in any of the four innings and the match lasted just over two days.

    Such was its dust bowl status, part-timer Michael Clarke captured 6-9 off 6.2 overs in India’s second innings, a feat that the likes of Steve Smith could have emulated.

    Still, in the first innings where India was dismissed for 104, the three quicks claimed seven wickets. In the end, Australia went down by just 13 runs.

    With Warne being ruled out late with a hand injury, Nathan Hauritz was the sole specialist spinner remaining in the squad. He returned match figures of 5-103.

    Had Warne been available, two spinners on that pitch would have been on the cards.

    However, at the other grounds tandem spin was not required as evidenced by the final series statistics – Gillespie (20 wickets at 16.1), McGrath (14 at 25.4) and Kasprowicz (9 at 28.3).

    Heading to India early next year Australia needs to play to its strengths, something it did not do in the recent 3-0 loss to Sri Lanka.

    In that ill-fated series Australia played two spinners in each match – firstly Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe, and when the latter was injured, Jon Holland was paired with Lyon for the last two matches.

    A third quick and just the one spinner may well have been a better option.

    England has just lost 4-0 in India and as former skipper Michael Vaughan tweeted, “Eight Test losses in a year … all because of no world class spinner!”

    Aside from the result in India, England also drew one-all in Bangladesh.

    In the first two Tests against India, England had three spinners in the side – Adil Rashid, Moheen Ali and Zafar Ansari, who was omitted for the last three matches of the series.

    Come the end of the series, their averages were not overly flattering – Rashid (37.4), Ansari (54.3) and Ali (64.9).

    Unless the pitches are going to be raging turners in India, Australia would be well advised to go in with just the one specialist spinner.

    Currently the spin stocks in Australia are unlikely to regularly trouble India’s batsmen.

    Pace is Australia’s strength. It has worked in India before. It should be the focus again.

    Glenn Mitchell
    Glenn Mitchell

    After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.

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