Australia needs pace in India, not spin

Glenn Mitchell Columnist

By Glenn Mitchell, Glenn Mitchell is a Roar Expert

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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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    The Crowd Says (33)

    • December 23rd 2016 @ 6:18am
      Rob JM said | December 23rd 2016 @ 6:18am | ! Report

      The recent English experience shows that sub par spinners will be torn apart but it also showed that broad and Anderson had little effect. Fast swing bowlers are quite effective while seam bowlers (other than Macgrath) struggle. If they were available I would play two of Starc, Pattinson and Cummins with SOK and our next best spinner. Maxwell at 6 (unless turner keeps plundering runs at shield level, his spin is very economical if lacking in penetration) As for our second best spinner in those conditions it is still up in the air and should be determined of form. Agar would be my first pick as his batting is a bonus, but Swepson, Lyon and Holland should be in the mix if they show some form.

    • December 23rd 2016 @ 8:52am
      BrainsTrust said | December 23rd 2016 @ 8:52am | ! Report

      The win in India was post monsoon and I think it was quite early post monsoon, this is pre monsoon.
      I think you would probably need to do a lot of reverse swing at high pace to succeed in India pre monsoon.

    • Roar Guru

      December 23rd 2016 @ 9:10am
      Chris Kettlewell said | December 23rd 2016 @ 9:10am | ! Report

      That is true, but we still need to select the right spinner. Happy to go with just the one specialist spinner, but it can’t be Lyon. Lyon has shown he can’t adapt to those conditions, O’Keefe is much more able to bowl tight, keep pressure on and make use of natural variation in the surfaces, and being a left-armer turning the ball away from a predominantly right-handed Indian batting lineup, he’ll be a thousand times more effective than Lyon.

      The other question is which quicks to take. To win in India we probably need Starc to replicate what he produced in Sri Lanka, but this time he needs some decent support. Hazlewood wasn’t that good in Sri Lanka, he will certainly play in India, and needs to improve in those conditions, but who for the third quick. I can actually see why some people keep bringing up Cummins name in relation to the India tour. He’s probably the other bowler we’ve got most likely to be able to do something like what Starc pulled off in Sri Lanka. Bowling fast and getting swing. He’s not ready. He can’t get a chance to play Shield cricket and go to India, it’s one of the other and he needs to play some Shield cricket before being considered for test cricket, but I can certainly see the appeal. It’s hard to see Bird doing well in India. He’s someone you take to England, but not India. We need a third seamer who can utilize swing and reverse swing. So considering all the talk I’ve heard of Sayers being such a swing merchant (I haven’t really seen him bowl myself) he would probably be a better third pace option in India than Bird with Cummins not ready to go yet.

      • December 23rd 2016 @ 9:39am
        Redsback said | December 23rd 2016 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        Cummins is 23 now. Frankly, it’s ridiculous that he has played what, one test? If he is up to playing the longer form, then he is up for India. It seems unlikely to me that tests in India are going to go for the full 5 days anyway. Such is our impatience with the bay they tend to be over inside 3.

        The bigger issue is the batsmen. We need to pick them team that can play spin. I think we have no chance of winning if we pull out the 11 lined up for Melbourne. I would go with Hazlewood, Cummins, O’Keefe, Starc, Agar, Hartley, Maxwell, Handscombe, Smith, Marsh, Warner from 11-1.

        I’m a Queenslander, so no one can accuse me of favourtism with Hartley when I have left out Renshaw and Khwaja. The fact is, I havent seen any evidence that either plays spin well. Khwaja would be one of my first picked in Oz, but hes shown nothing on the subcontinent. Then for me its a choice of either Renshaw or Cummins (wierd as that may be) but with strong players of spin down to 9, I think a chance could be taken. Wade can’t be the keeper or wr will never win. Hartley is out best short term option in my opinion, but would be open to a good keeper and known player of apin if there is one around im not aware of.

        Australia needs to select to the conditions and I think that applies as much or more to the batting these days as we never seem to have too much trouble bowling teams out for acceptable totals.

      • December 26th 2016 @ 10:00am
        Timmuh said | December 26th 2016 @ 10:00am | ! Report

        Lyon did adapt to the conditions late in the series last time. He was quite good in the final Test, and got some wickets to go with that.
        If he is willing to give the ball some air, and give himself a chance, rather than bowl the traditional Australian fast, flat, non-threatening finger spin, he may well be valuable over there. There is nothing to suggest any other spinner would fare any better, maybe O’Keefe but he is much the same regular dart bowler except with the other arm.

        I agree with Glenn though, play three quicks and one spinner. Smith can bowl himself as back-up. Its a shame Voges fell away so badly, as he could have provided the containing dart part-time while Lyon tried to flight and attack more.

        But scoring over 400 regularly is going to be required, scoring under 150 regularly looks the likely result. The bowling line-up won’t be the issue, and nor will selection. There simply is not the ability,or more especially mindset, to be competitive over there.

    • December 23rd 2016 @ 9:29am
      Linphoma said | December 23rd 2016 @ 9:29am | ! Report

      You’re onto something here. The thought of three quicks going at it (Gilly captained don’t forget) on that touris alluring but there’s one crucial difference: that squad had SK Warne as THE spinner. No matter what mix of quicks you come up with there’s no one like even a subdued Warney on the horizon as a lock in who can chip in with the wicket haul and keep it relatively inexpensive. By all indications it could be a battle of the fast men. Apparently the Poms were out fast bowled by the Indians, Umesh, Shami and Ishant. The damage wasn’t all down to Ashwin, Jadeja, Yadav and Mishra.

      • Roar Rookie

        December 23rd 2016 @ 1:32pm
        Drew said | December 23rd 2016 @ 1:32pm | ! Report

        Indian quicks did better than the Poms but it was the spinners who destroyed them.
        We need 20 wickets and a balanced attack is needed. 3 Quicks and 2 spinners.
        Maxwell or Faulkner playing as the 5th bowler.
        The selectors probably won’t take either.
        Maybe they’ll be swayed by David’s article and unveil Cummins as our all rounder?????

        • December 23rd 2016 @ 1:48pm
          matth said | December 23rd 2016 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

          Well he’s hitting sixes for fun in the BBL…

    • December 23rd 2016 @ 9:31am
      Kiran Srinivasan said | December 23rd 2016 @ 9:31am | ! Report

      I think the more valid concern (that people are ignoring for some reason) is playing spin rather than sending a spinner in.

      The only player that’s reasonably comfortable playing spin bowling is Smith. And particularly the likes of Khawaja, Maddinson and Wade really struggle playing against the turn. The pitch deterioration in India is unreal, and the ability to turn and slide the ball is 80% of the reason behind India’s ridiculous home-game record.

      Boxing Day will be a good test to see how we hold up…

      • December 23rd 2016 @ 1:49pm
        matth said | December 23rd 2016 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

        I also think Smith’s spin play in recent years has been overrated. He is blindly jumping down the track and getting caught out of position time and again.

    • Columnist

      December 23rd 2016 @ 9:47am
      Ronan O'Connell said | December 23rd 2016 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      Very interesting article Glenn. As you said, you don’t just pick spinners for the sake of it in India, as England learned by picking three very ordinary spinners in four of the five Tests in India.

      I’d definitely pick O’Keefe in India as he looked good in Sri Lanka and his accuracy gives you invaluable control. But Lyon should not be an automatic selection.

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