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India vs Australia 2017: Visitors demand the best out of Nathan Lyon

Can Lyon, match up to his counterparts Ashwin and Jadeja's standards in the upcoming Test series vs India?

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 06: Nathan Lyon of Australia celebrates swith his team after taking the wicket of Sharjeel Khan of Pakistan during day four of the Third Test match between Australia and Pakistan at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 6, 2017 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Lyon is Australia’s most experienced spinner

Australian Test sides have forever terrorised opponents with ruthless pace attacks. Making a brave move, they have chosen to experiment with a heavy spin strategy for their upcoming India tour.

They have brought in four spinners – Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Swepson, Steve O’Keefe and Ashton Agar –  for the four-Test series against India, starting February 23. Part-time spinner Glenn Maxwell will assist the quartet and try to make things difficult for the World No. 1 side.

While Swepson will make his debut, O’Keefe has played four Tests, Agar five, off-spinner Lyon the leader of the pack with the most experience with 66 Test caps. After Lyon surpassed Hugh Trumble to become Australia’s all-time highest wicket-taker among the off-spinners, he was called GOAT – Greatest of All Time, endearingly by his teammates. 

Why must Lyon step up?

The upcoming Border-Gavaskar Series 2017 demands him to justify the tag of ‘GOAT.’ Australia are now up against an Indian side that has been near unstoppable in the recent times. They have won six consecutive Test series; the last three came at home. Ever since Virat Kohli took charge, India have not faced a single defeat in their backyard.  

Undoubtedly, India’s key to success at home in the whites has been their spin attack. The pair of Ashwin and Jadeja bagged 28 and 26 wickets respectively in the previous series against England. Prior to that, New Zealand toured India and again it was the duo that led the bowling charts with a total of 41 wickets.

In addition to that, the Indian batsmen have been in a great touch as well in the last couple of series. Kohli has smashed four double tons in the previous four Test series and Murali Vijay has three hundreds in the preceding 10 Tests. Ajinkya Rahane also showed good signs during the one-off Test against Bangladesh, considering that he has recently recovered from an injury.

Also Read: India vs Australia 2017: 5 key player battles to watch out for

Australia need a reliable bowler who can put breaks in the classy Indian batting line-up. Although the World No. 2 Test side, Australia have been traditionally strong in their pace department, the spin dominance on Indian wickets can not be avoided.

“They’ve got the fast bowling attack to exploit these conditions. The likes of Starc, Hazlewood and the rest will get the ball to reverse (swing). But once again the challenge for Australia will be spin. That’s the key in the subcontinent, you have to play spin well and bowl spin well,” former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly told India Today.

Hence the likes of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Jackson Bird will need inputs from Lyon and co. However, Lyon’s numbers in Asia go against him.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 10:  Nathan Lyon of Australia celebrates with team mates after dismissing Wriddhiman Saha of India during day five of the Fourth Test match between Australia and India at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 10, 2015 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Half of Lyon’s wickets have been picked up at home

Lyon’s spin woes in the subcontinent:

CountryNo. Of TestsWickets
New Zealand212
West Indies521
India315

Out of 228 Test wickets, Lyon has picked up more than half of those (118) at home.

In overall Asian conditions, Lyon has 42 scalps in 11 Tests. The 2016 tour of Sri Lanka was Australia’s latest visit to the continent, that gave them a reality check. Smith and his boys faced an embarrassing 0-3 whitewash; again, spin was one of the major reasons behind their defeat. Australia are currently on a nine-match losing streak in Asia and they have not won a Test series on the continent since Lyon’s maiden Test tour against Sri Lanka in 2011.

It’s just not Lyon; Australia have tried several spinners like Michael Clarke, Jason Krejza, Xavier Doherty and Nathan Hauritz but, unfortunately, all have failed to leave a mark on the Indian conditions. 

Lyon and Australia will not play the ‘underdog-way’

The last time Australia toured India was in 2012-13 for a four-Test series and Lyon was a part of the squad. He had finished third behind his counterparts, Ashwin and Jadeja with 15 wickets to his name.

Adding to that experience, the Australian spinners are being trained by former Indian spinner Sridharan Sriram and former England cricketer Monty Panesar to make their uphill task doable in the upcoming series.

Also Read: Only a collective effort can stop Virat Kohli says Michael Hussey

The Test series against India is a massive challenge for Steven Smith and his boys. Prior to the four Tests, a tour match was scheduled that begun on Friday. Making a positive start to the series, Lyon picked up 4 wickets while O’Keefe picked up 3 wickets in the first innings. 

Australia’s 400-plus total in the first innings followed by Lyon leading the bowling attack, things have so far gone Australia’s way. They need him to step up and take charge on spin-friendly subcontinent conditions. The visitors have also given out a message that they are coming to India to play and not make the numbers.

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