The Australians would be pondering hard over the team combination for the second Test at Hyderabad beginning on Saturday following their disappointing showing in the series opener at Chennai. In the wake of the eight-wicket defeat, the Aussies did concede that they were possibly one spinner short considering the kind of surface on offer at the M A Chidambaram stadium. Then again, as team coach, Mickey Arthur rightly pointed, in spite of the spinning conditions, most of the wickets went to seamers, James Pattinson ending up with the richest haul. This is one of the key reasons why the Australian management would be in a dilemma over whether or not to play two spinners at Hyderabad.
In spite of Nathan Lyon’s lack of penetration at Chennai, the Aussies would do well to go into the second Test with two spinners. Remember England also made the same mistake of going in with a lone spinner during the first Test of their tour to India, at Ahmedabad. Once the Englishmen changed their tactic and brought in Monty Panesar to partner Graeme Swann, the results were instant. True, even if Australia play left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty at Hyderabad, there is little chance of him doing as well as Panesar, considering the considering the difference in quality of the two bowlers. Still, there is no harm in trying out Doherty in the second Test.
This current Indian squad isn’t the most confident lot, something which England exploited very well. To taste success in these tough conditions, Australia will have to do the same. The fact is that without Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman India aren’t that good players of spin anymore. Both Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar were beaten comprehensively by Nathan Lyon during the course of the Chennai Test. With Doherty for company, who knows, Lyon might become more effective. Also, it is no secret that India have traditionally struggled against left-arm spinners, and Doherty’s inclusion might also have a psychological impact on the Indians.
Changes in the bowling apart, it is also important for the Australian batsmen to apply themselves better at the crease. The Chennai Test being the series opener, it is understandable that most of their batsmen, some highly inexperienced given the challenging conditions, struggled. At the same time, Australia are known to be quick leaners, and would thus be eager to put up a much-superior batting effort at Hyderabad. If the ball spits off the pitch like it did to Phillip Hughes or keeps unbelievably low, exactly what happened to Michael Clarke, nothing much can be done about it. Australia would need some luck for sure, and that is something which is not in their hands. What they can control is the kind of application they show at Hyderabad. That might well decide how well Australia perform in the series.
The current Indian side is not unassailable, even if the pitches are in their favour. Australia just need to hang in there, and attackIndia at appropriate moments.
--By A Cricket Analyst