Lyon turns to Ponting for advice
Nathan Lyon is tuning up for his return bout against India's spin conversant batsmen at Adelaide Oval with Ricky Ponting as his chief source of advice in the nets.
John Inverarity, the national selector, has indicated that Lyon will play for Australia in Adelaide, granting him another chance to scheme for success against India after claiming only one tail-end wicket in each of the first two Tests of the series.
After an eye-catching debut in Sr Lanka, where he took five wickets in his first innings, and significant contributions against South Africa and New Zealand, Lyon's classical offspin has not made the same impact against the Indians, a common problem for many international tweakers when faced by batsmen raised on a steady diet of slow bowling and dusty pitches.
Demoted to drinks duties in Perth, Lyon spent much of his spare time in the nets, and is redoubling his efforts in Adelaide with Ponting as his most pointed advisor as he tries to find the right blend of subtle variations to fool the trained eyes of the visitors.
"I'm just trying to keep executing my stock ball to the best of my ability," Lyon said. "Of course changes of pace and natural variation all come into it, but I've been working hard with Ricky Ponting especially on my bowling in the nets and bowling to him, because I find him one of the best bats to bowl to in the nets.
"A couple of days off there missing out on the Test in Perth was a great opportunity for me to work on my bowling, batting and fielding. I used all that time possible that I could use to make myself a better player."
Ponting's influence on Lyon is intriguing, given his checkered history with spin bowlers while captain of Australia. The national team has cycled through no fewer than 11 slow men in the years after Warne's retirement, and all have had varied relationships with Ponting.
Jason Krejza and Bryce McGain were two to be cast aside rapidly after difficult days in the field, while Nathan Hauritz's moderately successful time in the team came to an end following the 2010 India tour during which he was convinced by Ponting to try to change his bowling action and angle on the crease midway through the Mohali Test, which ended in a narrow defeat.
After the match Ponting said he had been trying to get Hauritz to change his methods almost from the moment of his recall to the team in 2008.
"When he first came back into the side back in South Africa I worked with him long and hard then about trying to get him to create some different angles for a batter and that's talking through a batsman's eyes and what makes it hard about facing off-spinners," Ponting said after the Mohali match.
"The angles that he creates are slightly different to the angles that some of the great offspinners create, like Harbhajan and Murali, if you look at the angles that Nathan creates and where he releases the ball and the shape he gets on the ball compared to what Harbhajan does it is chalk and cheese."
Lyon has enjoyed a far more lengthy run of Test matches and a more solid demonstration of faith from the new captain Michael Clarke and the national selectors, but would dearly like to have a greater impact on proceedings at Adelaide Oval, his home ground.
"I'm pretty positive this one is going to go five days and it's going to be a pretty hard tussle for us," Lyon said. "The pitch is only going to get slower and lower, so hopefully it'll have a little bit more turn out there for me.
"It's just been a great challenge for myself, being a young spinner and bowling against the best batters against spin. Their hands are unbelievable and they're really confident against spin, so it's a great challenge for myself and I'm loving every moment of it.
"I still have clear plans with Pup and always for myself try to be an attacking spin bowler and try to take wickets, but in this series against the Indians our quicks have been doing the damage, so I haven't had the opportunity really to bowl long spells and get in as it's been a couple of short Test matches. Hopefully if I get the nod out here I'll be able to bowl a few long spells and see where we get to."
The inclusion of Lyon will be at the expense of one of the four fast bowlers who rushed through India at the WACA ground, with a decision still to be made on which of Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ryan Harris or Mitchell Starc will miss out.
"The big thing is our quick bowlers are bowling fantastic and I'm 100% behind them," Lyon said. "They've been getting the job done, which has made my job easier, I haven't really had to do much bowling. I'm still confident in my own skill set and we'll see how we keep going."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here