India v Australia, 3rd Test, Mohali, 4th day

Australia spinning out of control

Nobody expected Australia's spinners to dominate this series, but their lack of wickets has been an inescapable problem

Brydon Coverdale

March 17, 2013

Comments: 63 | Text size: A | A

Nathan Lyon appeals, Australia v India, 2nd Test, Sydney, 1st day, January 3, 2012
Statistically, Xavier Doherty and Nathan Lyon have averaged worse than any other Australian front-line spinners on tours to India © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Xavier Doherty | Nathan Lyon | Steven Smith
Series/Tournaments: Australia tour of India
Teams: Australia | India

As Steven Smith served up an assortment of pies and lollypops to India's batsmen, who cheerfully gorged themselves on the fourth day in Mohali, one question kept coming to mind. How has it come to this? How is it that in a team with two specialist spinners, Michael Clarke needs to turn to a man whose legbreaks are of the kind often seen in the lower grades of club cricket? Watching Smith bowl is like watching Jerry Springer: you know things are going to get ugly, yet you can't look away.

That is not an attack on Smith, for he is in this team primarily as a batsman. No more should be expected of him with the ball than any other part-timer. Smith found himself in that unfortunate situation only because Xavier Doherty and Nathan Lyon have been so ineffective. Among the long hops and full tosses, Smith did send down the odd ripper, like the ball that caught the inside edge of Sachin Tendulkar's bat and was caught at short leg. But that was his only breakthrough. He finished with 1 for 63 off 10 overs. Doherty and Lyon took 1 for 211 between them.

It was always clear that spin would play an enormous role in this series for Australia, both the ability of their batsmen to play it, and the effectiveness of their own slow bowlers on helpful pitches. Nobody expected the Australian spinners to dominate India's wristy, fleet-footed batsmen. After all, even Shane Warne's career figures in India were unflattering. But the extent to which Lyon and Doherty have struggled has been an inescapable problem throughout this series, and one of the reasons they face a potential 3-0 deficit.

Overall, this was actually quite a good day for Australia in the field. They picked up all ten of India's wickets for the addition of 216 to the overnight total. And, yes, Lyon started it off by having Shikhar Dhawan caught in close. But otherwise, Australia only really looked dangerous once the second new ball was taken, and immediately started swinging. Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle were suddenly a handful as Starc hooped the ball in to the right-handers, and Siddle nibbled it around.

But there has never been any doubt about the strength and depth of Australia's pace bowling. In England for the Ashes, any combination of Starc, Siddle, James Pattinson, Jackson Bird, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus should be effective. But what of the spin stocks? Steve O'Keefe was unlucky not to be on this tour, Ashton Agar is developing well, and Fawad Ahmed is worth monitoring but remains ineligible, while Michael Beer and Jon Holland are injured. Who knows if any of them would have done better in India.

The fact is, there isn't that much domestic form to go on. The seam-friendly pitches prepared for Sheffield Shield matches mean that more often than not spinners are hardly required at domestic level. No wonder Smith's legspin has lapsed; New South Wales have O'Keefe, and two spinners are rarely needed. Young spinners like Agar, Cameron Boyce, James Muirhead and Adam Zampa require greater opportunities at Shield level. Cricket Australia is addressing the issue of pitches but it won't be an overnight process. The top 14 Shield wicket takers this season were fast bowlers.

What is certain is that statistically, Lyon and Doherty have so far fared worse than any other Australian spinners ever to tour India. It is true that Warne and other quality slow bowlers have struggled to adjust to the conditions and proficiency of the batsmen they have faced. But as of day four in Mohali, Doherty's average of 72.66 and Lyon's average of 73.60 were the poorest of any Australian spinners in Tests in India, part-timers excluded. At times they have managed to keep things tight, as they did during periods on day four. That is admirable and necessary. But at other times they have let the score blow out drastically. And the wickets just haven't come.

Much of that is down to the seemingly in-built abilities of India's batsmen. M Vijay appeared to know what Lyon was going to bowl before Lyon himself had decided, such was the ease with which he advanced and dispatched him. After stumps, Vijay referred to his methods against Lyon as "percentage cricket". In layman terms, hit the ball spinning in to you. It was the same ploy that Dhawan used against Doherty. Of course, it's easy to play the percentages when you're sure of what's coming, and predictability has been one of the sins of Australia's spinners.

It is hard to see Doherty playing Test cricket again after this series. He shouldn't have been picked in the first place. When the squad was selected, O'Keefe had just taken eight wickets in a Sheffield Shield match, but the selectors were more interested in Doherty's ODI efforts. That was as perverse as making Usain Bolt run the 5000 metres based on his sprinting form. It also went against the Argus Report's philosophy that players must earn their positions based on performances at the lower levels. Doherty had two Shield wickets for the season when picked; O'Keefe had 17.

The greater long-term issue surrounds Lyon, who has shown himself to be a capable Test bowler over the past 18 months. Perhaps he entered the series with a clouded mind, for the coach Mickey Arthur and national selector John Inverarity insisted he receive some tuition from Ashley Mallett before arriving in India. Mallett was successful in India, and the idea was sound in theory, but Lyon is the type of straightforward character who can be confused by too many voices.

He prefers to work with his own set of trusted advisors, notably the South Australia coach Darren Berry, his spin coach Craig Howard, and the Centre of Excellence mentor John Davison. On tour with Australia, the fielding coach Steve Rixon doubles as spin mentor. Rixon is an experienced coach, but was a wicketkeeper, not a spin bowler, and the arrangement seems fundamentally flawed. Perhaps the time is coming that Cricket Australia needs to consider employing a travelling spin coach.

Of course, the spin problem won't be anywhere near as significant on other tours. The other teams from the subcontinent are good against slow bowling, but not as masterful as India. Australia are due to play Pakistan in the UAE next year, but Pakistan's batsmen can be apt to lose patience against what they perceive as lesser spin bowling. And in England for the Ashes, Australia's fast men will do most of the work.

The question is who will be Australia's preferred spinner to help them. It won't be Doherty. It won't be Glenn Maxwell, who should be viewed only as a batting allrounder. Lyon will remain a strong chance, provided his confidence isn't shot to pieces by this Indian tour - and there's still the Delhi Test to go. O'Keefe, Beer, Holland, Agar - they will all come into contention. But whoever it is, they won't be doing their job if Clarke has to call on Smith to bowl.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by ygkd on (March 19, 2013, 8:30 GMT)

@Beertjie is right to mention keeping's part in the spin equation. We need our promising teen keepers playing two-day games alongside a slip cordon. And we definitely need them up at the stumps learning how to handle spinners. How many times does one have to see a well-thought-of junior keeper in a 20/20 or 40/40 representative match who's a good 2 yards further back than he should be? That's all the time that pace is on, often squatting awkwardly on his own, sans slips. That in itself doesn't auger well for what may happen when the spinners eventually get a go. Only, often there really aren't any spinners anyway, so the field will be spread & runs-per-over will be king. We need to encourage youth keepers who take wickets, especially stumpings, the real if-you-move-an-inch-I've-got-you ones, because that's what spinners need to build pressure on batting line-ups who've grown up on spinning tracks. Come to think of it, we don't just need spinners & keepers - we need spinning tracks too.

Posted by Beertjie on (March 18, 2013, 22:03 GMT)

Agree entirely @Behind_the_bowlers_arm on (March 17, 2013, 18:45 GMT) Can't help but think MC had a role in it. Hope it happens @wix99! Taking Agar now will ruin the youngster. One important point not mentioned at all is wicketkeeping. Someone like Agar who gives it a rip will need someone better than Wade standing up to him. How effective would Fawad Ahmed be if he doesn't have an excelllent keeper? OK Hartley won't ever make the team now, but Paine deserves a shot. But no, Wade bats well and suddenly the NSP want him for his batting alone. But he'll be the death of the first good spinner we field - just ask Nathan Lyon who isn't very good!

Posted by Tumbarumbar on (March 18, 2013, 12:01 GMT)

@handyandy, We are reliving the World Series Cricket days in terms of team selections. You may recall that Alan Border was cunningly made 12th man for his 4th test (at the SCG) after making 40 not out and 60 not out in his 2nd test (which was also at the SCG). Incredibly Australia were hammered. I think he was rotated out, probably responsible player injury management.

Posted by Fast_Track_Bully on (March 18, 2013, 11:14 GMT)

It is 3-0! Congrats team India. Wah! Even hardcore Indian fans never dreamed it!

Posted by   on (March 18, 2013, 10:53 GMT)

Nathan Lyon has suffered in the same way Panesar did. Too many voices, too many people saying he needed X number of variations, did for Panesar and it took a sustained period of playing county cricket to get his mojo back, which he certainly showed when he toured India. Lyon is no different. He's had everyone telling him to do more, to be more, and he's had very little time to actually try this out in domestic cricket. Add in being dumped for Doherty and you are not going to have a recipe for good bowling.

I'd go for the following. 1) Bring back Hauritz. He offers control and you know what he will do. 2) Eradicate Doherty from the Test side. 3) Drop Lyon, get him together with Agar, and tell that that they will not play for Australia in any format for the next two years and that their focus should be on Shield cricket and developing their bowling for the Test team. Get them bowling as much as possible in the first class game rather than any ridiculous limited overs game.

Posted by handyandy on (March 18, 2013, 9:15 GMT)

I am trying to think of a worse twin spin attack that has played for Australia.In fact I am trying to think of a worse team that has ever played for Australia.

You might have to go all the way back the World Series Cricket days when the senior team defected on mass ... but even then Australia managed to put together a competent second 11.

Posted by ooper_cut on (March 18, 2013, 9:14 GMT)

It is the same as what happens to India when we travel to Australia. There are talks of home pitches not being fast and the batsmen not able to play on bouncy wickets whereas the Aussie batsmen play fast bowling better. BUT one exception though India always had decent fast bowlers to fall back on. I remember in the 1991 tour, Kapil Dev & Prabhakar used to consistently break the back of the Oz top order only for the other bowlers to give them some space.

Posted by   on (March 18, 2013, 9:12 GMT)

Starc should be sent as nightwatchman yesterday instead of LYON.

Posted by reddawn1975 on (March 18, 2013, 9:09 GMT)

Well i think Cricket Australia needs a good look at itself its time for the current selectors go they lacking good judgement in picking quality players for the Australian Team with the spinners situation i think its quite clear Steve O'Keefe and young Agar should be in the Squad of players not lyon or Doherty. Phil H is basically just not good enough at this level he cant handle the pressure. I think both the Marsh brothers now langer has them in line are far to good not to be in this side they are guns and Mitch Johnson should have played game 1 in India his form in Australia was great and vicious.

Posted by venkatesh018 on (March 18, 2013, 8:58 GMT)

Nathan Lyon is the best spinner in Australia. Let there be no doubts about it. It is just the quality and depth of the Indian batting that has starved him of success on this tour. He has bowled well in the opportunities given to him so far in this series. Australia should persist with him in Test matches.

Posted by Analyst_pisupati on (March 18, 2013, 8:55 GMT)

What about Batting against England spinners

Posted by GeoffreysMother on (March 18, 2013, 8:43 GMT)

There is a lot of good alarming sense being talked here: poor selection, the way Hauritz was jettisoned, muddled coaching and most damming of all, the structure of junior cricket. It looks like Australia will struggle to produce the next generation of Ashley Malletts, Ray Brights, Brad Hoggs and Stuart Mc Gills let alone a Warne (who comes along every hundred years or so. It is a shame Brydon is heaping pressure on the quicks to solve the Ashes problems. Remember most have played nearly all their tests in Australia and only Siddle, Johnson and Starc have English experience (and Starc's took a month to get used to English conditions). Ryan Harris, and to a lesser extent Hilfenhuas are fine bowlers but injury and age might mean they are less effective than they once were.

Posted by 158notout on (March 18, 2013, 8:35 GMT)

and I know most England fans would disagree but I would be more worried about MJ than Hilfy or Siddle. He has never really managed it in Ashes series (other than at the WACA) but if he gets into a good rhythm he can do a Broad impression and run through a team.

Posted by 158notout on (March 18, 2013, 8:33 GMT)

I do think that the Aussie pace arsenal is being overhyped but Meety has a point about Starc and 'Patto'. Starc has the tools to be a real handful in English conditions and Pattinsons pace is an asset anywhere, as long as he can adjust. If Cummins had been fit he would complete the trio but can't see them taking a gamble. On the other hand Siddle has improved but I don't think he will be a big threat and although I cannot see Hilfy touring, if he does he will get hammered again, his "2nd coming" was against a poor India team. Harris will probably get injured on the flight over. I have seen enough of Bird. How has Copeland been bowling in the Shield? I know he had a poor time after the SL series but I always thought he would be a good prospect.

Posted by ygkd on (March 18, 2013, 7:42 GMT)

Like @MattSkalicky, I'll comment on junior cricket. There is too much short format stuff, not just at club level, but at league rep levels and higher - the levels where 15, 16 or 17 year olds get picked for State squads. Therefore, it's no surprise to see the number one spinner in such a team batting in the top six and the number two spinner likewise. These are not spinners. These are young bats who bowl some overs when the others get tired. This is the system that has given us the likes of Smith & Maxwell - young all-rounders who may never truly fill that role. But it doesn't stop there. The higher rep batting line-ups often lack the skills to play spin, the captains lack the skills to set a field & the keepers are fine back but too often poor up at the stumps. These are three difficult skills which take time to develop & that time is best provided in longer-form games where runs-per-over are not such a priority, but wickets are. Specialized skills require specialized opportunities.

Posted by WalkingWicket11 on (March 18, 2013, 6:27 GMT)

@johntycodes Maybe because Lyon scored better on the essay they had to write before the Test. :P

Posted by   on (March 18, 2013, 6:14 GMT)

Do you think all Australians who support our cricket team should ask our selectors to write a "3 point plan" as to how they would improve their selection brains so that these sort of blunders outlined in the article are not repeated in the future?

Posted by johntycodes on (March 18, 2013, 6:01 GMT)

Why did maxwell get dropped for lyon. Maxwell took more wickets in his match at a better average and better economy than lyon and he can bat. Someone explain to me why lyon got back in.

Posted by   on (March 18, 2013, 5:58 GMT)

ponting averages 87.5 in shiled this year, look slike the selectors will have to talk to ponting and Hussey to come out of retirement. Bits and pieces crrciketers like warner, henriques, and smith should all be sacked and never be part of the test team. its surprising to hear arthur say this is the best we have. As an OZ crciket lover I have seen better batsment than henriuques, smith , Hughes and warner. what the hell he is trying to prove this is the best that can do good Power pint presentation. get the oldies back or choose cosgrove, doolan,Fergusson , Khwaja and Burns in. with the same composition to England, forget 5-0 defeat, the aussies will not last more than 3 days on all matches.

Posted by   on (March 18, 2013, 5:08 GMT)

I am relay surprised by the way Australia has planned for this important tour ,There were no proper batsman or bowlers .Ashes would be a dream for Micheal clarke if they go with the same composition to face England in their backyard .Monty and Swan are easily the best spinners who are more than capable of doing much bigger damage than Jadheja and Ashwin . This team is pathetic leave aside Clarke, Watson ,Pattinson , Siddle this whole team would be easily trashed by an average Indian ranji side.I am a big follower of Australian cricket and looking at the way they have performed in India , i am wondering on where the so called strong Australian cricket is heading towards .

Posted by   on (March 18, 2013, 4:47 GMT)

Picking Doherty for this tour was just astounding, I don't think anyone quite believed it except for the selection panel themselves. I would guess that Doherty would have found the decision bemusing, but he's not going to turn down the opportunity. That more than anything else shows that this is a problem that has come down from the top. It's not that we have no spinning prospects, that Australia can now only hope to produce quality quicks. Instead it seems that we hopelessly mis-manage the spin bowlers we have. Doherty should never have been anywhere near this tour and I just can't fathom the logic that led to his inclusion. He's a solid one-day bowler but that's where it ends. The selectors need to carefully and accurate identify the actual spin bowling talent we have in Australia and simply ask "what do we have to do in order to make these guys better?". It shouldn't be rocket science.

Posted by japdb on (March 18, 2013, 3:32 GMT)

Hauritz is still playing and just took wks for Qsl v Wa on the WACA. And he has been to India 2 times. Maybe has learnt a bit. But he has apparently been crucified for a disagreement with Ponting over how he should bowl. Rumour???. But anyway it is clear that the Oz selectors have been totally "wrong" when it comes to spinners --- somehow always looking for another Warne. They eventually found Hauritz who did a good job then following some gamblers choice method of selection went for Doherty, Beer, Smith, Lyons and Maxwell. Lyons has not been bad but you would think that Hauritz would have done as well.

Posted by Meety on (March 18, 2013, 3:23 GMT)

@ Essex_Man on (March 17, 2013, 18:24 GMT) - IF selectors had your views on selection Jimmy Anderson would of been dumped 5 years ago never to be "feasted" on again. Most Pommy fans would say that Anderson has done quite well over the last 4 or 5 years, some would even use the word magnificent. Those same fans use Andersons injuries as reasons as to why his career stats are inferior to Siddle & Hilfenhaas & Harris & are on par with MJ. In 2009 - the leading wicket takers on either side were 1. Hilfy, 2. Siddle, 3. MJ. Anderson was "magnificent" in India with an ave of 30, Siddle is averaging 32. BTW - Harris averaged 25 against England with a S/R of 46, so IF there was any feasting it COULD be argued it was Harris on England. Oz will be touring England with a pace attack that is a lot better than in 09, Siddle is fitter than he was in 10/11 & has improved immensely, Starc is > MJ, Pattinson is > to any bowler on either side.

Posted by Big_Maxy_Walker on (March 18, 2013, 2:34 GMT)

Reading this article I found myself agreeing with most of it until I got to the paragraph forgiving lyon and blaming his lack of success of "too many voices". To me because of the way most spinners were treated post warne badly people are quick to defend lyon and say he is still learning. Wait a minute, this guy has played over 20 test matches so if he was going to improve it would already have happened. Lyon has always bowled his overs without much time between balls to think about each ball, then bowls the ball to fast(nearly 90kph). This has not changed. Plus his body language is too positive when he gets taken for runs. Beer is also just a defensive non spinner. The future is ahmed, okeefe and agar. I would take the fawad and steve to England and let agar have another full shield season to develop

Posted by   on (March 18, 2013, 2:17 GMT)

top comment Webba. Spot on

Posted by   on (March 18, 2013, 2:12 GMT)

Australia's whole approach to this tour smacks of a clear lack of planning, from the spinner selection to the lack of a back-up wicketkeeper (having to call Haddin in the middle of the tour all the way from Australia). The homework saga only made it worse. Australia sorely missed Pattinson in the this Test, and the 4 players issue could have been dealt under closed doors back in Australia with them being given an official warning instead of being dropped for a Test match.

Posted by   on (March 18, 2013, 2:08 GMT)

Im also confused why was Nathan Hauritz not mentioned? He was dropped when he was performing well and he has a proven test record, why not bring him back??? He recently took 5 wickets in an innings, can't do much worse then whats on offer....

Posted by Matth on (March 18, 2013, 1:39 GMT)

Well Ashwin was terrible in Australia last time but is a champion at home, so the conditions really do play their part. It has been even worse for Lyon. It's funny with the amount of cricket played all over the world these days that players seem less adaptable to foreign conditions than ever. Maybe this is due to the crowded schedule and lack of warm up games to acclimatize?

Posted by Wefinishthis on (March 18, 2013, 0:55 GMT)

Actually Brydon... "In England for the Ashes, any combination of James Pattinson, Jackson Bird, Ryan Harris, Pat Cummins and James Faulkner should be effective." There, I fixed it for you.

Posted by wellrounded87 on (March 18, 2013, 0:52 GMT)

@Essex man well it actually says Should not would. And by all rights it should. It wasn't as if the English batsmen completely dominated these guys. Ryan Harris took two good 5fors, and three times england were routed for not many (twice in PER once in BNE). It also says any combination. You would assume Starc and Pattinson would factor heavily in selection provided they are fit and doing their homework

The difference in last ashes was the batting, Aside from Watson and Hussey no Aus batsmen could get runs, and even the mentioned two weren't exactly superb. Our batting hasnt' exactly been strengthened since then either but hopefully our young batsmen can improve as they seem to be doing slowly.

Posted by HatsforBats on (March 18, 2013, 0:26 GMT)

@Essex_Man, Siddle & Hilf were the leading wicket takers in the last English Ashes series, and Harris (bowling avg. 23) took 9 wickets against England in swinging seaming conditions at Perth. I'd say thats where the idea came from.

Posted by MrKricket on (March 18, 2013, 0:00 GMT)

I think there needs to be an expression for this effect - the Warne Syndrome - the effect of a spinner being so good (except maybe in India) that, instead of creating a generation of spinners modelled on him, actually results in a complete lack of spinners! What happened? 10-15 years ago you couldn't help but fall over spinners at school carnivals. Was the bar set too high and those without ability were attracted and worked on to no avail? Has a match been won by an Australian spinner since the retirements of Warne and MacGill?

Posted by MinusZero on (March 17, 2013, 23:53 GMT)

It was mentioned in the article that positions must be earned by performances in the lower level. Further than that, it needs to be earned based on the particular type too. Watson is the classic example, good ODI and T20 player, sub-par test player. I am so sick of players being selected for tests based on ODI form or even worse, T20 form.

Posted by HowdyRowdy on (March 17, 2013, 23:50 GMT)

The inexplicable selection of Doherty in preference to O'Keefe suggests that Cricket Australia has not really accepted the Argus Report. Australia will need more talent to rejuvenate its Test team, but it also needs to end rotten selection practices and poor structures.

Posted by   on (March 17, 2013, 23:40 GMT)

Responding to Unmesh_cric Hauritz> Any other spinner to play test cricket for Australia since Warnie

Posted by InnocentGuy on (March 17, 2013, 23:38 GMT)

What about Jason Krezja? Or Nathan Hauritz? Where are those two? And there oughta be other spinners in the domestic circuit that we haven't heard of yet that they can take a chance with. Don't the Aussies go to unconventional methods when traditional ones seem to backfire especially when there's nothing to lose?

Posted by bobagorof on (March 17, 2013, 23:23 GMT)

@Unmesh_cric: Agreed. Hauritz was treated pretty shoddily by his captain, Ricky Ponting, who never had any idea of how to use a spin bowler properly. Despite having unhelpful fields, being unfamiliar with conditions, facing spin-proficient batsmen and coming back from injury, Hauritz's figures were comparable to Harbhajan's in that series. It's an indictment of the selectors that Haurtiz was dropped in favour of Doherty (who went on to claim 3 wickets in 2 tests in the Ashes before being discarded).

Hauritz is not injured. He's just finished playing a match for Queensland, who have made it to the final of the Shield competition. He's in solid, but not outstanding, form: 15 wickets from 6 matches at 32.93. Still outperforming Doherty. I still rate him as the third best spinner in Australia, though I suspect Agar will be next in line. Hopefully he gets a few seasons of cricket behind him before being thrown onto the International stage.

Posted by aarifboy on (March 17, 2013, 23:16 GMT)

People who saw Saqlain,Kaneria and Monty bowling magic spells on Indian soil would always wonder why Warne is considered as greatest.Murli was way ahead of him

Posted by Someguy on (March 17, 2013, 23:09 GMT)

@Webba84 - that pretty much sums it up. O'Keefe has been a consistent performer over the last few years. He has a better economy rate and average than any of the bowlers mentioned. With the exception of Agar, he is the only one with an average under 30, but Agar has only played a couple of games so it is hard to compare. Of the rest, only Holland averages under 40 runs per wicket (39.18), compared to 26.49 for O'Keefe. Lyon, Doherty, Beer and Hauritz all average over 40.

When you add to this that O'Keefe can bat (averages over 30 in first class cricket), is a good fielder and is obviously seen as a leader at NSW, since he was named captain.

He constantly performs well in tour matches. Last time England were here he was the best bowler and best batsman in the tour match.

I really have no idea why he is constantly being ignored.

No, we don't know that he would have done any better in India, but he certainly should have been given a chance.

Posted by mike_b on (March 17, 2013, 22:53 GMT)

The selection of Doherty ahead of O'Keefe for this tour is actually quite alarming. It seems that the selectors are either totally inept or there is some unstated issue or bias at play. I'm not suggesting O'Keefe would be the solution to all our Indian tour woes but it's hard to imagine him performing worse than Doherty.When comparing O'Keefe's Shield stats with Doherty's the selectors decision is just plain ludicrous! It makes a mockery of the concept of performing well at state level to gain national selection. What message does this send to other players? How can selectors expect players to adapt between the long and short formats when they themselves use short game form for long game selection and can't seem to adapt their selection thinking processes? Losing is part of the game but when we dish it up on a platter due to unclear selection goals and just downright amateurish management skills it's hard for us, the fans, to keep watching!

Posted by Wefinishthis on (March 17, 2013, 22:48 GMT)

Brydon - Great article. Doherty over O'Keefe was a scandal. Please feel free to write more about this and question the selectors more. ODI performance being considered over shield performance is the main problem. This needs to be written about. Watson, Starc, Doherty and Maxwell wouldn't be there if shield performance was taken over ODI. If South Africa had the same philosophy, Philander and possibly Steyn wouldn't make the test team. Imagine if Rogers, D.Hussey, Burns, Harris, Faulkner and O'Keefe were on tour. Things would have been different for sure (and I said this BEFORE the tour). Essex_Man - I agree. I'd throw Harris into that list too and possibly consider adding Faulkner instead of Starc if you wanted a better left-armer. Either way, if I see Bird and Pattinson opening the bowling against England (esp. with Harris and O'Keefe too), I won't be betting against Australia. If I see 'haus and Siddle again, there's free money on offer for England. Behind_the_bowlers_arm - Spot on

Posted by Deuce03 on (March 17, 2013, 22:47 GMT)

Essex_Man: I couldn't have said it better myself. While England's batting is no longer as formidable as it was in 2009-2011, Australia surely have to do better than turn out the same fast quartet who've already been eaten for breakfast in two Ashes series. Pattinson, Bird and Starc look promising, although they've only played a couple of Tests each, but, whatever the Aussies may protest, I'm not seeing any serious backup. Johnson is horribly unreliable, Hilf and Siddle are honest toilers but nothing more, and Harris is about 68, hasn't played a Test in nearly a year, and hasn't been that impressive in FC since. And the worst thing about it is that fast bowling is the area (other than fielding) in which Australia can expect to be most competitive on current form!

Posted by Chris_Howard on (March 17, 2013, 22:41 GMT)

I wonder if Doherty was chosen because he isn't from NSW? If O'Keefe was chosen, we would have ended up with 10 of the 11 in this Test from NSW (born there or playing for now).

The selectors may have been a little wary that the team was becoming overloaded with guys from NSW and that wouldn't go down well politically.

They probably said "Crap - O'Keefe is going well but we can't pick yet another block from NSW! The other states will string us up!"

The sad irony is how much better Jason Krejza did in his one Test in India and then after one more Test in Australia, got unceremoniously dumped never to play Tests again. Where would we be today if he had've been fairly treated and properly nurtured?

Posted by funkybluesman on (March 17, 2013, 22:39 GMT)

Steve O'Keefe's continued omission from test cricket really is baffling. The only thing I can think is that the selectors have a maximum number of NSW players they want to allow in the team, so they continue not to pick him. It's not NSW fault they keep producing more test quality players.

O'Keefe's first class average with the ball is 26. This compares to 40 for Lyon and 44 for Doherty. 40 for Beer, 39 for Holland. Add to that the fact that he's the best batsmen of the lot by a margin it's just baffling he's never been given a chance.

Posted by Humdingers on (March 17, 2013, 22:37 GMT)

I'm not so sure about "masterful" against spin. Monty and Swann ripped through the Indian batting as did Ajmal (in the ODI series). It's more the inadequacies of the Australian spinners than the Indian batting proficiencies.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (March 17, 2013, 22:34 GMT)

I don't know why this comes as such a surprise to some people. Lyon's never been a turner of the ball and has often just done a filling role for Australia, his test wickets have often come from batsmen hitting out. Steven Smith, Doherty, Beer etc are all players whose career lasted halfway through an Ashes series, only to be reignited again by a desperate Australian cricket board looking frantically to fill their ranks with anyone that doesn't bowl seam-up. But the best they can find are dart bowlers, not world class spinners like Swann. Australia have been on the slide for some time now, it's about time they started their 'rebuilding phase' now that the likes of Warne and Mcgrath have left.

Posted by Nampally on (March 17, 2013, 21:40 GMT)

As long as the pitches are made for the seamers, the spinners have no chanve of developing their skills. It is the reverse problem with Indian pitches made for spinners- no incentive for the seamers. One solution is to make the pitches friendly to the seamers on the first day & friendly to the spinners on the last day.This will encourage both Seam & spin bowlers. The real problem with the Aussie team is not just lack of spinners. It is lack of dominant batsmen. Watson & Clarke were expected to be the big run scorers with others chipping in to build a decent total. This did not happen in the first 2 Tests where Clarke was the sole batsman. Other batsmen chipped in as well as starc in the third test. But there was no big century maker. Ponting who is terrific form in the Shield games should be brought in to make the batting stronger. Add Hilfenhaus & Johmson in pace, then the OZ has reliable batting & bowling if not the match winning bowling. OZ needs both batting & bowling.

Posted by VivGilchrist on (March 17, 2013, 21:16 GMT)

As we speak OKeefe is averaging 22 in the Sheild this season predominately on seam friendly pitches. I'm not saying he was going to be a superstar over in India, but surely as the leading spin wicket taker for the season AND the owner of the best FC spinning record in the country, he was worth a shot. He might actually be good! The selectors have shown there hand with this one as we can see that SOK definitely is not in the "club". Have it your way Invers, as this is the result.

Posted by whoster on (March 17, 2013, 20:48 GMT)

@Webba84. Totally agree - and very well put. The Aussie selectors seem to be doing what the England selectors did in the 90's - show no faith whatsoever. Lyon was doing a decent job for a while until Dhoni played the innings of his life in the 1st Test. Most spinners in world cricket would've suffered the same treatment with Dhoni in that mood - and Lyon now knows he's one 'bad' game away from being dropped in future. As for O'Keefe not being selected - I've not even seen him bowl, but how on earth he wasn't picked for the tour ahead of Doherty is baffling. Statistics don't lie to that extent. The Aussie selectors need to accept that they don't have the talent of the golden era, and they're making things worse than they should be. I must say though, this is all marvellous entertainment from an English perspective!

Posted by cricmatters on (March 17, 2013, 20:45 GMT)

@unmesh_cric Nathen Hauritz sold his Test kit on ebay and retired after he was badly treated by Australian Selectors. Ponting never gave him the fields he wanted and he was discarded unceremoniously after the tour. Spinners will always be second class citizens in Australian team and as long as they keep winning at home with their pace battery, all this talk will be forgotten soon.

Posted by   on (March 17, 2013, 20:34 GMT)

Yesterday I commented not to write off Aussie bowlers and they proved to some extent. Actually Indian batsmen helped them to bowl them out so easily in next 74 overs bowled by them. Runs not scored, some careless shots. Some errors like Pujara's LBW might have helped, still Batsmen need 4C's. B Kumar showed his accuracy to get wickets. For me Its B Kumar is the best bowler for day No 4 in this match

Posted by balajeev on (March 17, 2013, 20:10 GMT)

I think one of the reasons for Lyon's poor performance is being dropped after the Chennai test. It must have dented his confidence.

Posted by wix99 on (March 17, 2013, 20:03 GMT)

I think the Australian government will fast track Fawad Ahmed's application for citizenship. The Ashes are at stake after all.

Posted by Collegefastbowler on (March 17, 2013, 19:39 GMT)

For all those people who are blaming the pitches and the conditions for Australia's poor show - it will do well to remember that both teams are playing on the same pitches and in the same conditions. It is not that Australia alone is playing on minefield pitches while India is playing on flat pitches. Australia do not have the bowlers or batsmen to make use of these pitches and conditions.

Also they would do well to remember that in all 3 Tests, Australia won the toss and elected to bat first. They had the first use of the pitch under the best batting conditions. The turn offered by the pitches increased as the pitch was used over the match and batting last was always the most difficult.

India had to bat after Australia and were therefore exposed to a more worn pitch. If the reverse had happened and India had batted first in these matches, the margins of defeat for Australia would have been much larger.

Posted by   on (March 17, 2013, 19:35 GMT)

@Fine_legs : However hard did Warne tried all that you mentioned, he failed miserably in India.

Posted by yoohoo on (March 17, 2013, 19:11 GMT)

@Fine_Legs - If it makes you feel good, why not? Fact was Warne was dismantled by Shastri long before sachin. And sidhu had done it in the tour games before sachin. Sachin just did it again in tests too. He was not much of a threat either, though anybody will look better than the current lot.

Posted by Behind_the_bowlers_arm on (March 17, 2013, 18:45 GMT)

Jackson Bird went home and wasnt replaced. WHY NOT? Steve O'KEEFE should be flying over with Watson for the 4th Test. His treatment by the selectors has been perverse and the justification for picking Doherty ahead of him was absolutely ludicrous. I'm sure he will be over looked for the Ashes and we will be told he hasnt done enough in international cricket. In the NIL appearances he has been granted. Scandalous.

Posted by Essex_Man on (March 17, 2013, 18:24 GMT)

Amidst all this discussion of Australia's club-standard "spin" bowlers, there is a bizarre suggestion in this article that Siddle, Johnson, Hilf and Harris would be effective in the Ashes series in England. Where did that idea come from?! Patto, Starc and Bird have got to be worth a try. If the Aussies revert to the same "attack" which England has previously feasted on, it'll be another one-sided Ashes series.

Posted by Unmesh_cric on (March 17, 2013, 17:50 GMT)

What happened to Nathan Hauritz? As an Indian fan, I remeber Hauritz playing against India and bowling pretty well. Of course, he may not have taken too many wickets against India but he definitely is a good bowler. He has nice action, spins the ball and has a pretty good loop. I am a bit baffled that his name is not even discussed in the above article (is he injured?).

Posted by Fine_Legs on (March 17, 2013, 17:42 GMT)

I agree with references in the article to the fact that Shane Warne's figures in India don't compare favorably with his overall career statistics, but it should be acknowledged that whenever he bowled in India, Indian batsmen had to keep him out. Warne constantly threatened to breach their defence even as they notched up big scores - there was no point at which Tendulkar, Dravid or Laxman could relax completely and treat Warne as a second-rate bowler. They saw the threat he implied, and dealt with it well on most occasions - but he did constantly probe, challenge and attack their defence.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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India won by an innings and 135 runs
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