Australia lost the 1st Test with all 20 of their wickets falling to spin. In contrast, India lost 12 wickets — eight to pace and four to spin. And that says just about all you need to know about how Australia can win.
Going deeper in the analysis, the combined bowling figures of the Indians spinner read: 193-44- 483-20 wickets — an average 24.15 and economy rate of 2.50. The combined figures of the Indian fast bowlers read: 33-5-113-0 — average nothing, economy 3.42. The combined total for spinners and fast bowlers is 596 runs for 20 wickets at an average of 29.80.
In comparison, Australia's spin bowlers bowled 63.3-3-278-4 — average 69.50 and economy of 4.38. Their pace bowlers bowled 102-21-302-8 — average 37.75, economy 2.96.
So let's get this straight: Australia's pace bowlers took twice as many wickets at an average of almost half, and a much lower economy rate. Yet many pundits think that Australia should go in with two spinners!
India are good at bowling spin; Ravichandran Ashwin did very well, Ravindra Jadeja did fairly well and Harbhajan Singh, despite not at his best, was still decent. Had Pragyan Ojha played, the margin of victory may have been even bigger.
For second Test, India should go in with four spinners and drop either Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Ishant Sharma — neither pacer looked like taking a wicket, and Virat Kohli can bowl medium-pace just to do the job of taking the shine off the ball.
As for Australia, it was said before the Test series by many connoisseurs of the game that Nathan Lyon is poorly suited for Indian wickets because he isn't a proper spinner. Lyon is accurate, hard to get away and good at tying down one end, which can take wickets in ODIs and T20s, which is where he really excels. In Australia, he can get wickets when batsmen become frustrated. But his bowling, like Shane Warne's, simply does not suit Indian conditions. Xavier Doherty, on the other hand, spins the ball a mile. While his two-Test record is not as good, nor is his First-Class record, he nonetheless seems more likely to do well in India. Doherty is probably at best going to do as well as Jason Krezja who took 12 wickets for 358 runs at Nagpur in 2008 odd and yet found Australia on the losing side.
Michael Clarke has come in for much criticism for removing James Pattinson out of the attack after he had taken two wickets. The decision was driven by a "rotation policy" to prevent injury. But taking a wicket-taking bowler out of the attack after just three overs! Instead, it was the ineffective Lyon who was bowling.
Lyon was smacked all around and it should have been clear that he was not useful on the Chepauk surface. He should not have bowled 47 overs in the match, especially when he was smashed for eight runs an over by Dhoni. Clarke’s persistence with Lyon in spite of him being decimated was very poor captaincy and helped India get back into the game.
The second blunder was in asking Mitchell Starc, one of Australia's best bowlers in the last couple of years, to bowl around the wicket. His pace dropped from 150km/h+ to a lowly 130km/h. He never looked like taking a wicket. The tactic was obviously flawed.
Peter Siddle has a horrendous record in India and shouldn't have been in the side to start with. Presumably he was included based on the idea that he could bowl forever, wouldn't get injured or worn out. The problem was that because he never looked like taking a wicket; his only wicket was No 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the last wicket to fall in India's first innings.
Now if, and it’s say a big if, it was right to bowl Pattinson in three-over spells, why not bowl a variety of bowlers? Sure Watson doesn't want to get injured, but he should have had a go. Moises Henriques has been fantastic all tour with his bowling, so why not bowl him more? Clarke should have bowled more. It was all far too much Lyon and Siddle, and then wasting Starc.
Either Pattinson and Starc should have been bowling at a time and letting the others bowl around them. Pattinson and Starc were the two real danger bowlers.
For the next test, let’s hope Clarke uses Pattinson and Starc in short, sharp spells to try and get wickets. I would like to see Henriques given extended spells with the ball, as he is unlikely to get too worn out at the pace that he bowls; he is economical and can take wickets. Watson should be made bowl at least a few overs. And Mitchell Johnson should come in and bowl as often as possible. Johnson doesn't always take wickets, but he is a seriously scary bowler. He injures batsmen on a regular basis, much like Brett Lee. If Johnson isn't taking wickets, he at least hurts the opposition.
I would have loved to have seen Jackson Bird as the fourth main bowler, but sadly he has flown home. So it looks like Xavier Doherty will come in for the second Test. Doherty is more likely to take wickets than Lyon, but it is far from guaranteed.
Phillip Hughes should make way for Glenn Maxwell, which also gives another bowling option, not only to give the two Pattinson and Starc a breather, but also — hopefully — to try and take wickets.
The batting, for the record, was mostly pretty good. The batsmen put a price on their wicket, at least in the first innings. In the second innings, they were worn out.
Australia can win the second Test, but they need more than Pattinson but Starc; Siddle and Lyon need to be dropped. Johnson is critical to any chances of success, as is giving Henriques more of a bowl.
India are favourites, but if the selectors and Clarke can get it right, Australia may just be a chance.
(Adrian Meredith, an Australian from Melbourne, has been very passionate about cricket since he was seven years old. Because of physical challenges he could not pursue playing the game he so dearly loved. He loves all kinds of cricket - from Tests, ODIs, T20 - at all levels and in all countries and writes extensively on the game)
First Published: February 27, 2013, 11:04 am