Nathan Lyon's latest success against India once again showed their continuous struggle against off-spin © Getty Images
Nathan Lyon’s latest success against India once again showed their continuous struggle against off-spin © Getty Images

Nathan Lyon’s five-wicket haul helped Australia take a 73-run lead on Day Four of the first Test against India in Adelaide. India are known to play spin well, but since England’s visit in late 2012, their batsmen have had a tough time against spin. When compared to India’s subcontinental counterparts, they cut a sorry figure while dealing with spinners. Nishad Pai Vaidya examines the statistics that reveal India’s struggle against spin since November 2012.

When England landed on Indian shores in late 2012, the tourists were expected to crumble against a heavy dose of spin. Instead, Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar gave India a taste of their own medicine and helped England clinch a remarkable series victory. That a seemingly formidable Indian batting line-up — one that is known to play spin well — were foxed by overseas tweakers was inexplicable. Some labelled it an aberration, but two years down the line, India’s worries against spin continue irrespective of the conditions.

Let us have a look at how various teams have performed against spin since November 2012, when the India-England series began. Here are the statistics:

        Team

M

W

Ave*

5WI

10WM

Zimbabwe

10

124

21.34

9

3

Australia

25

173

33.68

10

1

India

20

115

33.93

8

1

South Africa

17

97

36.37

7

1

New Zealand

22

142

36.85

9

2

Bangladesh

14

91

37.95

6

1

England

26

122

38.86

3

0

West Indies

13

76

39.14

3

1

Pakistan

17

107

40.34

7

2

Sri Lanka

18

82

56.29

2

0

*Arranged in ascending order of averages

As one can see in this table, India have averaged only 33.93 against spin since November 2012. Only Australia and Zimbabwe have fared worse than India in this list. India pale in comparison with their sub-continental rivals. Pakistan average 40.34 against spin, whereas Sri Lanka stand tall with 56.29, and have conceded only two five wicket hauls to tweakers in this period. Even Bangladesh average better than India at 37.95 and gave conceded only six five-wicket hauls and a solitary ten-wicket maul haul. In comparison, spinners have taken 10 fifers and one 10-for against India. That puts things in perspective as the subcontinental batsmen are believed to be the best players of spin. While their counterparts have done well, some even flourishing, India have cut a sorry figure.

Here are the spinners who have done well against India since November 2012:

               Player

M

W

Ave

5WI

BBI

BBM

Nathan Lyon

4*

20

34.70

2

7/94

9/165

Graeme Swann

4

20

24.75

1

5/114

8/113

Moeen Ali

5

19

23.00

1

6/67

8/129

Monty Panesar

3

17

26.82

2

6/81

11/210

Shane Shillingford

2

11

31.45

2

6/167

6/167

*includes the first innings of the ongoing Adelaide Test

During the ongoing Adelaide Test between India and Australia, Nathan Lyon made a mark with a five-wicket haul. He used the conditions well and foxed the Indian batsmen on numerous occasions. Along with Swann, he has performed the best against India since November 2012. A look at some of the averages tells you the story. While Indians have been able to dominate Lyon on the odd occasions, they have fallen to him in the process.

Moeen Ali, who isn’t a frontline spinner, troubled India quite a bit during their tour to England this year. The Indian batsmen lost their wickets in the process of going after him. By being complacent, they gifted Moeen a successful run with the ball. With Lyon, it has been a bit of a balance between aggression and the bowler using his skill to make it count. But, Shane Shillingord, Swann and Panesar clearly had India in trouble during their visits to the country. Swann and Panesar’s performances cost India the series, whereas Shillingford was the only bright spot for the West Indies during their visit in 2013. Even then, they looked very uncomfortable against him.

One of the commentators mentioned that before an overseas tour there is always talk about the prospect of dealing with the seam bowlers. Before the England tour, it was about India taking on James Anderson and Stuart Broad. While they did well, it was Moeen’s performance that was the death knell for India. Ahead of the tour to Australia, Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris hogged the limelight, with the out-of-form Lyon pushed into oblivion. The next time India travel abroad or even host a side, it would be unwise to write off the opposition’s spinners for they too may have a say in proceedings.

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)