If the Australian selectors are starting to consider playing four pacemen for the third Test against India in Perth, they’re just as muddle-headed as the team they replaced.
Let’s not go into the ramifications of kicking another promising young spinner in the teeth (cf. Beau Casson, Dan Cullen, Nathan Hauritz and Michael Beer), it belies common sense and, eventually, come back to bite Australia fairly and squarely on the bum.
Since 1990, Australia has played 21 times at Perth. In those games, their Win/Loss ratio stands at thirteen wins, three draws and four losses. Australia has played an all-pace attack in three of those games: in the Ashes last year, versus India in 2007-08 and in the 1998-99 Ashes series, where “Funky” Miller got the nod while Shane Warne was injured.
Although they won the WACA match last year – and against the Old Enemy a dozen years before – they were absolutely pillaged in 2007-08 against the Indians. This 2-in-3 success rate seems about right for what amounts to a gamble.
There are four iron-clad reasons why an all-pace attack should be vetoed with as much haste as possible.
First, Australia seems to have a great wealth of fast bowling talent at present. Unfortunately however, the nation seems to be injuring that talent as quickly as it arrives. With James Pattinson, like Pat Cummins, succumbing to the dread foot stress reaction, Australia are likely to head into Perth dressing the indefatigable Peter Siddle, the injury-prone Ryan Harris and the revitalised Ben Hilfenhaus. Add a fourth to that lot (Peter George? Mitch Starc?) and suddenly Australia’s attack, should/when Harris break down again, looks quite thin when compared to a batting lineup boasting near enough to 50000 Test runs.
|Peter George, courtesy: perthnow.com.au|
This doesn’t even begin to answer the questions as to whether Starc, who looked game but perhaps overwhelmed against New Zealand, or indeed George, are polished enough for Test level at present.
Secondly, the effects of dropping Lyon would be tantamount to a slap from a wet fish. Sure, he has cumulative figures of 2/180 so far this series, but he’s played on pitches hardly amenable to spin (Indian compatriot Ravi Ashwin has 4/298). He’s also on track to be the best off-spinner Australia’s had since arguably since Ian Johnson, who retired in 1956. He is worth persisting with and needs his captain, coach and even the ball-boys to tell him his place is secure. Nathan Hauritz, though captained by a man who thinks spin is something that dryers do, was never told this. And it showed.
This dovetails nicely into the third reason – Australia should play Lyon because he’s better-suited to the Perth pitch than to almost any other strip in the country. While a bigger turner of the ball than Hauritz (as are many), he still doesn’t rip the ball or have quite the grip and turn of the likes of Saqlain Mushtaq, Harbhajan Singh or Graeme Swann. What this means is that he’s a thinking bowler, and could – should? – become the Anil Kumble to Swann’s Warne, a player reliant on subtle variations … and aided enormously by bounce.
Finally, while Australia has opted for a four-pronged pace attack in the past, it has done so when conditions merit. Those conditions are best defined by the following questions:
Does the pitch take spin - at all?
Will the strip break up?
Can variety be provided by bowlers whose name isn’t Mike Hussey?
Are the four best available bowlers pacemen?
If so, how far ahead of the competition/spinner are they?
Are any of the four liable to collapse in a screaming heap?
Unfortunately for those advocating a fatal four-way, even the most ignorant of cricket fans knows the answer to all the above questions without even needing to think. Australia would take a retrograde step in taking four speedsters to Perth, a step with both long and short-term implications.