Ex-Australia offie Bruce Yardley feels the battle between off-spinners will be a semi-final attraction
Sydney: Amidst several battles cricket lovers will see during today's Australia vs India semi-final, one will be between two off-spinners — Ravichandran Ashwin and Glenn Maxwell, according to Australia's former off-spinner Bruce Yardley.
"The difference between the two sides will be the spinners – R Ashwin on one side and Maxwell on the other. I saw Ashwin bowl 10 overs for 30 runs (in the quarter-final against Bangladesh). He didn't get a wicket, but those are very good figures in one-day cricket. And Maxwell has got it coming out well too at the moment with those vital breakthroughs against Pakistan," Yardley told mid-day yesterday.
Western Australian Yardley, who toured India in 1979-80 with Kim Hughes' team, claimed 17 of his 126 Test wickets at the Sydney Cricket Ground. "The way India offie (Ravichandran) Ashwin is bowling, the SCG pitch should suit him. Unless they decide to make a glass surface, you have the best chance of the ball turning in Sydney than anywhere else (in Australia). For the Australians, Maxwell, the bowler will play a vital role," he said.
Maxwell has taken only five wickets in the tournament so far with his off breaks, but two of those came at a crucial juncture in the quarter-final against Pakistan where he lured skipper Misbah-ul-Haq into top-edging a sweep and had Umar Akmal caught at the square leg fence. It's this turn of form that will help Maxwell today, felt Yardley.
Ravichandran Ashwin celebrates the dismissal of South Africa's Vernon Philander at Melbourne on February 22 and Glenn Maxwell celebrates after dismissing Pakistan's Umar Akmal at Adelaide on March 20. Pics/Getty Images
Reluctant at first to speak to this correspondent because he "does not talk to strangers", the 67-year-old, who coached Sri Lanka after the departure of Dav Whatmore in 1996, slowly opened up, beginning with his 10-wicket haul (3-87 & 7-98) against the West Indies at the SCG in 1982. "Oh… the SCG pitch then had deteriorated as is the case with Test matches and I just got lucky to get all those wickets," he said.
"The Sydney pitch has always been a turner and that match was no different. The West Indies put on 384 and we were bowled out for 267 (a lead of 117). It was crucial not to let them get too many runs in the second innings.
"They wanted to knock us over though and were attacking, which I like because if someone is attacking you, then that gives you a chance to get wickets, and I managed to do just that (WI were all out for 255, and Australia scored 200 for four declared in their second innings in the drawn match). "I always loved playing at Sydney," explained Yardley, warning though that the current pitch may not be the same as in the past.
"Look, in ODIs, the pitch tends to change a bit and SCG may not be a rank turner, but having said that, the traditional nature of the Sydney pitch will mean that it will offer considerable turn on a regular basis.
"The SCG hasn't changed much over the years unlike the other pitches across Australia. It has a totally different soil when compared to Hobart or WACA, both of which offer more bounce," said Yardley, who played 33 Tests between 1978 and 1983 taking 126 wickets, besides 59 first-class matches for Western Australia between 1966 and 1989. His craft can be gauged from the fact that he accounted for as many as 75 wickets on a WACA pitch that, in his own words, offers "hardy any or no turn whatsoever."