New Delhi: Former Australia leg-spinner Stuart MacGill today said that even though Ravichandran Ashwin is India's premier spinner, Karn Sharma's inclusion in the playing XI for the first Test against Australia is justified.
"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Ashwin has got a tremendous record in the sub-continent. If you look at the number of five-wicket hauls that he has taken outside of India is a stark contrast. I don't think he gets enough top spin on the ball to generate the bounce required.
Karn Sharma gets ready to bowl on the first day of the first Test match between Australia and India at Adelaide Oval in Adelaide on Tuesday. Pic/AFP
"He tends to rely on Jadeja as well, but he is on a different class. I don't think either of them deceive the batsmen in the air as much, which they will have to do," MacGill, who has turned cricket expert with ESPNcricinfo's online video show 'Match Point', told PTI.
Making his Test debut at the Adelaide Oval, the 27-year-old Meerut-born leg-spinner, who returned figures of 1-89 in 23 overs today, picked up the all-important wicket of centurion David Warner and MacGill was impressed with his showing.
"The wrist spinner Sharma today proved that he is a good selection. There are a number of deliveries he bowled today that showed a lot of promise. I think this will be a real stimulus for him for the rest of his career.
"Because he will be able to see now that he can play Test cricket, he can be a wicket-taking bowler and then he can take his career to the next level. I think he should stop taking himself as a sort of an economy kind of bowler and start becoming a little more attacking," he said.
Commenting on the quality of leg-spinners in Australia, MacGill said that he would love to see the experienced Fawad Ahmed playing against India this summer.
"We have actually got leg-spinners playing for three states. And we have got Pakistan-origin Fawad Ahmed. He is the best leg-spinner in Australia at the moment. He has currently got the most first-class wickets in Australia. I would love to see him getting an opportunity this summer against India.
Let's see what he has got," said MacGill, who represented Australia in 44 Tests in the Shane Warne era.
An old-fashioned operator with a gargantuan leg-break and a majestic wrong'un, MacGill also opined that off-spinner Nathan Lyon who is in the Australian XI at the Adelaide Oval, has improved by leaps and bounds.
"As far as the number go, Nathan Lyon has done enough as any other spinner in recent times. Statistically and otherwise he has done well. But unfortunately for a certain period of time we were looking for an alternative but he fought his way back into the team after being dropped a couple of times. But he has shown a lot of resilience and that is the key to be a successful bowler," he said.
"Since he has established himself, he has comfortably made his presence felt in international arena. In match-ups against significant oppositions he has done very very well. I think he has to bowl well to Indian batsmen but they should play him well if they want to take care of him. He rarely bowls a bad bowl and does get a lot of work on it," he added.
Talking about Australia and their good opening day showing after they ended at 354 for six, MacGill said that coach Darren Lehmann's smart approach is working well for the Michael Clarke-led side.
"Darren Lehmann has long been an exponent of moving the game forward. He likes that every game is moving towards a result. He doesn't like stagnancy in the game and today was just that. We saw Michael Clarke and Steve Smith and Mitchell Marsh support David Warner very very well and I think that the run-rate that was achieved by Australia through the day was very healthy," said the 43-year-old cricketer.
Talking about his experience with 'Match Point' and co-analyst Ajit Agarkar, MacGill said that he is loving every bit of it.
"It's been a very lovely experience. For me and Australia and the world, ESPNcricinfo provides the ultimate cricket experience. Stats, videos, interactions and the opportunity to work with them has just been so cool. Both Ajit and I have sat with the ball-by-ball crew and the commentary team has been great. The supporters and fans of cricketers and interacting with them has been good for us and an enriching experience as a whole," he concluded.