Ashwin, the slightly older of the two at 36, has grabbed 449 wickets in 88 Tests at an impressive average of 24-plus
R Ashwin and Nathan Lyon. Pics/AFP, Getty Images
When two quality spinners are in opposite camps and set to operate on tracks assisting slow bowlers, the challenge posed to the batsmen facing them is going to be huge. And the high-profile four-Test series between India and Australia, commencing at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Jamtha here today will provide the first glance of the keen fight within the overall contest as hosts’ Ravichandran Ashwin and visitors’ Nathan Lyon line up against one another. Both are champion off-spinners, without question, the proof provided by their respective figures in Test cricket.
Ashwin, the slightly older of the two at 36, has grabbed 449 wickets in 88 Tests at an impressive average of 24-plus. Against Australia, Ashwin has grabbed 89 wickets in 18 Tests, 50 of them at home in eight matches on generally helpful tracks, with his best being 12-198 in his opening skirmish against the visitors at his hometown of Chennai in February, 2013.
Lyon, 35, has now nosed ahead of Ashwin in the overall wickets tally, having grabbed 460 in 115 Tests at 31.66 per victim, including 32 in seven games he had played previously on Indian soil. Both are in the evening of their sparkling careers and are bound to play key roles for their respective teams in the four-match rubber that carries on at Delhi, Dharamsala and Ahmedabad following the opener here.
India skipper Rohit Sharma emphasised the importance of Ashwin as well as the other three spinners chosen in the squad for the first two matches—left-arm orthodox tweakers Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel—and Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav, during his pre-match presser at the VCA Stadium on Wednesday. “All four of them are quality bowlers. Three of them are all-rounders too. Kuldeep can bat as well. Ashwin and Jadeja have played a lot together and performed consistently. Axar and Kuldeep have done well whenever given the opportunity. All four of them being available is a quality sign,” said Rohit.
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“Horses for the courses is the message for the boys. [We need to] assess [the] conditions and who are the guys fit for those. We are playing on challenging pitches,” he emphasised. Pat Cummins, likewise, said Lyon was crucial in his team’s bowling attack on the “challenging” tracks that he expects to come across in the series.
“Nathan’s going to be right up there with our most important bowlers for this series. He’s got to bowl lots of overs, he’s got the experience here. He’s up for the challenge. He’s been working with a lot of the other spin bowlers that are over here as well. He will lead our attack this series,” the Aussie captain remarked. Australia have picked left-arm Ashton Agar, leggie Mitchell Swepson and rookie off spinner Todd Murphy in the touring squad, along with Lyon.