Former Australian head coach Darren Lehmann has advised selectors to pick two finger-spinners for the first Test against India, pointing to the side’s success with the ball back in 2017.
Nathan Lyon will lead the attack for the Aussies in the four-game series beginning on February 9th, but there is plenty of conjecture and speculation regarding the second spin option.
Mitchell Swepson and Ashton Agar have both been included in the squad, while uncapped rising star Todd Murphy has forced his way in after a strong start to the first-class season for Victoria.
George Bailey and company will have some tough decisions to make, particularly with the likely absences of Cameron Green and Mitchell Starc through injury for the series opener.
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Speaking on SEN Radio, Lehmann urged the selectors to look closely at Agar as opposed to Swepson, with left-arm off-spinner Steve O’Keefe tearing the Indian side apart last time the Aussies toured.
“Having been there, I’m probably more inclined to play finger-spinners,” he said.
“Most of the time we only take 15 over there. They’ve got the extra spinners, there’s plenty of options, there’s no tour game, so they’ll work out the best option to win over there I’m sure.
“It just gets through the air quicker and some spin and some don’t. The leg spinners sometimes spin it too much, if that makes sense. [For finger-spinnes] some skid on and you get beaten on the inside and you get an LBW.
“That’s probably why they’re looking at a finger-spinner. We certainly did that four years ago and Steve O’Keefe bowled India out basically on his own in one of the last Test matches to win there.
“That’s why I’d be looking at someone like an Agar – bat a little bit and bowl as that second spinner.
“It does look like a pretty good squad. If it suits to play the leg spinner as the second spinner, then good on him [Swepson].”
Swepson made his long-awaited Test debut last year against Pakistan, but has taken just 10 wickets in his four matches to date in sub-continent conditions.
Agar on the other hand made a return from the Test cricket wilderness during the home summer, but failed to perform during the drawn Sydney clash against South Africa.
Murphy could potentially be the hot hand for the India series, but Lehmann believes that going in with three players who spin the ball the same way – Lyon, Murphy and Travis Head – could be a futile experiment.
“When you’ve got Head in your side you probably can go for a bit of variation, it just depends on whether a quick is the better option or the spin,” he said.
“I definitely wouldn’t be playing – and it’s nothing against the young man – Todd Murphy, there’s no need to be playing Lyon, Murphy and Head.
“So it’ll get down to Agar and Swepson I think.”
Australia Test squad vs India
Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner