Since taking over reins as the Australian skipper, Michael Clarke has fretted over his bowling options, deploying as many as 16 excluding the part-timers in 22 Tests. While the decline can be attributed to their bowlers’ propensity to pick injuries and their non-performance to the much-derided at rotation policy, the effect is that it has ultimately contributed to creating instability in their bowling entity.
But beyond these factors, there is a thread of confusion that pertains to the management when it comes to picking their best bowlers with respect to the conditions. The selection, for most part of this tour, has been cluttered. For example, in Chennai, they stuck to their traditional strength of playing three frontline seamers plus Moises Henriques, whose stuff is considerably better than the usual bits-and-pieces journeyman. They would have ideally preferred Glenn Maxwell to Henriques, but the latter’s heartening performances in the tour game made him an automatic choice.
The ploy badly misfired. Mitchell Starc, touted deceptive, went wicketless. Peter Siddle, the jack of the pack, took just a wicket. Nathan Lyon, their best spinner, bled 244 runs for four wickets. On a strip where Indian spinners accounted for all 20 Australian wickets, their one-spinner strategy conclusively miscarried.
And lo, they jettisoned Starc, who until the tour unfolded was the brightest talent from the country, and Lyon in Hyderabad. In fairness, he didn’t bowl too badly either. Instead were drafted in left-arm spinner, thought to be more effective than Lyon against a batting order whose top six were right handers. However, they discounted that Lyon is more effective to right-handers (47 as opposed to 18 left-handers). It might have also to do with Monty Panesar’s enormous success in the preceding series, though Xavier Doherty’s talent is a farcry from Panesar’s.
At the same time, they didn’t have the confidence to rely solely on Doherty, and to cushion him Maxwell was handed the Test debut. This, they thought, would kill two birds with the same stone, but as it unfurled, his bowling was marginally better than his batting.
Naturally, he would have been optimistic of playing in Mohali. But post-homework-saga Australia had only a 12-man team to pick from and he was promptly displaced with Nathan Lyon. The Australians weren’t probably secure of featuring three frontline bowlers and two bits-and-pieces subordinates that they recalled the only other specialist bowler in the pruned squad. With Pattinson and Mitchell Johnson missing, Starc too returned to the eleven.
Though merely circumstantial, their bowling unit seems balanced for the first time in the tour (though ideally James Pattinson should have replaced Siddle).