Sport Cricket The lengths Nathan Lyon is going to ahead of a tough tour in India

The lengths Nathan Lyon is going to ahead of a tough tour in India

Nathan Lyon took 15 wickets in three Tests in India in 2013. Photo: Getty
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Homework and Indian cricket tours. It was an unfortunate mix for Australia on their ill-fated 2013 trip to the sub-continent, with four players infamously banned for a Test for failing to complete a written task.

The winds of change have swept through the Australian team since then.

Gone are coach Mickey Arthur, captain Michael Clarke, all-rounder Shane Watson and quick Mitchell Johnson, with just six players who featured in a 2013 Test in the squad for this year’s four-match series, which begins in Pune on February 23.

A key member of those six is Nathan Lyon, who will lead Australia’s spin attack in conditions designed to suit his bowling, and he has been doing his homework.

Speaking exclusively with The New Daily from Australia’s training camp in Dubai, Lyon says he has been studying hours of video footage of India’s spin wiz Ravichandran Ashwin.

“I have been working quite hard and watching a lot of Ravi,” Lyon said.

“He is a good guy and he is an unbelievable spinner. I have watched a lot of footage, even back at home, and even now here in Dubai, on the way he builds his overs to different batsmen.

“I’m trying to replicate what Ashwin is doing – he is the best spinner in the world at the moment and there is a reason for that.

“I’ve observed the different shapes Ashwin gets on the ball and I have been experimenting with a few deliveries in the nets in Dubai.

“So, if I can learn from him before the series starts in India then it’s obviously going to put me in a better place.”

Lyon is not wrong. Ashwin is in outrageous form.

In 2016, he took 72 Test wickets – 15 more than anyone else – at a superb average of 23.90.

Lyon and his teammates celebrate a 2016 wicket. Photo: Getty

While Lyon’s 228 Test scalps leave him our most successful off-spinner of all time, his average (34.07) rises to 42.57 on the slow and low Asian pitches.

On the 2013 tour, Lyon played three Tests, initially struggling to come to grips with the conditions before taking a superb 7-94 in the first innings of the fourth and final Test, and he says that gives him a “bit of a head start” on this occasion.

“Heading over there last time it was my first tour, so I didn’t know what to expect,” he added.

“Now I know how hard it is over there, so I feel like I’m better prepared.

“It’s currently the hardest tour in world cricket to go on but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Lyon, who has spent the past week bowling on the dustbowl pitches tailor-made to replicate Indian conditions at the ICC Academy in Dubai, has had his preparation slightly hampered by the abundance of left-handed batsmen in the Australian line-up.

In India, he will come up against a batting order that is predominantly right-handed.

“Doesn’t help when most of our guys are left handers … but I’ve been trying to bowl a lot to Steve Smith and Mitch Marsh while in Dubai,” he said.

“I find that on big turning wickets [when] I can bowl to right-handers, I will be more in the game, rather than left-handers where I’m trying to hit the stumps.”

If Australia are to be successful in India, Lyon will play a key role. It’s a very big ask, but the 29-year-old has faith.

“We have to focus a lot on us and make sure we compete,” he said.

‘It is going to be a tough challenge to go there and win the series but we believe we can.

“And if we can learn from our mistake last time around, we stand a good chance.”

Guarav Joshi is a freelance cricket writer. He has previously worked for Cricket Australia, ABC Radio, BBC Asia and ESPN Cricinfo.

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