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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Cricket Columns

Nature of surfaces will shape the outcome of this series
Ian Chappell
February 12, 2013
First Published: 00:12 IST(12/2/2013)
Last Updated: 10:51 IST(12/2/2013)

The clash between India and Australia promises to be a classic spin versus pace, experience versus youth battle. Australia's strength is their hit-man squad of fast bowlers and they'll be confronted by an experienced India batting line-up.

How the young Australia pace bowlers cope with the conditions will not only play a big part in deciding the series, it could also shape Sachin Tendulkar's immediate future.

A good series might see him carry on in Test cricket but another poor showing like the lean time he had against England and he may feel it's time to retire.

Australia's most glaring weaknesses are a frailty when facing good spinners and a dearth of top-class tweakers in their side.

If Australia were facing the traditional India side, chock full of wily spinners, this would spell trouble but they'll feel they have a chance against a team still trying to decide on its strongest attack.

They'll also be comforted by the success Jimmy Anderson had in the recent series with England.

Anderson is one of the best swing bowlers in the world and Mitchell Starc has had consistent success this summer with late movement into the right-hand batsmen at a lively pace. This is the delivery that discomforts the highly dangerous Virender Sehwag.

Nathan Lyon is a steady off-spinner, no Graeme Swann, but tidy nonetheless, however the support staff in the tweaker department is yet to make a mark.

Spin options
Along with getting the batting order right, choosing a second spinner will be a crucial decision for Australia.

They may look to cover two bases by using Glenn Maxwell as a second spinner, who can add some valuable middle-order runs. India may choose to attack him from the outset in order to dent one of his great strengths - confidence.

The Australia batting order contains two areas of contention; who will open and where will Michael Clarke bat?

Shane Watson's return to top form in the One-Day side suggests he'll open with the ultra-aggressive David Warner as his partner.

Clarke is the best player of spin in the Australia side and he can't afford to bat any lower than four, otherwise the India spinners could have the upper hand when he arrives at the crease.

Also with Watson opening there's more likelihood he'll have some runs on the board before he faces the spinners and that makes him a much more dangerous proposition. That would leave the ungainly but highly effective Phil Hughes at three and opens up a spot for Usman Khawaja at five.

First choice quicks
Peter Siddle and Starc will be the first-choice quickies and the other spot will go to either Mitchell Johnson or James Pattinson.

The makeup of India's attack will give a clue to how they propose to try and dismantle the Australia batting. As Australians traditionally play leg-spin bowling better than the left-arm orthodox variety, I suspect India will choose two of the latter to go with off-spinner R Ashwin.

The type of surfaces provided for this Test series will play a big part in shaping the result and I expect them to favour spin rather than pace. If that's the case, India will be favourites to win - but only if they've mentally recovered from being beaten by England.


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