Pace still has a place for Australia in India but home side’s squad selections show spin will be king – The Roar

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Pace can have a place for Australia in their Test series in India but the make-up of the home squad should be a strong indication that spin is still king on the subcontinent. 
Australia have kept their options open both with their selections and their comments since naming their squad for the upcoming four-Test showdown between the world’s two best Test-playing nations. 
Both countries have chosen four spinners but India, in announcing their squad for the first two matches, have only named three established fast bowlers plus journeyman left-armer Jaydev Unadkat in their 17-man list. 
Australia are flying north with captain Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Scott Boland, Lance Morris and Mitchell Starc, who will miss the first Test at least with his broken finger, as their pace battery. 
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With world-class seamer Jasprit Bumrah still recovering from his back injury but hopeful of figuring in the final two Tests, the hosts are likely to play just two quicks  in the series opener at Nagpur on February 9. 
(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami and Mohammed Siraj are vying for those two spots while Unadkat, who made his debut in 2010, only played his second Test last year against Bangladesh. 
Ravindra Jadeja’s return from a knee injury is a massive boost for Rohit Sharma’s side as he not only gives them a third spinner but fills the all-rounder role at No.7.
Veteran off-spinner Ravi Ashwin and left-armer Axar Patel are all but certain to be India’s two frontline spinners ahead of the rarely used wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav. 
India’s likely attack of three spinners and only two fast bowlers is unlikely to be matched by Australia even if all-rounder Cameron Green is available after recovering from his finger problem. 
Going into the Test with just Cummins and Green as the new-ball bowlers would be a rarity for Australia. The last time they played three frontline spinners in the same game was at Chattogram in Bangladesh when Ashton Agar was picked as one of the tweakers alongside Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe with Cummins and West Australian alll-rounder Hilton Cartwright the only seamers (Cartwright bowled just five overs in the second of his two Tests).
Previous to that it was also in Bangladesh at Chittagong in 2006 when Shane Warne, fellow leg-spinner Stuart MacGill and Dan Cullen combined in what turned out to be the South Australian off-spinner ’s only Test. 
Even then, the Aussies selected five specialist bowlers with Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie in the XI although “Dizzy” would surely claim all-rounder status for that match as it was when he made his history-making 201 not out as nightwatchman. 
Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Cummins and coach Andrew McDonald have said they will wait until they see the conditions on offer in Nagpur before they commit one way or the other, as they should. 
The last time Australia triumphed in a series in India – in fact the only time they’ve done so since 1969 – when Adam Gilchrist filled in as captain for an injured Ricky Ponting 19 years ago, they went against the grain by putting faith in the pace of Glenn McGrath, Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz alongside Warne as the sole frontline spinner in the first three Tests as they built up an unassailable 2-0 advantage in the four-match series. 
Gillespie took 20 wickets at 16.15 in what surprisingly equalled the most scalps he’d ever taken in a series while McGrath was his usual dominant self with 14 at 25.42 despite the supposedly spin-centric pitches.
Darren Lehmann (11), Simon Katich (two) and Michael Clarke (one), chipped in for a combined 14 overs in the first two Tests and only the main four bowlers were used in the third match when the tourists wrapped up the series at Nagpur.
Jason Gillespie celebrates a wicket against India in Bangalore in 2004. (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)
Incidentally, India saved face when the fourth Test at Wankhede was one of the dustiest pitches ever seen by an Australian team on tour. Ricky Ponting returned to captain the side but Warne was injured so Nathan Hauritz made his debut.
Neither side scored more than 205 as the tourists were bowled out on the raging turner for just 93 to lose by 13 runs with India playing three frontline spinners and their sole paceman Zaheer Khan contributing just eight overs for the match.
In Australia’s previous series win on Indian soil, Bill Lawry’s side of 1969, off spinner Ashley Mallett and leg spinner John Gleeson supported new-ball duo Graham McKenzie and Alan Connolly for the most part but in the final Test in Chennai (or Madras as it was known then), Mallett was the sole spinner as the tourists won by 77 runs to complete a 3-1 series triumph over five matches. 
Richie Benaud was the sole spinner a decade earlier in two matches during the 2-1 victory over five Tests with Lindsay Kline backing him up in the other three fixtures. 
He worked in tandem with off-spinner Ian Johnson or left-armer Jack Wilson in all three matches of Australia’s first tour in 1956, a 2-0 triumph.
(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Benaud’s brilliance was key in Australia’s early successes – he dismissed 23 Indians at 16.86 the first time around and then 29 at 19.58 three years later to be the leading wicket-taker in each series.
This time around, Nathan Lyon will look to improve on his record of 34 wickets at 30.58 from seven Tests. 
If Green is fit, he will likely just have one spinner riding side-saddle in the first game out of uncapped Victorian Todd Murphy, West Australian leftie Ashton Agar or Queensland leggie Mitch Swepson, his accomplice last year in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. 
But if he’s out, it opens up the option of playing Agar as the all-rounder at No.7 with Murphy or Swepson also backing up Lyon.