Former Australia coach’s big selection call for India tour

Former Australian men’s coach Darren Lehmann believes it’s a race in two as to who will partner Nathan Lyon in India.

When the Aussies unveil their XI for the first of four Tests in India next month, all eyes will first look at the bowlers.

Plenty of options are still up in the air, with all-rounder Cam Green tipped to join Mitch Starc in being unavailable through injury.

Four spinners will be on the flight over. Lyon, left-armer Ashton Agar, leggie Mitch Swepson and Victorian bolter Todd Murphy have all been selected in the 18-man squad.

While Lehmann has coached Swepson as part of the Brisbane Heat setup, he says finger spinners are generally the way to go in the sub-continent.

“Having been there, I’m probably more inclined to play finger spinners,” Lehmann, who coached the Aussies for five years, told SENQ Breakfast.

“Having said that, Shane Warne, even though his record wasn’t as good over there, last time (we won) he was the leg spinner (alongside) three quicks. It’s not all that bad playing a leg spinner there…

“I can’t believe there was talk of him (Swepson) not going, talk about balance of the side, if you get to pick 18 players, you want a pretty balanced squad.

“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 does look like a pretty good squad. If it suits to play the leg spinner as the second spinner, then good on him.”

Lehmann oversaw his sole tour of India in 2017, a series Australia lost 2-1. But as he notes, left-arm orthodox spinner Steve O’Keefe tore through India in the third Test with 12 wickets.

It’s a recipe that could be repeated with Agar the preferred option in Sydney, despite not maximizing his opportunity.

On finger spin, Lehmann said: “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 spinners) 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, bowl as that second spinner.”

Travis Head also proves a worthy spin option as an all-rounder, having impressed at the SCG and recent games in the sub-continent.

However, given he spins the ball the same way as Lyon, Lehmann believes it could spell selection trouble for Murphy.

“When you’ve got Head and (Green) 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 stated.

“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 (in the same side).

“So it’ll get down to Agar and Swepson I think.”

Australia doesn’t have a practice match scheduled in India, a fact that makes former wicketkeeper Ian Healy “a little bit worried”, and means the first ball will be bowled on February 9 in the first Test.

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