Teams usually follow a set pattern at practice sessions. First, the pacers bowl to the openers for a good 20 minutes as the other batsmen receive throwdowns from the support staff, or face the net bowlers. About an hour later, spinners come into the picture and bowl to whoever wants to face them.
The Siddles and the Starcs were targeting the stumps at the corner net on Thursday. Assistant coach Steve Rixon got the spinners to line up in front of the centre net. Nathan Lyon, Xavier Doherty, Steve Smith, rookie Ashton Agar and David Warner — yes, even he — plied their trade for over two hours. Glenn Maxwell was the first to take guard. And once he was done facing the quintet, he quickly joined them to bowl his off-spinners.
Call it the Parvez Rassol effect! He had clearly exposed the Aussies the other day. He bowled a tight line, thereby cramping the Aussies and inducing mistakes. Rixon, in charge of this unit till head coach Mickey Arthur checks in, has probably visualised the worst. If Rassol could do this, then God save his boys from R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha and Harbhajan Singh. Yes, the likes of Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Phil Hughes and David Warner weren’t part of that game but Rixon is no Duncan Fletcher to overlook such a meek surrender.
Even worrying is the fact that barring Lyon, none of the other Aussie spinners looked like getting wickets. Smith was treated with disdain and Maxwell did nothing to prove his million-dollar worth. If Ambati Rayudu could cane them, then who knows what the rest can do.
Smith and Maxwell didn’t impress even at the nets. The former bowled four good deliveries before dishing out a full-toss, something he did with ridiculous regularity against BP XI. Head in hands, he went back to his marker avoiding eye contact with Rixon. Maxwell, however, looked the part on Thursday, often beating the bat and trapping the batsmen with his off-breaks. Warner was enjoying himself, bowling off and leg-breaks like no one cared. Lyon and Doherty impressed the most and it looks like the duo will share the responsibility of containing the Indians at least in the first Test.
Tackling — and bowling spin — has been Australia’s Achilles’ heel in India. Even the great Shane Warne succeeded here only on his third visit, in 2004. Matthew Hayden was, perhaps, one of the few Aussies who dominated Indian spinners. And like James Pattinson said, the visitors would want Clarke to rise to the occasion and blunt the spin threat. “We hope Pup does what Alastair Cook did for England. Pup is the best player of spin bowling in the world at the moment…” the pacer said. Rixon would agree.