Australia ponder upon different bowling combinations for India tour

What to do and what not remain tricky questions for the teams like Australia when they tour the Subcontinent, even they were the all-conquering side. The same can be said about the Asian sides playing in the Australian conditions, however, the Indians have slowly found a way out since 2000s, culminating in a Test series win when they last visited Australia. But the same can’t said about Pakistan.

Coming back to Australia, they are scheduled to a start a four-Test series in India next month and they have mulling over different options and combinations. One of them is employing three frontline quicks with Pat Cummins keeping an opening mind about the balance of the side that they will need.

Moreover, their impressive performance last year against Pakistan in Pakistan, which ended in a 1-0 series win, will further boost their confidence.

The last time they won in India, on the 2004 tour, their bowling attack was based around the three-pronged pace of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz alongside the spin of Shane Warne and then some part-time overs.

Australia have the resources to go with a similar shape of team this time although the emergence of Cameron Green has given them greater flexibility. However, Green is expected to miss the first Test in Nagpur due to his broken finger so the selectors will need to decide whether to stick with the two-quick, two-spinner method employed against South Africa in Sydney or back what is traditionally Australia’s strength in pace bowlers.

Nagpur has not hosted a Test since 2017 and Australia’s previous game there was the VCA Stadium’s maiden fixture in 2008 when Jason Krejza took 12 wickets in the match on debut.

Mitchell Starc is also unlikely to be fit for the first Test – and things may yet be tight for the second in Delhi – due to his broken finger suffered at the MCG, but Josh Hazlewood’s impressive return from injury in Sydney, where he was threatening with reverse swing, means he could get more opportunity than presented itself on last year’s trips to Pakistan and Sri Lanka where he only played once.

“Potentially,” Cummins said when asked about playing the extra quick. “[When] Cam Green bats at six you’ve kind of got three quick bowlers which is a bit of luxury as it is. [Josh] showed his class out there. No qualms picking him, you know what you are going to get and it is quality. Each game in India we might need to chop it up slightly differently, maybe one game it is three quicks and another it’s one quick. We’ll get over there and see.”

Australia’s second spinner at the SCG was Ashton Agar who remained wicket less through 22 overs in his first home Test, nearly 10 years after making his debut. Agar is assured of his place on the India tour, and Australia are keen on having a left-arm spinner in their attack, but Mitchell Swepson and Todd Murphy are also in the mix for the tour.

However, there is an option where Australia rely on a combination of their part-time spinners to supplement Nathan Lyon, with Travis Head’s development of his off spin making him a viable option. Head has taken seven wickets at 13.99 in his last seven Tests having not struck before then.

Away from the bowling, the batting options for the tour are likely to include Peter Handscomb, who was drafted into the SCG squad when Marcus Harris was released to play BBL. He is the leading Sheffield Shield run-scorer this season with 571 runs at 81.57 and the Australian coach, Andrew McDonald, said he was unlucky not to originally be selected for Sydney when Matt Renshaw was preferred.

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