Australia tweak it, but pace still the key

Chennai, Feb. 15 -- Probably for the first time, Australia have travelled to India with as many as five spinners.

While only three - Nathan Lyon, Xavier Doherty and Glenn Maxwell - are frontline spinners, the other two, Michael Clarke and Steven Smith are part-timers who have bowled in Indian conditions.

Skipper Clarke, in fact, has his best figures in India, six for nine on a dustbowl in Mumbai in 2004.

Australia's decision to pack the squad with spinners or players who can also bowl spin has emanated from Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar's performance, when the duo spun a web around the India batsmen to play a crucial role in England's series win.

However, the same may not work for the Aussies. Lyon is no Swann, neither Doherty has the skills of Panesar. So it's imperative that the Aussies play to their strength, which is fast bowling.

Lively pace attack

In James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson and Jackson Bird, they have one of the liveliest pace attacks in the world.

While the conditions in India may not suit them, Australia's best chance lies in how their pacers perform.

Down Under, Pattinson and Siddle tormented India last year, the duo picking up 23 and 11 wickets respectively as Australia thumped the visitors 4-0.

Their strategy to bowl full and generate speeds over 140 kph troubled MS Dhoni's men and with left-arm Starc in splendid form, the Aussies have the hit men to make early inroads.

Pattinson, while agreeing that it would not be easy to replicate the success they had back home, agreed that the fast bowlers have an important role in the four-match Test series.

"Obviously, it's different from the one we played last time," said Pattinson.

"Again, it's a class batting line-up and the Indians would look to prove us wrong. It's a fantastic line-up, with (Sachin) Tendulkar in form after a ton in Irani Cup and (Virender) Sehwag capable of doing anything on his day. The conditions are challenging and we are looking forward to it," the 22-year-old added.

The success of James Anderson in India has also given hope to Australia, with the focus on mastering reverse swing.

In the first warm-up match against the Board President's XI, Pattinson, Siddle and Bird got the ball to reverse swing even before the shine was off. Pattinson called it an encouraging sign.

"It's obviously a bit different to conventional swing, but as a bowler I would like the ball to reverse in these conditions.

"We had enough practice in the last two days with the reverse swing and managed to bowl quite well. So hopefully we can keep doing it throughout the series," he said.

Another factor for the fast bowlers is to stay away from injury.

Pattinson has been troubled by injuries in his short career and has only played seven Tests since his debut in December 2011.

He is returning from a side strain and is hoping that he doesn't break down in the middle of the series.

"It has happened to other bowlers around my age. At my age, I am not going to play every Test, so it's about how I manage the workload," he said.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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