Aussies to bank on pace power to beat India

Published: Friday, October 3, 2008, 11:24 [IST]
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Hyderabad: Banish the thought that Australia's untested spin attack would hand India a major advantage ahead of the highly-anticipated Test series starting next week.

Contrary to popular belief, it's pace, rather than spin, that has clinched wins for touring teams in India in recent years on dry, dusty wickets that are supposed to favour slow bowlers.

The retirements of the legendary Shane Warne and fellow wrist spinner Stuart McGill in quick succession have left the world's number one side shorn of quality spin options.

Ricky Ponting's tourists will have to pick between two debutants, 36-year-old leg-spinner Bryce McGain and off-spinner Jason Krejza, 25, for the series opener in Bangalore from October 9.

Part-time left-armer Michael Clarke is the third spinning option, having grabbed an astonishing six wickets for nine runs on a vicious Wankhede stadium turner in Mumbai on Australia's last tour of India in 2004.

"Whether they can win is problematic, given the inexperience of this team in Indian conditions and the paucity of slow bowlers, post Warne," veteran Australian cricket writer Mike Coward told AFP.

The good news, however, for the tourists is their formidable pace attack in the accomplished Brett Lee, Stuart Clark and left-armer Mitchell Johnson, besides two promising rookies in Doug Bollinger and Peter Siddle.

In 2004, it was the Australian fast bowlers who secured a 2-1 win for the tourists, their first series win on Indian soil in 35 years.

Jason Gillespie led the pace battery with 20 wickets in four Tests, followed by Glenn McGrath (14) and Michael Kasprowicz (nine), although Warne's 14 wickets proved invaluable.

South Africa, who played the most recent Test series in India in March, forced a 1-1 draw on the back of a potent new ball performance by Dale Steyn (15 wickets), Makhaya Ntini (10) and Morne Morkel (eight).

When England drew 1-1 in India in 2006, five of the six leading wicket-takers in the series were seamers with Matthew Hoggard (13 wickets) and Andrew Flintoff (11) bolstering the tourists' attack.

Even the home team's seamers prospered in that series as Munaf Patel, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan finished among the top six behind spin king and current captain Anil Kumble's tally of 16 wickets.

Former India great and pace spearhead Kapil Dev, whose career tally of 434 wickets included 219 on home soil, said the quicks had a major role to play in Indian conditions.

"Good fast bowlers and seamers have always done well in India," Dev told AFP. "It moves around in the morning and reverse swing with the old ball can be very deadly."

Recent results at the venues chosen for the four-Test series will bring smiles on Australian faces.

India have not won a Test at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy stadium since beating New Zealand in 1995. The hosts lost to Australia twice there in 1998 and 2004, were beaten by South Africa in 2000 and by Pakistan in 2005.

The wicket at Mohali, venue of the second Test, has traditionally provided bounce where India has managed just two wins of the seven matches played there.

Anil Kumble's men will fancy their chances in the third Test at the renovated Ferozeshah Kotla in New Delhi where the hosts have won all their last seven matches.

The fourth and final Test will be played at the newly-built stadium on the outskirts of Nagpur, with the curator promising "a feast for the Indian spinners."

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