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Former Australia coach Darren Lehmann has revealed who he think should partner Nathan Lyon and be the Aussies’ second spin option for their upcoming tour of India.
The four-match Test series in India commences next month and spin is expected to play a massive role in deciding which team will be victorious and claim the coveted Border-Gavaskar trophy and valuable ICC World Test Championship points.
Lehmann was in charge of the Australian team that last won a Test match on Indian soil back in 2017 and it was left-arm tweaker Stephen O’Keefe that was the match-winner on that occasion as he collected 12 wickets to stun the hosts in Pune.
And Lehmann has urged Australia to follow suit this time around and give fellow southpaw Ashton Agar the nod at selection – ahead of leggie Mitchell Swepson and uncapped off-spinner Todd Murphy – to partner Lyon as the second spinner in India.
Agar only has five Test caps to his name and went wicket-less during Australia’s most recent Test match against South Africa in Sydney, but Lehmann expects conditions on the sub-continent to suit the 29-year-old.
“Having been there, I’m probably more inclined to play finger spinners,” Lehmann said on Australian radio station SENQ.
“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 (2017) 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.”
The series in India will also be pivotal in deciding who finishes in the top two spots on the World Test Championship standings and qualifies to playoff in the one-off decider at The Oval in June.
Australia currently have a healthy lead over second-placed India at the top of the standings, but Sri Lanka and South Africa still have an outside chance of sneaking into this year’s final.
MORE: WORLD TEST CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
Lehmann’s old side only needs to avoid a 4-0 series whitewash in India to book their place in the final and the former Australia coach believes they have a well-balanced side to earn a positive series result.
He also thinks having the luxury of Swepson in the touring party will prove important, should conditions favour a leg-spinner being included at any stage.
“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,” Lehmann added.
“Most of the time we only take 15 (players) 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.”
Australia Test squad for tour of India: Pat Cummins (c), Ashton Agar, Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, David Warner
Australia Tour of India 2023
February 9-13: First Test
February 17-21: Second Test
March 1-5: Third Test
March 9-13: Fourth Test
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