When two premium quality spinners are in opposite teams and set to operate on tracks assisting slow bowlers, the challenge posed to the batters facing them will be huge. And the high-profile four-Test ongoing series between Australia and India, will provide the first glance of the keen fight that begins with Ashwin vs Lyon. Both are champion off-spinners, without any doubt, the proof provided by their respective statistics in Test cricket.
Before we start the discussion about Ashwin vs Lyon, we should look at Ashwin’s career first. This legendary Indian spinner started his career in the national team in 2010 and still carrying it on. He is an undivided part of the Indian Premier League also. We have seen him playing for various teams in IPL. Ashwin shows several variations of the ball and flights it, giving it more chance to spin and dip on the batter.
In addition to his normal off-breaks, Ashwin produces an arm ball and the carrom ball, which he frequently uses in shorter formats. In IPL 2013, he bowled leg breaks and googly as well. However, in an interview, Ashwin stated that he refrains from bowling the doosra ball as it requires Ashwin to bend and straighten his arm. Ashwin finds it quite difficult.
Nathan started his international career in 2011, just one year after Ashwin started. Since the beginning, he has been one of the very talented bowlers in the Australian team. He is genuinely a right-arm off-spinner. Having an extra height, Nathan Lyon has the benefit of extracting extra bounce from the pitch through his type of release. Even though he has to bend a lot while delivering, the release point is higher and frontier compared to other off-spinners.
Lyon angles his shoulders towards the wicket; and in that process, he brings his shoulder up above the ball while delivering. Lyon consistently bowls at a good length with or without spinning the ball. It has been his biggest strength. The exceptional consistency from Lyon tests the temperament of the batters so hard.
A few impressive average factors about Ashwin vs Lyon must be mentioned here. Ashwin, the slightly older between the two at 36, has grabbed 449 wickets in 88 Test matches at an impressive average of 24(+). Against Australia, he has grabbed 89 wickets in just 18 Tests, 50 of them at home in eight matches on generally helpful tracks; with his best being 12-198 in his opening skirmish against the visitors at his hometown Chennai in February 2013.
Lyon, 35, has now nosed ahead of Ashwin in the overall wickets tally, having grabbed 460 in 115 Tests at 31.66 per victim; including 32 in seven games he had played previously on Indian soil. Both are in the evening of their sparkling careers and are bound to play key roles for their respective teams in the four-match rubber at Delhi, Nagpur and Ahmedabad following the opener.
India skipper Rohit Sharma emphasised the importance of Ashwin and the other three spinners chosen in the squad for the first two matches—left-arm orthodox tweakers Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel—and Chinaman bowler Kuldeep Yadav, during his pre-match presser at the VCA Stadium. “All four of them are quality bowlers. Three of them are all-rounders too. Kuldeep can bat as well. Ashwin and Jadeja have played a lot together and performed consistently. Axar and Kuldeep have done well whenever given the opportunity. All four of them being available is a quality sign,” said Rohit.
“Horses for the courses is the message for the boys. [We need to] assess [the] conditions and who are the guys fit for those. We are playing on challenging pitches,” he emphasised. Pat Cummins, likewise, said Lyon was crucial in his team’s bowling attack on the “challenging” tracks that he expects to come across in the entire series.
“Nathan’s going to be right up there with our most important bowlers for this series. He’s got to bowl lots of overs; and he’s got the experience here. He’s up for the challenge. Lyon been working with many of the other spin bowlers over here as well. He will lead our attack this series,” the Aussie captain remarked. Australia has picked left-arm Ashton Agar, leggie Mitchell Swepson, rookie off-spinner Todd Murphy in the touring squad, and Lyon.
Although there is a great controversy with Ashwin vs Lyon, who is the best; both are bliss to the cricket world. Thousands of cricket fans like to see them playing more and more; and most remarkably, the young generation of cricketers is getting inspiration from them.