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India v Australia 2023

Duds and studs: How visiting Australian spinners have fared in India

Duds And Studs: How Visiting Australian Spinners Have Fared In India
by Nik Anand 4 minute read

Ahead of the start of the 2023 Border-Gavaskar Trophy, the most pressing Australia selection dilemma revolves around the makeup of their spin attack.

With injuries to Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, Australia look set to play a four-bowler attack with two spinners. Ashton Agar, Todd Murphy and Mitchell Swepson are all vying to partner Nathan Lyon in the side.

With this in mind, here’s a look back at how Australia’s spinners have fared in Australia since 1998. Absent from this list, shockingly, is Stuart MacGill – who never played a test match in India. One of the few bowlers to impress in India’s triumphant tour of Australia in 2003/04, MacGill never got the opportunity to test his skills in India’s spin-friendly conditions after Shane Warne returned from a band for the following series.


Nathan Lyon (2013-2017)

7 matches, 34 wickets, 30.58 average, BBI: 8-50

There is little surprise that Lyon tops this list. He is arguably the best spin bowler in Test cricket right now, although R Ashwin is currently placed above him in the ICC Test bowling rankings. Lyon has the best series figures of anyone on this list, which he claimed in his exceptional performance last time Australia toured India in 2016/17. In that series, he took 19 wickets at an average of 25.26, including an impressive eight-wicket haul in the second Test. Considering Lyon’s age, the upcoming series will most likely be his last chance to play Test cricket in India, and so he will no doubt want to top the figures he achieved last time around.

Shane Warne (1998-2004)

9 matches, 34 wickets, 43.11 average, BBI: 6-125

In an unusual second place on an Australia rankings list, Warne just misses out on the top spot. He has the same number of wickets as Lyon but averaged 13 balls more in between them. The India side with which Warne was faced goes some way to explaining this, packed with some truly remarkable players in its ranks – Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar to name a few. Despite bowling to these titans of Indian batting, Warne’s best series figures came in 2004/05 with 14 wickets in 3 matches at an average of 30.07.

Steve O’Keefe (2017)

4 matches, 19 wickets, 23.26 average, BBI: 6-35

A surprise inclusion to those who may have forgotten some of the weird and wonderful things of the 2016/17 Border-Gavaskar Trophy. But one of the more pleasantly surprising things to come out of that tour was Steve O’Keefe’s partnership with Lyon. His match figures of 12-70 in the first Test in Pune are still to this day the best Test figures ever for an Australia spinner in India – second best from any visiting country. For that reason alone, he comes in at number three on this list.

Jason Krejza (2008)

1 match, 12 wickets, 29.83 average, BBI: 8-215

Having only ever played one Test match in India back in 2008, Jason Krejza is another somewhat bizarre sight on this list. He is, perhaps, an indication of how Australia have lacked spin bowling options outside of Warne and Lyon. Despite seemingly coming in from the cold after a disappointing display in a touring game prior to the start of the series, Krejza managed to take eight wickets in his debut innings. However, while taking those wickets he conceded the highest number of runs of any Australia bowler in that game. Australia went on to lose the match and the series.

Gavin Robertson (1998)

3 matches, 12 wickets, 34.41 average, BBI: 4-72

Another one tour wonder for Australian spinners, this time in the form of Gavin Robertson. After impressing domestically for Tasmania and latterly New South Wales, Robertson earned himself a call-up to the squad touring India in 1998. He achieved his best innings figures on debut in Chennai, figures which remained the best of any Australia spinner on that tour.

Nathan Hauritz (2004-2010)

3 matches, 11 wickets, 44.81 average, BBI: 3-16

Nathan Hauritz earned his Test debut in the fourth test at Wankhede in 2004. He managed to grab three wickets in five overs in India’s first innings to see off the tail. Hauritz impressed enough in the time between to warrant selection in the tour of 2010/11, when he got six wickets in two matches, but at an average of 65.

Michael Clarke (2004-2013)

13 matches, 9 wickets, 35.66 average, BBI: 6/9

More familiar on batting ranking lists, Michael Clarke is on this list for his part-time left-arm orthodox abilities. One of his most impressive performances with the ball came in the fourth test against India at Wankhede in 2004. In India’s second innings, Clarke was able to take six wickets for just nine runs, helping to restrict India to an achievable target for the tourists. However, despite his best efforts, Clarke and his teammates could not chase down the target.

Glenn Maxwell (2013-2017)

4 matches, 7 wickets, 30.14 average, BBI: 4-127

Another on this list most known for their batting, Glenn Maxwell also had a stint in Australia’s side as a legitimate bowling option. However, Maxwell’s bowling in Test-matches in India have near enough always left something to be desired, with his best series back in 2013 where he took seven wickets in the two matches that he played.

Cameron White (2008)

4 matches, 5 wickets, 68.40 average, BBI: 2-71

At the dregs of the list among the part-time spinning all-rounders is Cameron White. Brought in for the 2008 tour of India, White bowled reasonably well but with nothing really to shout about. Unfortunately, even his best match figures came at the expense of 119 runs, which helped India seal the win and gain the advantage in the second match of the series in Mohali.

Some notable mentions: Peter McIntyre, Darren Lehman, Steve Smith and even David Warner have cranked out overs for Australia in India. Warner bowled four overs in 2017 unsurprisingly not taking a wicket.

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