Australia Test spinner Nathan Lyon has been in the film room studying India rival Ravichandran Ashwin in preparation for the upcoming Test tour in the subcontinent.
Lyon is set to embark on his second tour of India in February, via a fortnight-long camp in Dubai, having closely studied the methods of the world’s top-ranked Test bowler.
“It’s going to be a massive challenge,” Lyon told cricket.com.au’s The Unplayable Podcast.
“We’re probably going to have to play a different brand of cricket to what we’re used to out here in Australia.
“In saying that, we need to go over there and back our skills whether that’s with the bat, ball or in the field, we have to go out and do all things well.
“I’m going to have to look at my game and really focus on the way Ashwin plans his day out.
“I’m doing a lot of footage work now in the lead up to India.
“I’m trying to learn, I’m still learning and hopefully I can take my past experiences over to India and compete.
“I think that’s the big thing for Australia, if we can go over there and compete and fight hard, who knows?”
Australia face a mountainous task the size of Mount Everest if they are to defeat Ashwin and India on home soil.
Ashwin averages more than six wickets per Test in India, a fortress where the hosts have lost only one Test series in the past decade.
The 30-year-old mesmerised England – the last foreign victors in the subcontinent in 2012 – in the 4-0 series thumping in late 2015 and Lyon has paid close attention the work of the master spinner.
“Just the way he sets up his overs to left-handers and right-handers, the speeds, trajectories and different variations he bowls,” Lyon said when asked what in particular about Ashwin he’s been focusing on.
“He’s obviously a world-class spinner over there in those conditions.
“If I can try and take a bit of knowledge out of just watching him I’m more than happy to try and put that into place.”
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Australia are currently on a nine-match losing streak in Asia and have not won a Test series on the continent since Lyon’s maiden Test tour against Sri Lanka in 2011.
Veteran spinner Rangana Herath spun a web around the Australians when they visited Sri Lanka last winter in the 3-0 series whitewash.
Herath bowled with tremendous accuracy on that tour and relied more on side-spin than over-spin – Lyon’s trademark attribute that generates extra bounce – and the Australian off-spinner says he’s going to look at bowling like the wily Sri Lankan in India.
“I know my traditional off-spin doesn’t work as effectively over there, but I still believe your strength is your strength and you shouldn’t go too far away from it,” Lyon said.
“I’m going to have to bring in a couple of different variations of the trajectory of my off-breaks but I will still be bowling my typical stock ball because I still believe my best ball will get anybody out in the world.
“I’m going to have to be adaptable and to move forward.”
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The make-up of Australia’s XI will be heavily theorised prior to the first Test in Pune, with the composition of the bowling attack one of the most fascinating conundrums.
Sri Lanka employed three spinners at home against Australia, while the visitors opted for two specialist fast bowlers, two specialist spinners and seam-bowling allrounder in the top six.
India relied heavily on Ashwin and partner-in-crime Ravindra Jadeja, whereas England chopped and changed their attack in the subcontinent, relying on two to three allrounders.
But Lyon likes Australia’s approach to the bowling attack in Asia and believes only two full-time spinners will be necessary.
“I actually think the two quicks, a batting allrounder – whether that’s a fast bowler or a spinner – and two lead spinners is brilliant,” Lyon said.
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“You’ve got Steve Smith who can bowl leg-spin, he’s quite handy at that, so you’ve already got three spinners there if you go in with two spinners and ‘Smudger’ (Smith).
“I believe if you go in with two quicks and two spinners and a bowling allrounder – generally a fast (bowling) allrounder to give the likes of Starcy, Hazlewood or Birdy a rest – I’m all for that and you put the responsibility on your two main spinners to get the job done.”
Lyon is set to be partnered by NSW teammate Stephen O’Keefe, the left-armer who made his Test return at the Sydney Cricket Ground against Pakistan last week.
O’Keefe will not play in the remainder of the KFC Big Bash League to prepare for India, but Lyon will continue to feature in the magenta and didn’t consider withdrawing from the tournament.
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“I wanted to play for the Sixers, I enjoy playing the BBL,” he said.
“I think SOK (O’Keefe) wants to get a little bit more red-ball cricket in … (he) played three or four Big Bash games before the last Test.
“He’s doing his best Test prep for India. I know I’ve got a two-week camp in Dubai leading in to the Test tour to India.
“There’s going to be a lot of cricket played, it’s exciting times.”
While playing in India is fast becoming world cricket’s ultimate challenge – if it wasn't already – Lyon says a team’s collective mindset is the most important aspect when travelling to the subcontinent.
“You have to go over there and believe you can win,” Lyon said.
“That’s one of the rules when you put the Baggy Green on.
“You look at the Melbourne Test match. We walked out there on the last day believing we can win and we pulled it off.
“It’s going to be hard to win 4-0, I’m not going to say we’re not going to, it’s going to be very difficult.
“But if we can go out there and believe we can win from any situation playing cricket for Australia then we’re heading in the right direction.
“I believe we have to be adaptable, play outside our comfort zone and compete hard.”