Australian cricketing great Mark Taylor has cast a sceptical eye over Ashton Agar's inclusion in the Test squad for the tour of India in February, believing the recalled tweaker's performance at the SCG was an ill omen. Australia have added four spinners to the 18-man squad in anticipation of turning pitches throughout the Border-Gavaskar series.
A total of 22 overs and figures of 0-58 for Agar in the rain-affected SCG Test against South Africa were uninspiring numbers for Taylor, who said the 29-year-old did not look 'threatening'. By comparison, Lyon picked up two wickets from 40 overs in South Africa's first innings.
Agar joins Lyon, Mitchell Swepson and Todd Murphy as dedicated spinners for the series, with Taylor predicting a bowling attack featuring two seamers and two spinners, plus Cameron Green, as the optimal lineup. Australia hasn't won a Test series in India since 2004, and Taylor believes Agar will have to lift considerably in order for the visitors to have a chance after a 'disappointing' return against South Africa.
Swepson stood out to Taylor as the preferred second spinner, with the jury still out on Test bolter Murphy's ability on debut. Taylor told Wide World of Sports that even though he had his doubts, the amount of spin Australia would ultimately deploy could come down to the state of each pitch.
" Looking at what happened in Sydney, it looks to me like Ashton Agar has the inside running for the first Test, but he didn't demand re-selection by the way he bowled in Sydney," Taylor said. "He didn't look as threatening as Nathan Lyon did.
"But they might put out a pitch that's absolutely falling apart. If that's the case, they may even look at playing three spinners. But bare in mind you've got (Steve) Smith and (Marnus) Labuschagne who can bowl a few leggies, and I wouldn't write off them bowling in the series, as well, along with Travis Head."
Mark Taylor backs Mitchell Swepson on tricky India pitches
Taylor believed Swepson should have gotten the nod for the Sydney Test ahead of Agar, but admitted there were technical deficiencies in Swepson's game that could have given selectors pause for thought. Though he still backed him to be the second spinner, Taylor cautioned the 29-year-old over his line in India.
"The problem with Mitch Swepson is if he bowls at off stump spinning it away, I don't think he'll trouble the Indians that much," Taylor said. "The bowlers that seem to do the best over there are generally finger spinners, who bowl at the stumps and get wickets lbw and bowled, bring all the modes of dismissal into play."
Murphy became the only uncapped member of Australia's squad when the 18-man group was named on Wednesday, as one of four spinners. The 22-year-old Victorian comes into the squad off the back of seven first-class matches, three more than Lyon had played when he made his debut in Sri Lanka in 2011.
Lyon and Steve O'Keefe each took 19 wickets in the 2017 tour of India, as Australia routinely played two spinners and were narrowly beaten 2-1 in the series. O'Keefe, Lyon and Murphy will spend the next three weeks playing together for the Sydney Sixers in the BBL, before the latter two head to India at the end of the month.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.