Marnus Labuschagne says spin will be crucial to Australia's hopes of success in the upcoming Test tour of India, but admits he is only a part-time option at best in skipper Pat Cummins' bowling attack. Labuschagne has made some impressive cameos as a leg-spinning option for the Aussies during their unbeaten Test summer, but concedes that two full-time spinners will be required in the subcontinent against cricket powerhouse India.
Labuschagne flew back to Queensland on Tuesday alongside his Test teammates Usman Khawaja and Matt Renshaw to join up with the Brisbane Heat for the back end of the Big Bash competition. The trio are among eight members of the Aussie Test team who are linking up with BBL teams to bring some added star power to the domestic T20 competition.
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While Australia's Test stars will have to shift their focus and technique to the shortest format of the game, one eye will invariably be on the four-Test series against the World No.2-ranked Indian side, which gets underway on February 9. With his side high on confidence after dominant series wins against South Africa and the West Indies, Labuschagne is confident the Aussies can taste a first series win in India since 2004 and just the second in the last 50 years.
The world's No.1-ranked Test batter says trying to simulate the conditions in India - particularly the spin - will be key in training for the Aussies. The Aussies were hoping the SCG wicket would provide something similar to what lies ahead on the pitches in India, but the rain and gloomy conditions in the drawn third Test against South Africa put paid to any hopes of that happening.
Labuschagne has identified the type of spin and skidding deliveries that the Aussie batters will have to familiarise themselves with if they're to have success in the subcontinent. He says trying to replicate that in training will be crucial to Australia's approach going into the India series.
“It’s about emulating that real aggressive slide than spin,” Labuschagne told reporters on Tuesday. “You watch a lot of footage of games in India and it’s not the ball that spins away that gets the wicket, it’s the one that spins on. If I can emulate those conditions in any training, if it’s in the backyard or whatever, that’s what’s important.”
One of the biggest discussions for Australian selectors will centre around the make-up of the bowling attack against India, with two full-time spinners likely to accompany a trio of fast bowlers in the Aussie XI. Ashton Agar's selection in Sydney suggests he's become the country's second spinner ahead of Mitchell Swepson, who struggled in his Test debut on a flat and lifeless wicket in Pakistan last year.
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Meanwhile, young spinner Todd Murphy has bolted his way into Australia's Test squad, with the Victorian one of four spinners selected. Uncapped at Test level, Murphy has been named alongside Lyon, Agar and Swepson.
Matthew Renshaw and Peter Handscomb have also earned call-ups, but Marcus Harris has been left out. Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Scott Boland and Lance Morris are the five fast bowlers in the squad, with Australia preparing to play as many as three in some Tests and as few as one in others.
Starc is likely to miss the first Test in Nagpur on February 9 with a finger injury and will join the squad afterwards. All-rounder Cameron Green will tour from the outset with his broken finger.
"We have selected a squad that provides the depth and flexibility required to adapt depending on the conditions we may encounter," chief selector George Bailey said.
Murphy is the only player in the squad not to have played Test cricket before. The off-spinner impressed on last year's tour of Sri Lanka with Australia A, and stayed on as a reserve bowler for the main Test tour afterwards.
He has since starred in the Sheffield Shield, taking 14 wickets at an average of 17.71 this summer.
"Todd Murphy has progressed quickly having impressed in domestic cricket and recently with Australia A," Bailey said. "With those performances Todd has emerged as a strong spin option."
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