Leading cricket writer Ben Horne has highlighted the downfalls of having a bowler as captain, with question marks arising about Pat Cummins' place in Australia's XI for the second Test. The Aussies were thrashed by an innings and 132 runs in the first Test in Nagpur, but might have the services of Mitchell Starc and Cameron Green for the second match starting on Friday.
The inclusion of all-rounder Green would allow the Aussies to play three spinners on a pitch that is expected to once again favour the slower bowlers. Green would serve as the second fast-bowling option, but that leaves a huge dilemma over who plays as the lone front-line paceman.
Cummins is an automatic inclusion in the team because he is the captain, but Starc's ability to generate reverse swing is more suitable in Indian conditions. That fact has left many questioning whether Starc should play in favour of Cummins if he proves his fitness.
"How do you drop Test cricket’s No.1 bowler and the man who has led Australia with such distinction since taking over from Tim Paine as captain?" Horne wrote on Tuesday. "But to not play Starc would be a questionable move in itself given his track record suggests he is Australia’s best sub-continental quick, and the footmarks he creates as a left-armer is crucial to unlocking the full potential of off-spinner Nathan Lyon."
As Horne pointed out, the Aussies love having Starc in the side because he creates rough outside the off-stump of right-handed batters at the other end - which Lyon often utilises. However the same footmarks would be used by India's Ravi Ashwin as well.
The inclusion of Cummins, Starc and Green would also present selectors the unfathomable decision of whether or not to drop Lyon. Australia's greatest off-spinner has also been an automatic inclusion for several years, but fellow right-armer Todd Murphy outperformed him on debut in the first Test.
If selectors want a second spinning option who can turn the ball the opposite way to Lyon and Murphy, they could pick left-armers Matthew Kuhnemann or Ashton Agar. But if they only pick two spinners, they would be faced with the impossible task of deciding between Lyon and Murphy for one spot.
Michael Clarke and Stuart Clark debate Aussie team
Speaking on Tuesday, former Aussie captain Michael Clarke said selectors had "painted themselves into a corner". He said: “Our spinners did a good job but I don’t know if two 'offies' is the right balance for us as well.
“But … how do you drop (Lyon or Murphy)? You can’t.”
Former Test bowler Stuart Clark also suggested Lyon might be the unlucky man to miss out. “I’ve watched a little bit of (Kuhnemann) bowl in domestic cricket. He’s a pretty good bowler, and he would be hard work and he offers a bit of variety,” Clark said.
“But that means you’ve got either play three spinners – I’m not sure they’re going to do that – or you’ve got to leave out Nathan Lyon. I’m pretty sure they’re not going to do that. Todd Murphy obviously did really well, so you can’t leave him out.”
Clarke said selectors would be fearful of making further changes after controversially leaving Travis Head out of the XI for the first Test. "Mitchell Starc and Cameron Green come back – I don’t see how they can make any changes without looking like, A; there’s a massive over-reaction to what happened in the first game, or two; accepting they got it wrong, and I don’t think they want to do either of those.”
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