Melbourne: Australia might have selected five spinners in their squad to tackle the dustbowl tracks in India, but former coach John Buchanan feels it is the seamers who are likely to make a difference in the four Test series starting Friday in Chennai.
Buchanan was head coach almost nine years ago when Adam Gilchrist, standing in for the injured Ricky Ponting, led Australia to an historic 2-1 triumph on the subcontinent, described as the “final frontier” by the previous captain Steve Waugh.
Stung by defeat there three years earlier, Buchanan had planned meticulously a smarter way to approach India, placing primary faith in his pacemen and imploring them not simply to bowl with outright aggression, but more full and straight to split fields to temper the scoring of Sachin Tendulkar and the hosts' all-star batting line-up.
“One of the things that was obvious to us was the Indians tended to bat in boundaries. In other words, they've got to occupy the crease for a long period of time and they were able always to get a boundary away. That kept the score ticking along and reduced the risks that they needed to take," said Buchanan, now New Zealand's director of cricket.
“Basically, we designed a three-step strategy. One was how we were going to attack each batsman – that was always Plan A. Plan B was how do we reduce the boundaries, how do we stop them scoring? And Plan C, which we never really wanted to get to, was when they're actually taking us apart. For example, the Calcutta experience (in 2001, where Australia was beaten by 171 runs) – what do we do then?
Fast-forward nearly a decade and Clarke’s Australian team has five fast-bowlers on tour — Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, James Pattinson and Jackson Bird — and in all likelihood will use three in combination in the first Test.
Even so, Buchanan said the Australian team should be wary of loading up on spin-bowlers (there are four in the squad: Nathan Lyon, Xavier Doherty, all-rounder Glenn Maxwell and young Ashton Agar) just because it’s in India. “I do think it's a good pace attack; it depends how it adapts to the conditions it's about to face,” Buchanan said.