HYDERABAD: After being buried in the unforgiving red clay of Chennai there is good news for Australia. The surface at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, the venue for Saturday's second Test, will at least not be the minefield on which India took a 1-0 series lead.
So say a pair of former Hyderabadi international spin bowlers who remain prominent in the Andhra Pradesh state capital.
Venkatapathy Raju, who played 28 Tests for India until 2001 and is vice-president of the Hyderabad Cricket Association, said Australia would find the second Test strip far more friendly after being torn to shreds by Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja in the craters of Chennai.
“It will not be as bad as Chennai, it will be a good wicket,” said Raju, also a former India selector. “It will, as the game goes on, turn slowly, but only by the third day.”
Even so, Raju advises Australia to include two specialist spinners, adding the left-arm orthodox Xavier Doherty to the line-up alongside Nathan Lyon. “I have seen Doherty, and he bowls at a good pace,” Raju said. “I think you should always plays two spinners in India. You saw what England were able to do with the combination of left and right-handed [Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann] bowlers last year. Lyon is a more traditional spinner but Doherty would offer something different to India's right-handers.”
Another former India spinner from Hyderabad, Shivlal Yadav, said the strength in fast bowling would be far more suited here in their quest to square the tussle for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
“It is not red soil, it is a mix of black and red,” said Yadav, a veteran of 35 Tests and India's team manager of their tour of Australia two summers ago. “The fast bowlers will get some assistance early here, and then it will be a good wicket for batting. I am 100 per cent certain Australia will be far more happy with the pitch in Hyderabad.”
Head coach Mickey Arthur offered the first hint that Australia's decision to pick only Lyon, alongside three fast bowlers and seam-bowling all-rounder Moises Henriques in Chennai, might have been misguided.
“That's going to be the million dollar question,” Arthur said. “It's easy in hindsight having a look at how the wicket ended up; you probably would have liked two spinners on there.
“However, our quicks took most wickets, and we didn't get a massive return from spin. I thought James Pattinson was outstanding, so it's a difficult dilemma, and I think going to Hyderabad we'll have to look at conditions before we make a proper decision.”
Doherty, 30, played his only two Tests during Australia's home Ashes defeat to England in 2010, and has a modest first-class average of 44.56, with only two wickets in the Sheffield Shield season at 80. But selectors were pleased with how he bowled in the one-day international campaign and in a tour game against India A in Chennai, where he claimed three top-order wickets.
Arthur said Lyon would learn plenty from his first Test experience, where he also took key wickets but was on the end of a flogging, conceding 215 runs in India's first innings alone.
“It will be interesting to see how he pulls up after this Test match in terms of information and preparation and everything,” Arthur said. “He worked extremely hard coming into [the Chennai] Test match; only he knows how he will approach things if he plays in the next Test match.”