Can Lyon put brakes on Sachin Tendulkar?
Canberra: Iconic Sachin Tendulkar has made over 86,000 runs and 237 tons in all formats of the game over the last quarter of a century, yet the Australians feel that seven-Test old off-spinner Nathan Lyon could tie him up in knots in the four-match Test series starting on December 26.
In typical psychological tricks that the Aussies play, former off-spinner Ashley Mallett reckons Lyon could worry the batting legend whom many reckon as the greatest batsman ever to have walked on a cricket field.
"It`s a huge Test for Nathan Lyon, obviously, but I just think a good offie worries Tendulkar more than a good leggie," Mallett said.
"He seems to play the ball leaving him a little better than the ball nipping back at him."
Statistics does not seem to suggest so even though Sri Lankan legend Muttiah Muralitharan claimed Tendulkar more than any other bowler in Test cricket.
Muralitharan got Tendulkar out on eight occasions, yet the iconic Indian`s tally of 1995 runs at 60-odd average against Sri Lanka suggest it came at a great cost for the great off-spinner.
Other than Muralitharan, Tendulkar has been dismissed by a few off-spinners during his glittering career but they are few and far between to merit a mention.
Saqlain Mushtaq claimed him two times while Graeme Swann of England has also got his wicket on a couple of occasion.
Pat Symcox of South Africa, who himself claimed Tendulkar twice in Test cricket, drew on his experience to say teams even during his time tended to plot a great deal against the Indian stalwart but they still have not found the way to stop him from scoring runs.
"It's natural that he dominated most of the team talk the night before you started a Test. But there's actually not much you can do if he's playing well," Symcox said.
"It's not as if he's weak outside off stump, or off the back foot -- he's strong all over. You just hope that he makes a mistake and gets himself out. He is bloody difficult to get out and his bat always seems so wide.”
"One of the things that makes him the phenomenon he is, is that he's been analysed from front to back for so many years, yet he still makes runs," said Symcox.
Lyon was a two-year toddler when Tendulkar made his debut against Pakistan in Karachi in 1989 and till July this year was only known for his job as a curator in Adelaide.
Since then he has made an impressive Test debut and picked up 22 wickets from seven Tests at 24.59.
Mallett, an off-spinner of yesteryears of considerable reputation -- he picked up 132 wickets from 38 Tests at 29.84 in the 60s and 70s, claims Lyon is the best Australian off-spinner of the last 30 years.
"The Indians will work him, they'll look to work him to the leg side. I just hope the field is set in such a way that they don't get a lot of easy ones and twos, (but) I think Michael Clarke has a better feel for him than other captains I've seen in recent times might have.”
"As long as they don't spread the field, if he bowls an attacking line of good, attacking fields, he'll be a real key figure in the series," he said.
Lyon could take inspiration from Mallett's own career.
Mallett was only 24 when he toured India in 1969 with just two Tests behind him.
He did better than India's famous spin quartet of Bishan Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, B S Chandrasekhar and Srinivas Venkataraghavan and claimed 28 wickets at 19.
Matthews is upbeat on Lyon, terming his strike-rate off every 48 balls as "just outrageous".
"I like the way he bowls an attacking line to the right-handers -- he gets outside off stump, but he gets the ball up and down, so he's getting the ball to dip," Mallett said.
"The more time he spends on his front leg, the more purchase he'll get on the ball. (Pakistan spinner) Saqlain Mushtaq used to come in like a fly fisherman, you thought, 'Jeez, when is he going to let the ball go?' But spending so much time on your front leg, getting full weight over your front foot at the point of delivery, that's where you get the big revs. He can do that," he said.
Another former Australian spinner Greg Matthews though doesn't share a similar enthusiasm on Lyon.
"The thing I'd be saying to him is 'Listen mate, Shane Warne, 708 Test wickets, but against India he bowled at (an average of) 47. They go after everyone.
"So my expectations of you are purely and simply just be yourself. Get some structure in place, and if they hit you out of the park, I'm going to give you the ball right back and say let's have a bit of cover here," said Matthews.