It’s still not advantage Australia, believes the country’s leading spinner Nathan Lyon, despite playing the series-deciding fourth Test against an injury-ravaged Indian team at a venue where the home team’s record is second to none.
The seasoned campaigner refused to overlook the grit and gumption showed by the Indians in the drawn third Test in Sydney.
“I wouldn’t say that (Australia have the advantage). You look at the class throughout the Indian squad, yes they will be missing a couple of big players but they have got a talented squad they can pick from,” Lyon said during a virtual press conference on Wednesday.
￼India will be forced to field a second-string bowling attack with all their premier pacers, including Jasprit Bumrah and spin-bowling all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja ruled out with injuries.
“To be honest, we have to worry about our preparation. We can’t look too far at what they are doing. As bowlers, we are very well suited for the Gabba and hopefully we can put them into play nice and early when we have the ball in hand.”
Australia head to the venue on the back of a fine record, having won 33, drawn 13, tied one and lost eight out of the 55 matches played at Brisbane.
“We do have an amazing record here at Gabba, we do have the confidence and we know how to play a really positive brand of cricket here at Brisbane. But we can’t rest on that. We know how talented India are and how hungry they are to win this series.”
Lyon was effusive in his praise for fellow off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, adding that the Indian has done well to adapt to the Australian conditions.
“Ashwin has bowled very well, I have said throughout my career that he is a world class bowler. Absolutely incredible to watch, he has definitely adapted well coming in to Australia, so hats off to him.”
Talking about teammate Steve Smith, who was accused of scuffing up Rishabh Pant’s guard in Sydney, Lyon said the star batsman was trying to help him and does it in every Test.
“I’m really disappointed with the way that everyone has jumped on the back of him. He’s played close to 80-odd Test matches and I think he’s done that in every Test match he’s ever played,” Lyon said.
“Even though we weren’t batting in the rest of that Test, he was still thinking about batting and he does it to help me as well. He’s looking at where I should pitch the ball, what pace I need to bowl on that wicket, so it’s all about conversation,” he added.
Lyon said that skipper Tim Paine, who came under fire after his verbal duel against Ashwin in the third Test, showed great character by owning up to his mistakes after the match.
“I think Paine showed a lot of humility and a great leader attitude to put his hand up and say that he didn’t play the game he wanted to play. Yes, we didn’t have the game we wanted, he probably became too emotional in the game but he’s owned that.”
One of the most successful spinners in the modern era, with 396 Test wickets to his name, Lyon will be eyeing his 400th scalp while playing in his landmark 100th Test at the Gabba.
“I’m going to pinch myself when my name goes up alongside those guys (who have played 100 Tests). In my eyes those 12 players are absolute legends of Australian and world cricket, it’s pretty amazing.”
Reflecting on the highs and lows of his career, the off-spinner said he’s far from being done and is more motivated than ever.
“There’s been some highs and lows. The Adelaide Test against India in 2014, that was probably the biggest high in my career but you look at Edgbaston and that is another amazing high, then you go to Leeds and it was the other end of the ladder.
“This is my 100th and I’m far from being done, I’m still as hungry as ever and want to go and play as much cricket as I can for Australia,” Lyon said.
The series is currently locked at 1-1.