They might have fallen short of matching what England did a decade ago, but Rahul Dravid’s declaration that Australia brought the best spin attack to Indian shores since their last home Test series defeat is a promising sign for their chances in four years’ time.
Steve Smith meanwhile identified his side’s ninety minutes of madness in Delhi, where their collapse of 8-28 saw them slump from a position of strength to squandering the Border Gavaskar Trophy in the space of a session, as the major regret from the four-Test campaign that concluded Monday.
But as the Aussies consider how they might construct a team to scale Test cricket’s Mount Everest on their next visit to India in 2027, they will be buoyed by the praise of the India great who now coaches their almost unbeatable Test team on home soil.
Dravid, the former captain, suggested the spin trio Australia fielded in the 1-2 series defeat, made up of veteran Nathan Lyon along with rookies Todd Murphy and Matthew Kuhnemann, were the most challenging their batters have faced since India’s last Test series defeat on their own turf.
That honour remains with England’s 2012 touring side, which won on the back of spin bowlers Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar taking 37 wickets between them in four matches. India have won 16 consecutive home Test series since.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) March 13, 2023
Asked about Australia’s spinners, Dravid told the host broadcaster: “I think they’ve been absolutely exceptional, led by Nathan Lyon. He’s been absolutely brilliant for Australia for many years.
“The two young spinners that Australia brought on this tour, both Todd Murphy and Matt Kuhnemann, gave him that support.
“A lot of times you see with overseas teams that they have one good spinner, but they tend to leak runs from the other end, and you can control the game from the other end.
“But credit to the two young spinners of Australia, they maintained that pressure, they took wickets. A lot of the guys were saying that – they were full of praise for the quality of spin they had to play, which made the series win all that more sweeter.
“Some of the guys were saying that, probably since Panesar and Swann, they probably have not played over the last decade this quality of spin.
“There have been individual spinners over the last 10 years, including Nathan Lyon, but since Panesar and Swann it’s probably been the best quality of spin (bowlers) we’ve played over the last 10 years in these conditions.”
It is a strong endorsement for Lyon’s enduring ability as the 35-year-old finished the series as Australia’s leading wicket taker (22 at 22.36), behind only joint players-of-the-series Ravichandran Ashwin (25 at 17.28) and Ravindra Jadeja (22 at 18.86) on the overall standings.
There is a strong likelihood all three of those spin legends will have retired by the time Australia next play Tests in India in 2027, by which time they will all be in the late-thirties.
“Four years is a long, long time. For the sake of Indian cricket, I hope they stay and play a lot of cricket for India,” captain Rohit Sharma said of Ashwin and Jadeja.
“Where we stand today in terms of how we perform, especially in Indian conditions, a lot of credit goes to them, a large part of our success belongs to those two guys. It’s not just for a period of a few years, it’s over a decade now.
“I can only hope that they continue to play as long as possible because those shoes will definitely be very, very big ones to fill. I hope for the sake of Indian cricket, they continue as long as they can.”
But in Murphy (22 years old) and Kuhnemann (26), both of whom arrived in India without Baggy Greens, Australia have a spin bowling backbone to nurture for their next Indian mission.
Murphy had been the bolter of the squad Australia named in January and appeared fourth-in-line among the chosen spinners, with both Ashton Agar and Mitchell Swepson having played as Lyon’s backup over the past 12 months.
Kuhnemann came from even further back. Like Murphy, he had not even been his state’s first choice spinner at the domestic season’s outset, and then only won a berth on this tour when Queensland teammate Swepson went home for the birth of his first child.
Murphy became the youngest Australian spinner to take a five-wicket haul on Test debut with his 7-124 in Nagpur, while Kuhnemann took a decisive 5-16 in the tourists’ victory in Indore.
Both had trained with Australia as net bowlers on their Test tour of Sri Lanka last year, while Kuhnemann had impressed in his maiden international campaign in the preceding ODIs.
The pair had also benefited from spending time at the MRF Academy in Chennai.
“I’m sure the powers that be at home are looking for ways to prepare our spinners for these conditions,” said stand-in captain Smith.
“But the way Murph came in and played in his first game was outstanding. Kuhnemann in particular, those five wickets in Indore set up the game.
“The way they have developed and learnt to bowl over here on the go has been outstanding.
“I thought Murphy in the last game (in Indore) and this Test match as well, how tight he kept it, bowling in a defensive way was outstanding.”
Smith raved about Lyon, suggesting his marathon spell of 65 overs, 3-151 in Ahmedabad marked one of his best Test efforts.
“I actually said to him after play yesterday that was the best I’ve actually seen him bowling,” said Smith.
“I’ve stood at slip to him for a very long time and the way the ball was coming out, the revs and drop and everything he had on the ball on a surface that wasn’t offering a great deal, I said to him at the end of play, that’s probably the best I’ve seen you bowl.
“For someone who’s played (119) Tests to keep getting better, I thought was outstanding.”
Border-Gavaskar Qantas Tour of India 2023
February 9-13: India won by an innings and 132 runs
February 17-21: India won by six wickets
March 1-5: Australia won by nine wickets
March 9-13: Match drawn
All matches broadcast live and exclusive on Fox Cricket and Kayo Sports
Australia squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Matt Kuhnemann, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Lance Morris, Todd Murphy, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson
India squad: Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul (vc), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat, Ishan Kishan, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Suryakumar Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat