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Australia will have plans ready to combat Ajinkya Rahane at SCG: Nathan Lyon

Australia would look to settle scores with India for the 8-wicket defeat in the Melbourne Test and gain a comfortable 2-1 lead at the Sydney Cricket Ground, their next Test venue. Ahead of the much-coveted Test, Australia’s key-spinner Nathan Lyon spoke about the hosts’ preparations to counter the Ajinkya Rahane-led side in Sydney.

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Lyon, in a virtual press conference, said that the team loves challenges, and with Rohit Sharma being a key player in the Indian batting order and a menace once set in the middle, they will surely have a few sets of plans ready for the stylish Indian opener in the Sydney Test.

“Obviously, Rohit Sharma is one of the best players in the world going around, so it is going to be a big challenge for us bowlers, but we are going to show our way from it, we love challenging ourselves. He is a big input for the Indian side, so it is going to be interesting to see who they leave out. But we will have our plans ready for Rohit, and hopefully, we can get on top of him nice and early, but respecting how a good a cricketer Rohit is,” said Lyon, who has picked four wickets in the last two Tests at an average of 36.25.

Rohit finished his 14-day quarantine post which he was appointed as the vice-captain for Team India for the remaining Tests. Earlier, he was ruled out of the limited-overs matches against Australia owing to the hamstring injury he had sustained during the double super-over match against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) in the IPL 2020, and thus, he was on complete rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru.

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The Mumbai cricketer had clobbered a mammoth 556 runs in five Tests played in 2019, averaging 92.67 with three hundreds, comprising a double ton against South Africa at JSCA International Stadium Complex in Ranchi.

However, it is still not sure which cricketer would be dropped in the Indian lineup to accommodate the 33-year-old Mumbaikar, who hasn’t played any Test in 2020. The right-hander had suffered a calf injury during the 5-match T20Is against New Zealand held in the months of January-February in 2020 and was ruled out of the 2-match Test series that followed in the Kiwi nation.

Speaking on India’s stand-in skipper Ajinkya Rahane, Lyon pointed out that Rahane being calm and composed isn’t affected much by the on-field sledging when in the middle.

“He (Rahane) is obviously a world-class batter, which obviously helps with everything. I think the patience that he shows at the crease, he doesn’t seem to get (frustrated) much. He doesn’t buy into any sledging or any conversation out there in the middle, he is pretty calm and collective batter (of the) opposition, so it is different things that he offers.” said Lyon.

But he is obviously the leader of India at the moment, as Virat (Kohli) is not here, so he is standing up at the moment and I know we will have our plans ready to hopefully combat him come to the SCG Test,” he added.

Virat Kohli played the first Test at Adelaide wherein he scored 74 and 4, and has been on paternity leave post the opening day-night Test.

Ravichandran Ashwin is a world-class spinner: Nathan Lyon

Lyon praised his Indian counterpart, Ravichandran Ashwin, for his tight-knit bowling in the ongoing series and that the Aussie batters are yet to come up with a plan to tackle the Indian bowling giant.

Ashwin is the joint highest wicket-taker alongside Pat Cummins in the ongoing Border-Gavaskar Trophy, with 10 wickets, averaging a jaw-dropping 17.70, with best figures in an innings as 4/21. Not to forget, the Tamil Nadu-born cricketer is now fourth in the list of highest wicket-takers in the history of Border-Gavaskar Trophy, scalping 87 wickets in 17 Tests and 5 five-fours in an innings.

“Yeah, Ashwin is bowling very well. He is a world-class spinner and I have said that throughout my whole career. He has bowled quite a straight line to our batters, which they haven’t had come up with a plan as yet. I think they will come up with one of them and counter Ashwin’s plan in Sydney, ” said Lyon, who is often rated as Australia’s best off-spinner to date, with 394 wickets in 94 Tests.

He added,” But he (Ashwin) is a world-class bowler, and what you expect, he has got a decent record around the world, so hats off to him.”

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Lyon spoke about how the Aussie unit has devised few plans to get an edge over Rahane, who hammered a match-winning 112 in the Melbourne Test and eventually grabbed the Man of the Match award to his name. The stand-in skipper is the highest run-getter in the series, amassing 181 runs in 4 innings, averaging 60.33, with a hundred. What’s interesting, none of Rahane’s Test hundreds have come in a losing cause, with 9 tons in wins and the remaining 3 in draws.

“I think (Ajinkya) Rahane played me extremely well in Melbourne, so I know I am going to come up with a couple of different plans for him and a few different guys, so I am looking forward to putting them in place. But, to be honest with you, we have been pretty accurate with our bowling, as a squad to take 20 wickets quite quickly in Adelaide but then challenged a little bit in Melbourne,” said Lyon.

He added,” But to stay there and keep creating chances, that was a positive. So, we are very confident as a bowling group and I know personally I have got a few different plans to put in place.”

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The 33-year-old off-spinner mentioned how the Indian batsmen have shown an attacking intent in every series he has played against them.

“I think they (Indian batters) have played me pretty similar. Every series I come up against India, they try to be quite attacking,” Lyon concluded.

India have leveled the series 1-1 courtesy of their comeback for ages in the second Test in Melbourne. While the momentum is in the tourists’ favor, hosts Australia will look to deploy whatever measures necessary to get an upper hand in the Sydney Test starting January 7.

V Shashank
A cricket aficionado who has been following the game since the historic Ashes 2013-14. "People throw stones at you, you turn them into milestones." - Sachin Tendulkar


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