Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon.
Australian off-spinner Nathan Lyon. DAVE HUNT

Lyon needs batsmen to lay the platform

CRICKET: Nathan Lyon continues to be put under the microscope by his superiors, but Kerry O'Keeffe insists Australia must literally go into bat for their under-pressure spinner in India.

The beginning of Lyon's struggles can be traced back to Sri Lanka, when he was publicly criticised for his performances in a series where Australia's batsmen were utterly destroyed.

Varying circumstances have almost seen Lyon dropped from the past two Tests to leave an uneasy cloud hanging over Australia's most successful ever off-spinner heading into a tour of India where slow bowling will be key.

Former Test leg-spinner O'Keeffe says it's a fact of life that Lyon's technique may be better suited to bouncier pitches than the low, slow turners in India, but insists the resilience and mental toughness of the 29-year-old cannot be underestimated.

O'Keeffe says he would have no hesitation in backing the proven NSW combination of Lyon and namesake Steve O'Keefe in India, with the potential addition of an x-factor leg-spinner like young Queenslander Mitch Swepson. Otherwise, he fears Australia's stock of domestic spinners are short on experience.

Australia's batsmen were crushed in the first two Tests in Sri Lanka, losing the series off the back of mediocre totals of 203, 161, 106 and 183.

O'Keeffe has declared that Lyon can do a job for Australia, but only if the batsmen can first come to the party.

"I'd take Lyon and O'Keefe because they bowl well together. Lyon doesn't get to bowl behind many big totals on the sub-continent and that's the problem,” said iconic commentator O'Keeffe, who revelled in his return to broadcasting matches on Triple M at the Gabba.

"The UAE is the same. So it's up to the batters to give him something to bowl behind, and if he has got a big first-innings score of 450, he and O'Keefe, they can do a job because I've seen them work together pretty well and they'll feed off each other.

"They like bowling with each other. That's the ideal combo.”

Lyon averaged 31.93 in Sri Lanka, nothing to be ashamed of, but nothing game-breaking either.

In the UAE in 2014 against Pakistan he took just three wickets in two Test matches with an average that blew out to 140.

The last time Australia toured India in 2013, Lyon was dropped for a match and averaged 37.

However, on all of those tours Australia's batting has been patchy.

O'Keeffe will be back on the airwaves for the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne and admits he has missed the game since leaving the ABC.

"I love Test cricket and when they rang to say 'will you call ball by ball' I was shocked. There's going to be a platform for cricket analysis and fun and that suits me and I think I'm going to have a lot of fun,” he said.

"I have missed Test cricket. I love going to Test matches, I love entering the ground knowing it's a Test.”



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