Despite the presence of dangerous pacers Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, India primarily focussed on tackling Nathan Lyon in the 2020-21 Border-Gavaskar Trophy, as per the team’s batting coach Vikram Rathour.
The off-spinner has tasted a lot of success against India in the past, and hence it was important to bat efficiently against him. In a YouTube chat with Ravichandran Ashwin, Rathour said in this regard:
“I always believed that he is the bowler (Nathan Lyon) that gave them the balance. All the three fast bowlers (Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood) are good bowlers, no doubt. But Lyon is the one who gives them control, and he was also picking up wickets at important times. So my idea was, if we can handle him better, we’ll handle the Australian attack better.
Rathour elaborated that the plan against Nathan Lyon was to be positive against him and make him think, something India didn’t do in their previous tours. He explained:
“(The thinking was) We’ll put them under more pressure if we don’t give him wickets or score more runs against him more quickly. So if we start doing that, that would put more pressure on the remaining three bowlers.”
The ploy to be aggressive against Nathan Lyon paid off, as the spinner managed only nine wickets in four Tests at a disappointing average of 55.11.
Before the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Nathan Lyon had played 11 Tests against India at home,claiming 51 wickets at an average of 33.94, a tally that consisted of four five-wicket hauls.
The way the Indian side have conducted themselves throughout this series has been exemplary 👏
Ajinkya Rahane presented Nathan Lyon a signed shirt to celebrate ‘Garry’ reaching 100 Test’s 🐐
— Cricket on BT Sport (@btsportcricket) January 19, 2021
Vikram Rathour said that Indian batsmen started practising for the Australia series during the COVID-19 lockdown itself, with a special focus to deal with the threat of Nathan Lyon. Rathour said in this regard:
“Once the lockdown happened, I thought that from here, Australia is going to be our next big series. And I felt we should start working on it now. So, I got together with Hari Prasad our analyst, and we discussed about things we could present to the batting group. We started discussing what to expect in Australia, what the bowling unit will be like, what areas they will be bowling, and what should we do if they start bowling in those areas.”
The Indian batting coach added that Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli might not get too many balls outside the off-stump, an area where the trio scored heavily during their last tour Down Under. Rathour continued:
“So, my question to the batters was, if this is the area the bowling unit is going to bowl to you, what will your response be? What are the shots you are looking at? Where are the areas you would be looking to score?”
During the discussion, a strategy to deal with Nathan Lyon was also chalked out.
“It was discussed that if this is the way we want to play Nathan Lyon, we should start practising these shots now rather than wait for the Australian tour to start. I asked most of them to start practising it, even during the IPL,” said Rathour.
While Nathan Lyon struggled to make an impact, his Indian counterparts did a much better job.
Ravichandran Ashwin picked up 12 wickets. dismissing Steve Smith thrice in three Tests, while Ravindra Jadeja claimed seven wickets in two Tests at an average of 15.
Nathan Lyon has dismissed 6 batsmen in the 90s (scores of 90 to 99) in Tests.
4 of them are Indians and three of them in the 4th innings!
Vijay 99, Adelaide, 2014 (4th inns)
Rahul 90, Bengaluru, 2017
Pant 97, SCG, 2021 (4th inns)
Gill 91, Brisbane, 2021 (4th inns)#AUSvIND
— Bharath Seervi (@SeerviBharath) January 19, 2021
In the only Test he played, Washington Sundar scalped four wickets.