Lyon's very good, but not the greatest

Aussie spinner Nathan Lyons is not the greatest to wear the baggy green. Photo: Albert Perez/Cricket Australia via Getty Images
Aussie spinner Nathan Lyons is not the greatest to wear the baggy green. Photo: Albert Perez/Cricket Australia via Getty Images

Nathan Lyon's moniker of GOAT does not sit well with me.

Becoming only the 13th man to play 100 Tests for Australia is a magnificent achievement, but Lyon is not the best off-spinner to play the game or even represent this country.

Bowling finger spin on Australian pitches is a tough assignment - Ravichandran Ashwin's poor record here before this series bears testament to that.

In cricket, averages can be misleading at times but generally provide an accurate assessment.

While Lyon has taken the most wickets by an Australian off-spinner, his average before this Test at the Gabba was 31.98.

In my time of following cricket, I would rate Bruce Yardley and Ashley Mallett ahead of Lyon, and their figures back it up.

Yardley, who began his first-class career as a fast-medium bowler, took 126 wickets in 33 Tests at 31.63. Mallett's average was slightly better at 29.84, snaring 132 wickets in 38 Tests.

Yardley enjoyed great success against the mighty West Indies batting line-up of the late 1970s and early '80s, taking 35 wickets at 23.51 in eight Tests.

Former Australian captain Ian Johnson also deserves to be in contention. His 109 scalps in 45 Tests in the 1940s and '50s came at a respectable 29.19.

But going on averages the greatest off-spinner this country has produced was Hugh Trumble, who terrorised batsmen on sticky pitches in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

The Victorian took 141 wickets in 32 Tests at only 21.78, putting him up there with England great Jim Laker (193 wickets at 21.24) and Sri Lankan master Muttiah Muralitharan (800 wickets at 22.72).

Ashwin, who enjoyed his most successful tour of Australia before missing the final Test at the Gabba because of injury, has a more impressive record than Lyon.

While the veteran has secured about two-thirds of his victims on the spinning pitches at home, his 377 wickets in 74 Tests have come at an average of only 25.53.

Lyon has improved his batting as a tailender, is handy in the field and makes a massive contribution to Australia's much-admired team spirit, but that package does not make him the greatest of all time.

Captains Tim Paine and Ajinkya Rahane. Photo: Darrian Traynor/CA via Getty Images

Captains Tim Paine and Ajinkya Rahane. Photo: Darrian Traynor/CA via Getty Images


The battle for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy should be decided over five Tests.

Australia-India Test series deserve the same treatment as the Ashes, given the huge interest in this country and in the sub-continent.

There is a fierce rivalry that has developed between the two nations and it has gone to a new level this century.

With so many Indians having migrated to Australia and showing their support for their homeland, a superb atmosphere akin to a football game exists when they clash at Test venues.

While Cricket Australia has had its problems with scheduling this summer, you can't help but feel short-changed that there are only four Tests.

I'm sure fans in Perth or Hobart would love to see an Australia-India Test.

The last time the countries met in a five-Test series here was in 1991-92, when Australia won 4-0.

Ideally India would reciprocate by hosting five Tests in the sub-continent, but that would be up to the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

I believe that series against South Africa and New Zealand should also be held over five Tests. They deserve more than three Test matches.

CA needs to be more creative in its future scheduling - why not play Tests against lower-ranked and less popular nations in the Australian winter in far northern venues such as Darwin, Cairns and Townsville?

While these places host elite events such as AFL and NRL games, the prospect of Test cricket being played in their backyard would be enough to excite sports-starved fans, even if the Australians were opposed to minnows Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Zimbabwe.


This has been a magnificent Test series and the tourists warrant enormous praise for their efforts under extreme duress.

In the past, the Indians might have buckled away from home given the run of bad luck that has befallen them on this tour, but not this group of stoic, determined cricketers.

They went into the series without experienced paceman Ishant Sharma and lost skipper Virat Kohli after the first Test in Adelaide, where they capitulated for an embarrassing 36 in their second innings.

Led by acting captain Ajinkya Rahane, India fought back brilliantly in Melbourne to level at one-all and then pulled off one of the great rescue missions in Sydney to secure a memorable draw.

They finished the series with their first-choice bowling unit on the sidelines because of injury. In Brisbane, India's attack was spearheaded by Mohammed Siraj in only his third Test.

Despite all the setbacks, they made the Australians fight for every run and wicket, often taking the initiative away from the home team in a roller-coaster of momentum shifts.

There have been plenty of positives. Siraj and opening batsman Shubman Gill have been impressive since their debut Test at the MCG and paceman Navdeep Saini showed glimpses at the SCG and the Gabba.

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas