India vs Australia: Nathan Lyon's journey to greatness and 100 Test matches
Not much was expected of him, until Lyon picked up the wicket of Kumar Sangakkara with his very first delivery in Test cricket.
The toughest thing to do in a team sport is to fill in the shoes of a legend. Many young careers are nipped in the bud due to constant comparisons with greats of the past. It happens in cricket too.
Ask every Indian fast bowling all-rounder, who has at some point been compared to Kapil Dev, about the fear and distraction of coming up short on those expectations. Or the English all-rounders who followed Ian Botham, until a maverick by the name of Ben Stokes arrived.
Something similar happened to the Australian cricket team as they went looking for a spinner who could, somewhat, fill in the massive void created after the retirement of Shane Keith Warne.
Warne retired in the January of 2007 with 708 wickets to his name in 145 Tests and a legendary status confirmed for posterity. Australia handed a Test cap to Beau Casson (left-arm orthodox), Cameron White (leg spin), Jason Krejza (off spin), Bryce McGain (leg spin), Xavier Doherty (left-arm orthodox) and Michael Beer (left-arm orthodox) in the years that followed with the hope that someone will turn the ball enough and deceive batsmen. None did with any consistency, although Krejza did pick up 12 wickets on debut in India.
As the search for Australia's next spin talent continued, one man was trying to learn the ropes of the game while earning a living for himself as a groundsman at the Adelaide Oval. Nathan Lyon earned a first-class cap after impressing a local coach that saw him transition from being a groundsman to a professional cricketer.
With just 12 first-class wickets in his kitty, Lyon found himself sharing the dressing room with stars like Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke as Australia handed the off spinner a Test cap against Sri Lanka at Galle.
Not many expected much of him, until he picked up the wicket of Kumar Sangakkara with his very first delivery in Test cricket. It was the beginning of something special. Lyon would go on to pick up 5 wickets in an innings in his debut Test and then establish himself as one of the leading spinners of his generation.
The likes of Graeme Swann, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Rangana Herath have perhaps been in the headlines more as Lyon's career took shape, but his prowess and effectiveness across all surfaces has been second to none in his almost decade old Test career.
On Friday, this inspirational journey from being a groundsman to becoming Australia's second most successful spin bowler ever will enter another glorious phase as the wizard plays his 100th Test match. He will become only the sixth spin bowler in the history of the game to last a century of Test matches or more, which talks a lot about how difficult an achievement it is, especially in a team like Australia.
As he gets ready to take on India at Brisbane, Lyon would also be aware of another huge landmark. He is just 4 wickets shy of picking up 400 Test wickets. If he does so at Brisbane, he will join the likes of Muttiah Muralitharan and Harbhajan Singh as only the third off spinner and the sixth spinner overall to reach this milestone.
Lyon is due for a match winning performance in this series so far and the hosts would be more than happy if he delivers that at The Gabba.
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