NATHAN Lyon is confident of adjusting to, and thriving in, the unfamiliar position of having his spin supremacy in Australia challenged.
Since making his debut in Sri Lanka 14 months ago the off-spinner has not lost his spot to another spinner. But suspicions his hold on that position has weakened were confirmed by this week's declaration he was bracketed alongside Victoria's Jon Holland as Australia's best Test spin options.
The possibility of Lyon being replaced for the season-opening Test match against South Africa in Brisbane on November 9 follows his mediocre early season form, although two factors are firmly in the South Australian's favour. His 4-131 in last summer's season-opener was the best return by an Australian finger-spinner at the Gabba for 80 years, while in Australia's past two Tests, albeit in favourable conditions in the West Indies, he claimed 12 wickets at an average of 18.67.
Lyon said the conjecture was the inevitable baggage of being an international player. ''That's our role [as players], we've got to try and take that out of the equation by really putting [good] performances on the park,'' he told The Age this week. ''I don't really want to think about that [losing Test spot] at all. I just want to go out and bowl well.''
The 24-year-old's belief he had bowled well in last week's Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania, where he finished with 0-93 due to wasteful fielding, was endorsed not only by new Redbacks captain Johan Botha but, significantly, Australia's chief selector John Inverarity.
Botha, who has played five Tests and 118 limited-overs internationals for the Proteas, reckoned Lyon should start the summer as Australia's No. 1-ranked spinner. He also backed his state teammate to withstand the increased pressure.
''I'm sure he can. It probably plays on everyone's mind [in that position]. He's had a good taste and Australia has been successful while he's played,'' said Botha, in relation to Lyon's record of 42 wickets at an average of 27.83 after 14 Tests.
''It's always hard, it doesn't matter who you are - if you've played 10 Tests or 70 Tests - when guys start talking about your spot it's going to put a bit of pressure on you. We'll back him in Adelaide to do the business and give him as much bowling time and opportunity as possible.''
The brilliant recent form of Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal in all formats, combined with the limited-overs strides made by the West Indies' Sunil Narine and Sri Lanka's Ajantha Mendis, has led to Lyon being deluged with suggestions that he must, like his rivals, develop deliveries that spin in the opposite direction to the expected.
Lyon said while he may boast such bowling weapons in three to five years, he said his immediate focus would be to ''worry about my off-spin stock ball''.
''That's my go-to ball, so I've really got to nail down that and keep landing it in the same spot to help build pressure,'' he said.
Botha stressed bowlers like the three in-form subcontinent spinners were unique, as was Sri Lankan legend Muthiah Muralidaran, but said it was important to consider the favourable conditions they are often able to capitalise on.
''If you look at those guys, when they come to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, they're probably just the same as we are. They go for the same number of runs, they don't get as many wickets. Then, it's almost over to the seamers [to take the wickets]. I think Nath understands that,'' he said.
''He [Lyon] knows his role within the team, which is obviously to build pressure from the one end,'' Botha said. ''His wickets will come.''