A controversy-hit Australia look to overturn a 2-0 lead against India when the two teams meet in the third Test match of their series at Mohali. We’ll have live coverage throughout day one from 3.00pm AEDT.
What seemed like a longish break between two Tests that Australia would use to prepare and mull over a few changes transformed dramatically when coach Mickey Arthur announced on Monday that four squad members were banned from the third Test match.
The reason for their axe – a non-completion by Saturday night of what has been termed as a self and team-improvement exercise – was almost disbelieving at first but as more details came out of the closet in the couple of following days, Arthur and captain Michael Clarke were afforded a lot more leeway from the angry fans.
It may have been a culture-building move but suddenly, the suspension of Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, Usman Khawaja and James Pattinson leaves Australia with only 11 fully fit players from the original squad with Brad Haddin joining them only on Tuesday.
Things have come to such a head that if the injured Matthew Wade is declared fine by the medical staff just before the toss, Haddin might still play as a pure batsman.
Without Watson and Khawaja at the top, Clarke will now be expected to bat higher than his favourite number five but the exact position hasn’t been revealed yet. A lot will depend on how the management perceives Phil Hughes’ batting travails, and consequently whether he will be pushed down to four.
It is numbers five to seven which are a tad hazy at the moment as Steve Smith could join the playing 11 as a specialist batsman now that Watson’s out of contention. Reports online suggest that Glenn Maxwell could be the spinner to miss out.
Interestingly what this ‘line-in-the-sand moment’ has done for the Indian selectors is to take the heat off them with respect to the sacking of Virender Sehwag.
Sehwag’s loss of form notwithstanding, there were a few experts who had questioned his exclusion but all that took a back-seat thanks to the fire that raged in the Australian camp.
Sehwag’s replacement is a fellow Delhi opener Shikhar Dhawan, who has shown good recent form that includes a century in a warm-up game before the start of England’s tour of India.
Dhawan will make his Test match debut after having played six limited-overs internationals.
The rest of the side could continue being the same despite doubts over the participation of Cheteshwar Pujara whose knees continue to attract injuries like honey entices bees.
He was hit in by one of the net bowlers at one of the training sessions but has now been deemed fit to play in the Test.
The other issue could have been related to the Indian bowling line-up which has seen Ishant Sharma continue to struggle with the ball.
Sharma’s overall bowling average of 38.52 is hardly par for the course but his last five wickets have taken him four Tests and cost him 56 runs apiece – a damning stat by any stretch.
Harbhajan Singh may not be a match-winner on his own these days but he has shown that odd spark in the series so far but it is difficult to predict if Pragyan Ojha gets an opportunity ahead of him.
The pitch at Mohali has a lot more bounce and carry for the bowlers than other tracks in India but captain Clarke has already stated that it may not play too differently from the previous two surfaces.
Live coverage of the game begins from 3.00pm AEDT and you can add your opinion in the comments section below – join The Roar’s live coverage of day two here.