The last time Australia came the nearest to beating India in the sub-continent, since their conquest of the final frontier in 2004, was three years ago in Mohali, when they had the hosts teetering before they were defied by their familiar bogeyman,VVS Laxman. They no longer need fear the Hyderabadi’s silk-edged rapier as they seek resurrection in the third Test against India, which starts on Thursday. Only two Australians of that team have survived another Test at the venue — Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin, the latter though by default. Though they are prone to recollect the gasp of the one-wicket defeat, they are as likely to be encouraged by the success of faster-men on what is reputed as the liveliest 22-yard strip in the country. In that particular Test, pacers accounted for 25 wickets whereas the spinners managed only 12.
Probe deeper, the track has customarily helped pacers. The ball moves around a bit in the morning session, apart from consistent bounce throughout, and seamers who have cleverly used the conditions have had better batting line-ups in a tizzy.
The pleasant weather — a cozy 25 degree as opposed to the high 30s the mercury hovered in their previous venues— should offer a refreshing rejuvenation for the Australians, after the ordeal —by spin in Chennai and Hyderabad. The pitch, though, is greyer and drier than it usually is in Mohali.
Moreover, in the context of the alleged cracks within the side, and in the wake of “homework axe”, the green squares of Mohali might feel illusory for the Aussies, who now have to select their XI from only 13, and their only artful bowler on tour James Pattinson shelved.
The team management might not have an option but to persist with the battling Phil Hughes and promote Clarke to number four, as various sections of the Aussie had been suggesting and one that seems logical. Steve Smith, who looked considerably relaxed in playing the spinners in the first tour game, is likely to be drafted in as number five, though there is the outside prospect for cover wicket-keeper Brad Haddin being included as specialist batsman, if Matthew Wade wins his race with his aching ankle.
Though Haddin last played a Test in January 2012 , the 43-Test-old would infuse experience into the side. Moreover, he has been prolific in the domestic cricket (468 runs in seven games at 52 in the Sheffield Shield and 213 runs from five matches at 42.60 in the Ryobi Cup). In such an upshot, he would replace Glenn Maxwell, whose batting wasn’t impressive in Hyderabad and his bowling would be ineffective in Mohali conditions.
Either Xavier Doherty or Nathan Lyon would get the nod — candidly there is little to choose between their wicket-taking potential. However, Doherty being the more economical (Doherty leaked 2.83 as opposed to Lyon’s 4.64), he is the likeliest to trudge in. In any case, the spinner could be assigned a restrictive role as they would hinge on their pace trio of Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc and Moises Henriques. That three have collectively accounted for three wickets is a forgettable piece of stat for the visitors.
Meanwhile, India would forge a fresh combination at the top, with likely debutant Shikhar Dhawan set to partner Murali Vijay. Pragyan Ojha, in all probability, could be overlooked again, more so with home boy Harbhajan showing signs of revival in Hyderabad. Starting as favourites, India will look to wrap up the series here.