Michael Clarke was declared unfit and Shane Watson, who was dropped on disciplinary grounds in the previous Test, was handed over the captaincy. The 31-year-old all-rounder thus became the 44th Australian captain. A pessimistic Clarke was himself in doubt of his availability on Thursday when he said he will keep his fingers crossed. The worst fears came true. Clarke has been suffering from his painful back since he was 17-year-old. But the ‘bulging disc’ which he injured during the third Test was too problematic for Clarke.
Watson, who flew back to India on Monday, was given a difficult job with the visitors facing a prospect of a worst ever drubbing since Bill Lawry’s team that suffered a 4-0 at the hands of South Africa in the 1969-70 series.
According to Australian team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris, Clarke injured his lower back during the third Test. “Whilst there has been some slow improvement, he is still well short of full function so was unable to train and will not be available to play the fourth Test,” said Kountouris.
Clarke will be returning to Sydney as soon as possible to have a series of scans. “We will monitor his progress over the coming days before deciding on the best course of action. We will be taking the opportunity to investigate and manage his ongoing hamstring injury that has been intermittently troubling him since the Australian summer. A decision on his return to cricket will be made once we have evaluated the scans and considered the possible management options,” added Kountouris.
For Watson, life has turned a full circle. He had captained the Australian team in nine ODIs. This unexpected turn of events came as a dream-come-true opportunity to be asked to lead the side. “I’ve captained in some ODIs, but to captain a Test team is the ultimate honour,” said Watson, who is playing his 41st Test.
Watson was delighted of this new challenge but at the same time he was disappointed that Clarke was not playing. “It’s disappointing that Michael is not playing. His batting and leadership will be missed, but I’m looking forward to the challenge and responsibility over the next five days,” he pointed out.
Rod Marsh, the National Selection Panel (NSP) selector, said: “Clarke has worked hard to be fit and done everything the medical staff have asked of him but has not come up.”
Marsh said the decision to make Watson the captain was a straight forward one. “Shane is the vice-captain on this tour and as a senior member of the group has credentials to lead Australia in Michael’s absence. The CA Board has endorsed the NSP recommendation that Shane should captain Australia in the fourth Test. Shane is an experienced player in Indian conditions and has captained the Australian ODI side nine times.”
Australia made five changes in the team for this Test and appointed Matthew Wade, who missed the Mohali Test, as vice-captain. Apart from Watson and Wade, others who made the XI are Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Johnson and James Pattinson. By making Wade the vice-captain, Marsh said this new job will be a great experience for the young wicket-keeper.
After the Mohali episode, Johnson and Pattinson made a comeback into the team. Out of this match are injured Clarke, Mitchell Starc, Moises Henriques, Xavier Doherty and Brad Haddin.