CHENNAI: After opener David Warner, Australia have another injury worry with skipper Michael Clarke suffering a hamstring niggle. With the skipper scheduled to arrive on Tuesday, he will be missing the first practice game and the Australian team management made it clear they were going to play it safe with Clarke.
Steve Rixon, the Australian spin and fielding coach, made it clear that the captain wouldn’t be risked in the second practice game starting on February 16, even if there’s a slight doubt about his fitness. “He (Clarke) is not going to play in the first practice game and we’ll just see how he is going for the second game. If there is any doubt at all, he will not be playing the second game,” he said.
Clarke has been in great form this season, claiming his fourth Allan Border medal for Australia’s player of the year. Opener Warner has already been ruled out of the first practice game and his fitness, too, will be closely monitored ahead of the second practice tie.
Rixon further confirmed that all-rounder Shane Watson would play only as a specialist batsman in the first Test as a result of his injury problems over the past year. “I do not know about the rest of the series but he (Watson) will not bowl in the first Test,” he said.
Clarke, Warner and Watson will be in the city on Tuesday to join the eleven members who arrived early to get acclimatized.
“The purpose of our coming early is to get acclimatized as quickly as possible. Indian conditions are quite different from Australia. Fortunately a lot of our guys play in the IPL and the knowledge that they have about the wickets and conditions here this time of the year is good. We have been playing a lot of T20 and One-day matches, so we are now looking forward to the longer version,” Rixon said.
He added that they would use the time before the first Test to get used to the conditions. They only have one specialist wicketkeeper in the lineup but Rixon doesn’t feel that will be a major concern.
“I’m looking favourite for the second ‘keeper’s role right now even with these dodgy knees” he said in jest, only to add on a serious note: “Brad Haddin can be flown in if necessary. We also have a stand-by guy in Philip Hughes, who kept wickets in Adelaide when Haddin had an injury.”
While the Aussies have only 11 players available for the first practice game, Rixon feels it presents a last opportunity for fringe players to break into the first eleven.
“We will play the practice games very seriously as we need to understand who is going to be in the first eleven. It will be the final defining moment for a lot of the guys. If you look at the guys who will be coming here late like Clarke, Watson and Warner, they will probably play. The guys over here now are probably giving their last shot to get into the first Test team.”
The discussion veered to the topic of Sachin Tendulkar and Rixon made it clear that “the Aussies are always wary of him”.
“You must have plans for greatness and he is a great player. There is no question about that. Even now, he is a great player and has a lot going for himself. To me, we will certainly have plans for Tendulkar. The plans we have had for him in Australia have been successful.”