Feb 202013

CHENNAI: The Chepauk pitch has a bald look to it and old-timers suggest the ball will turn from Day One. Michael Clarke said on the first day of practice after a look at the track that he won’t be surprised if India decide to play four spinners in the first Test starting on Friday.

But when it came to finalising their own team, Australia went in with four pacers, including uncapped bowling all-rounder Moises Henriques.

It goes to suggest that Australia believe in playing to their strengths, whatever the conditions. James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle are their three frontline pacers and the only spinner in the line-up is offie Nathan Lyon. “You will see me bowling quite a lot here,” Clarke had said, and it does seem it’s going to come true.

Henriques, who will make his debut here, didn’t want to comment on the nature of the pitch, but insisted that their pace bowling unit has the ability to come good on any track. “We have a very good pace attack and that should do the job for us,” the 26-year-old said.

Opener David Warner, who was nursing a thumb injury, has also been declared fit and he will open the batting with Ed Cowan, with Shane Watson coming at No. 4.

While the Aussies preferred to show their cards ahead of the duel, the Indians maintained their old habit of adding an element of mystery in their choice of final XI. R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha had long bowling stints in the nets on Wednesday and it’s beyond doubt that these two will play.

It’s understood that the third spinner is also a certainty, and the toss-up is between Ravindra Jadeja and Harbhajan Singh. If Jadeja plays, he will bat at No 7, with MS Dhoni at 6. There’s a school of thought which believes that after the England debacle, India won’t compromise on their batting line-up and would go in with Ajinkya Rahane as the extra batsman.

“This pitch is dry and three quality spinners should be enough,” a source said. If that’s the case, Harbhajan, who bowled pretty well in the Irani Cup match, might get the nod ahead of Jadeja.

“Harbhajan is a very competitive cricketer and it’s good to see him back in the side. It should be an interesting contest,” Clarke had said.

Bhajji didn’t bowl for very long at the nets on Wednesday but he looked pretty relaxed, confident of playing his 100th Test at a venue where spinners have traditionally felt comfortable bowling. If Ashwin, Ojha and Bhajji all play, the only pacer in the line-up is likely to be Ishant Sharma, who bowled his heart out in the Chennai heat on Wednesday.

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