Hodge and Symonds in, Clark covers for Warne
Brad Hodge and Andrew Symonds will play in Thursday's second Test against the West Indies but Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain, has delayed a decision on the final spot between Stuart MacGill and Nathan Bracken. In an another development, Stuart Clark, the new South Wales pace bowler, has been called into the squad as cover to Shane Warne who has been suffering lower back pain resulting in restriction of movement since Tuesday evening.
The cause of Warne's back pain is not known. He has been receiving treatment and is improving but a decision on his availability for selection will not be made until he is reviewed on the morning of the match. Clark will fly into Hobart this evening and the final team will be announced tomorrow morning.
Ponting confirmed that Hodge will make his Test debut at Bellerive Oval, while Symonds, the allrounder, gets a recall to play his third Test. Hodge, who battered the tourists' bowling attack with 177 for Victoria last week, comes in as a straight swap for deposed Simon Katich and hopes to consolidate his place in the Australian team with another big score.
Australia, after beating the struggling tourists by a thumping 379-run margin in last week's first Test at Gabba, are expected to clinch the best-of-three Test series in Hobart and Ponting has strengthened the batting with the inclusion of Symonds in the absence of injured Shane Watson. "If he [Symonds] comes in and plays as well as we know he can play then he would be someone who would be pretty hard to leave out of your side going forward," Ponting said. "We know how good a cricketer he can be and we have all seen that in domestic cricket and in his one-day cricket for Australia as well."
Symonds last played for Australia in Sri Lanka in March 2004, scoring just 53 runs at 13.25. He further blotted his record by turning up reeking of alcohol before a one-day international against Bangladesh in England this year, for which he was fined and dropped.
But Ponting said a decision has been delayed whether Australia would go into the second Test with MacGill partnering Shane Warne, or whether Nathan Bracken, the left-arm swing bowler, would be retained after taking four West Indian wickets at Brisbane. "We just want a bit more of a think about it and probably sleep on it tonight with Bracken and MacGill. One of those two guys will play and one won't."
The Australian selectors are aware that the West Indies have shown a distaste for facing leg-spin. Warne, Test cricket's leading wicket-taker, has captured 54 wickets in 17 Tests against the West Indies at 30.18, while MacGill has 48 in 12 Tests at 31.89. Overall, MacGill has snared 169 wickets in 34 Tests at 27.78, averaging five wickets a match. At his most recent bowling performance at Bellerive, for New South Wales against Tasmania last season, he claimed 6 for 85 in the second innings.
While Australia have the luxury of being in two minds as to who to leave out of a winning side, there are rumblings in the West Indies camp going into the Hobart Test. Shivnarine Chanderpaul's uncertain captaincy is again under the spotlight and on Wednesday he was joined at his match-eve press conference by Bennett King, the West Indies coach. The 31-year-old Guyanese batsman became captain this year after being one of the few leading players not involved in a bitter contract dispute between players and the West Indian Cricket Board.
On asked by reporters whether he felt he had the full support of his team-mates, Chanderpaul said, "Losing is not an easy thing, we had a bad first game [in Brisbane] once we start picking ourselves up, the guys they are working really hard right now to get us winning again. But it all depends about how well we can come out and play. Given the position as captain, nobody is here forever, you are just hoping you can do your best out there and go out there and do whatever you can do."
King interjected: "From my perspective he has recouped very well and rallied the guys well. We have had a couple of really good training sessions that he has done a lot of work in and he is actually really growing into the role quite well and getting support." King expected Australia to play two spinners but refused to give any indications of the make-up of his team for the match. Dwayne Bravo, the allrounder, is likely to come into the team to strengthen the lower-order batting.