Chance for Australia to test bench strength
This is one time the Australians aren't minding the harsh Indian sun. After rain threatened to ruin their preparation earlier this week, a clear hot Thursday was a welcome sight. Still it needed a day and a half of sun for them to be able to come out and train at the Sector 16 Stadium, the venue of their three-day tour game starting tomorrow. The next three days are forecast to be sunny, something no Aussie is likely to complain about.
The 13 Australian players don't have much to do with the Champions League going on in South Africa, but they could he hoping for Chennai Super Kings to lose their semi-final later in the night. Doug Bollinger and Michael Hussey, both part of the Chennai team, are sure to miss the tour game, but the sooner they arrive in India the better.
"I am trying to work out the way modern cricket works," the Australia coach Tim Nielsen said two days before the practice game, a day after Chennai had made it through to the semi-final. "Dougie and Mike are playing for an Indian franchise in South Africa under an Indian captain, days before they come to play for Australia in India against India.
"It's something you couldn't imagine a couple of years before. We have given them a schedule with SG balls after their Twenty20 routines. We have a plan if they lose the semi-final or if they play the final, to help them recover from a 11-hour flight."
You can see why Australia are concerned. With modern tours hardly giving teams time for one tour game, they would have wanted their first XI to get a feel of the conditions, to operate in a competitive environment as opposed to just nets. Both Bollinger and Hussey are going to start in Mohali on October 1, unless someone else does something sensational over the next three days.
That is exactly what makes this practice game interesting from a team selection point of view. It provides an opportunity for New South Wales's Mitchell Starc, the taller, slightly correcter version of Mitchell Johnson; Peter George, the tall fast bowler released by South Australia (who like Chennai are playing the semi-final of the Champions League); and Phillip Hughes and Steven Smith to challenge the set combination. Three of them should get to play this game - in which 12 play but 11 bat - with George the possible exception given that he arrived yesterday and didn't train today.
Simon Katich spoke about what else the Australians were looking to achieve in the game. "To try and get back in the swing of things," he said. "To spend some time in the middle. The bowlers spend some time there, getting through different spells of bowling, new ball, old ball, and the spinners get overs under their belts."
It is an interesting game for India too, because four members of the Test squad will be playing. Although Gautam Gambhir and Sreesanth played in the Corporate Trophy, this will be the first real test of how well they have recovered from the injuries that curtailed their stays in Sri Lanka. Cheteshwar Pujara will face a near-Test attack, and Pragyan Ojha, who seemed to have cemented his place as the second spinner with impressive shows in Sri Lanka, will get another opportunity against quality opposition.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at Cricinfo