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January 30, 2013
In the present absence of quality, Australia's selectors are expected to opt for quantity when they name the squad for the Test tour of India on Thursday.
The national selector John Inverarity is set to unveil a 17-man squad for the four Tests, covering as many bases as possible after their initial plans were torn asunder by Michael Hussey's retirement and Shane Watson's decision to give up bowling.
Inverarity's blueprint was thrown into a state of further disorganisation by the revelation that David Warner had suffered a fractured thumb while batting in the WACA ground nets on the eve of the squad's announcement. While Warner is out of the first two ODIs against West Indies as a result, he should be named for India with an asterisk against his name pending his fitness.
Apart from the XI that took the field in the third Test against Sri Lanka at the SCG in the first week of January, allrounders Glenn Maxwell and Moises Henriques are both likely to be taken to India, as is the left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty in the role of Nathan Lyon's understudy and potential partner.
Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith are probable inclusions as batsmen, with the duo to compete against Maxwell and Henriques for the final spot in the top seven. Matthew Wade's position may shuffle between Nos. 7 and 6 depending on circumstances, after he showed a liking for promotion by making a century at the SCG.
Brad Haddin will not be chosen as a back-up wicketkeeper for the tour, given the relative ease with which a player may be flown to India in the event of injury, but his place as Wade's back-up remains unquestioned. Haddin will likely re-take the ODI gloves against West Indies when some members of the India tour party leave early - around February 7.
Among the pace bowlers, James Pattinson is set for a recall after having his recovery from a side/rib injury carefully monitored, while Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson in particular can expect to have to put in plenty of exacting spells on unhelpful pitches. Ben Hilfenhaus will not be considered as he recovers from his side strain.
Having made his return to the Test team against South Africa and then strengthened his place via a series of intimidatory displays against Sri Lanka, Johnson looms as a pivotal part of the team's efforts to win in India. The subcontinent has arguably seen the best of Johnson, where his low, slingy action has afforded him useful skid and the occasional hint of reverse swing on otherwise unhelpful surfaces.
"It'd be really nice to get an opportunity to play Test cricket in India again," Johnson said. "I've always said it's a great challenge in India with the conditions over there, the heat, the wickets, the players we come up against. So fingers crossed I get that opportunity, but first and foremost is these one-dayers, we need to go out there and really dominate the West Indies.
"The experience definitely comes into it, the challenges over in India are very different to what they are here, so hopefully my experience does come into account. But you've got to go by form in the end - if you're performing you should be picked and playing."
Johnson underlined his reticence to be considered an allrounder, despite assuming the role briefly in the SCG Test against Sri Lanka. His unease at being considered a responsible batting part of the top seven provided another reason for the selectors to consider other all-round options for India, namely Henriques and Maxwell.
"For me primarily I'm a fast bowler, I want to go out there and bowl fast, take wickets and do a good job for our team," Johnson said. "The batting side, it is a bit of a bonus for me, I do love my batting and want to have that allrounder status, but the way it's worked for me is if I focus on my bowling and then chip in with runs at the end, we've got a good tail. I do get talked into the allrounder role at times, but I like to do the best job with the bat that I can."
Possible squad: Michael Clarke (capt), Jackson Bird, Ed Cowan, Xavier Doherty, Moises Henriques, Phillip Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade (wk), David Warner, Shane Watson.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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