Inexperience rife for Australia in Mohali
There were 16 Australian players at training in Mohali on Tuesday but as few as 12 might be available for the Test starting on Thursday. James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja wore sheepish looks as the team gathered for its on-field meeting before the practice session began. Brad Haddin was there, newly arrived from Australia as cover for Matthew Wade, who walked without any obvious signs of pain from his sprained ankle but did not train.
Australia will not rush a decision on Wade's place in the side but he is running out of opportunities to prove his fitness after hurting his ankle while playing basketball on Saturday. The team has only one training session left, on Wednesday afternoon, and given all the crouching and quick footwork required of a wicketkeeper in Test cricket, Wade would need to go through a rigorous test before he was ruled fit to play.
Should Wade sit out, it will mean the inclusion of Haddin for his first Test since January last year and his presence would provide some valuable experience to the side. Haddin flew out of Australia on Monday to provide cover for Wade and could nearly have crossed paths at Singapore airport with Shane Watson, who departed Chandigarh the same day to be with his pregnant wife, Lee Furlong.
But Watson's departure had more worrying undertones, for it came hours after he, Pattinson, Johnson and Khawaja were told they would not play the Mohali Test for failing to complete a task set by the coach Mickey Arthur. His comments about considering his cricket future have raised questions over whether he will remain a Test player, but for now the only thing that is certain is that Australia will not have his experience to call on in Mohali.
That leaves Michael Clarke in charge of an extremely green outfit in which the second-most experienced Test cricketer will be either Haddin (43 Tests) or Peter Siddle (39). Should Wade be passed fit and Haddin left out, Australia would be in the remarkable position of Phillip Hughes (22 Tests) being their third most capped Test player, with Nathan Lyon (20) fourth if he is included.
With that in mind the selectors might consider Haddin as a batsman only, to add some much-needed experience to the XI. The make-up of the attack is the other question, for the sidelining of Pattinson and Johnson leaves Siddle and Mitchell Starc as the only frontline fast bowlers on the one pitch of this tour that might offer some pace and bounce. That means two of the three spinners in the squad - Lyon, Xavier Doherty and Glenn Maxwell - will have to play.
The other question is where Clarke will bat, after his announcement following the Hyderabad loss that he would move up the order from No. 5. On Monday, he once again confirmed that he would bat higher but said he would not decide on whether to come in at first drop or second drop until he had discussed it with the selector, Rod Marsh, who joined the squad on Tuesday, and Arthur.
"I don't know if I'm going to bat four or three but I'm not going to bat five," Clarke said. "If it's best for me to bat three, give me a go. Get me up there. I want to have a good chat to Rod and to Mickey, to think what our best team is and then we work out what's the best batting order."
That conversation has been complicated by the absence of Watson and Khawaja, which means Phillip Hughes will probably retain his place despite his struggles against spin in the first two Tests. On a surface where pace could play a role early, Australia would prefer for Hughes to come in as high up the order as possible, which could mean Clarke bats at No. 4.
Possible team: 1 David Warner, 2 Ed Cowan, 3 Phillip Hughes, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Steven Smith, 6 Brad Haddin/Matthew Wade (wk), 7 Moises Henriques, 8 Glenn Maxwell, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Peter Siddle, 11 Xavier Doherty/Nathan Lyon.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here