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March 13, 2013
Matthew Wade's chances of playing in the third Test in Mohali appear slim after he struggled through wicketkeeping, fielding and running drills on the eve of the match. If Wade is ruled out due to his ankle injury it will leave the Australians with only 12 men available. Brad Haddin would keep wicket and the only real decision for the selectors would be which of the three spinners - Xavier Doherty, Nathan Lyon and Glenn Maxwell - to leave on the sidelines.
The indications at training were that Maxwell would be the one to miss out. At the end of Australia's practice session, Maxwell looked downcast during a lengthy on-field chat with the coach Mickey Arthur, and he was not present at a sit-down meeting of the spinners shortly afterwards when the spin coach Steve Rixon chatted to Lyon, Doherty and Smith on the boundary edge.
The small pool from which to select is a stark contrast to the first Test in Chennai, when Australia had a group of 17 players available. But the team management's decision to make Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja sit out for disciplinary reasons has left them with few options for the Mohali Test, starting on Thursday, which the Australians must win to have any chance of retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Wade sprained his right ankle while playing basketball on Saturday and scans concerned the Australian medical staff enough that Haddin was flown to India as cover. On Wednesday, Wade trained for the first time since suffering the injury. His movement was clearly hampered during wicketkeeping drills with the fielding coach, Steve Rixon, and he also struggled to move freely during outfielding work and while running between the wickets.
That work was followed by a lengthy discussion between captain Michael Clarke, Rixon, selector on duty Rod Marsh, team doctor Peter Brukner and physio Alex Kountouris. Wade left the fielding session to bat in the nets but looked despondent as he made his way into the team rooms after completing his training. Earlier in the day, Clarke had raised the possibility of Wade playing as a batsman only if he was unable to keep wicket.
But the more likely scenario now appears to be that Haddin will take the gloves and bat at No. 6 in his first Test since January last year. If Wade is ruled out it will mean Phillip Hughes will certainly retain his place in the side and Steven Smith will be included for his first Test since Australia's miserable 2010-11 Ashes series. The decision to sideline Watson, Pattinson, Johnson and Khawaja could cost Australia in this match but Clarke said it provided an opportunity.
"There's no doubt that somebody's loss is somebody else's gain and a big part of international cricket is getting a chance," Clarke said. "A lot of people talk about young players - he should be picked, he shouldn't be picked, is he good enough? The only way you find out if he's good enough is if he gets an opportunity. A few guys who are going to get a chance in this game have been waiting for this opportunity and now it is about grabbing it with both hands."
The Mohali pitch remained under a hessian cover on Wednesday but the Australians had inspected it on Tuesday and Clarke said it did not appear to be the pace-friendly kind of surface he had seen at the venue in the past.
"I saw the wicket yesterday," Clarke said. "I haven't seen it today yet but I imagine it wouldn't have changed much. There's not much grass to cut off and it was quite dry yesterday so it's probably even drier today. I think the conditions are going to be very similar to what we've seen in the first two Test matches.
"There's no real surprises there. I've played some cricket here in Mohali and generally they leave a bit of grass on the wicket and it's nice for fast bowlers but I'm not surprised that all the grass has been cut off. That's part of international cricket. The positive of that is at least we've experienced it in the first two matches."
Possible team 1 David Warner, 2 Ed Cowan, 3 Phillip Hughes, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Steven Smith, 6 Brad Haddin (wk), 7 Moises Henriques, 8 Mitchell Starc, 9 Peter Siddle, 10 Xavier Doherty, 11 Nathan Lyon.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Brydon Coverdale
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Stats highlights from the first day of the second Test between Australia and India in Brisbane