Maxwell dropped to strengthen bowling
Glenn Maxwell had to sit out of the Mohali Test because Australia needed all of their available specialist bowlers in order to have any chance of staying alive in the series, according to coach Mickey Arthur. Due to the standing down of four players for disciplinary reasons and an injury to Matthew Wade, Australia had only 12 men available for the Test and, on Thursday morning, Maxwell was confirmed as the man who would miss out.
Rain delayed the start of play and at lunch most of the ground was still under cover but the Australians named their XI anyway, with the offspinner Nathan Lyon recalled after being dropped for the second Test in Hyderabad. Lyon and Xavier Doherty will form a dual spin attack, with Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc as the frontline fast bowlers, who will be supported by the pace-bowling allrounder Moises Henriques.
Maxwell took 4 for 127 on debut in Hyderabad, although he struggled to contain Cheteshwar Pujara and M Vijay on his first day of Test bowling when the Indians ran away with the match. Arthur said Maxwell was competing with Henriques for a place in the Mohali Test and the selectors decided that a three-man pace attack with two specialist spinners provided the best chance of the victory Australia needed to make the series 2-1.
"He did have a good debut," Arthur said of Maxwell. "We went with our two quicks and Moises, and we went with what we perceive to be our two specialist spinners. Nathan Lyon and Xavier Doherty were both brought here as specialist spinners. Maxi was brought here as the allrounder-type guy. I guess, in a way, he competes with Moises for one position and we've decided we're going with our specialist attack. We need to take 20 wickets to win this Test match so we wanted our specialists out on the park."
The Australians also have the option of some overs of legspin from Steven Smith, who will play his first Test since the 2010-11 Ashes series. However, Smith has not bowled extensively in the Sheffield Shield this summer and he was brought on the tour specifically as a backup batsman. The selectors were keen on his work against spin and they believed his batting had improved significantly since he was last part of the Test setup.
Brad Haddin was also named for his first Test since January last year. Haddin flew to India on Monday as cover for Wade, who sprained his ankle while playing basketball on Saturday. Wade struggled in wicketkeeping, fielding and running drills at training on Wednesday and was visibly uncomfortable on his right ankle.
Haddin said he was excited about the chance to return to Test level, having lost his place to Wade when he flew home from last year's West Indies tour to be with his ill daughter. His Sheffield Shield form this summer has been strong, and he has scored 468 runs at the average of 52, including two centuries.
"I'm excited by it. It's a big Test match here, if the rain stops," Haddin said on the morning of the game. "From where we are in the series, there's no second chance here. We've got to get a result to draw the series. It's an exciting time to come in and I'm looking forward to the opportunity.
"I have enjoyed my season so far at home but the beauty of Test cricket, and this is where you want to test yourself, is playing in foreign countries. It's good to be back on this stage again and testing yourself out in the middle, which has been on some challenging wickets. I'm looking forward to it."
Haddin said his New South Wales commitments had meant he had been unable to watch all of the first two Tests but he was familiar with the Indian conditions, having played four Tests in the country in 2008.
"We've been pretty busy at home with games," Haddin said. "I haven't watched too much but I've watched bits and pieces. I've played over here before so I know exactly what to expect and I'm excited about the chance."
When play eventually begins, the Australians will face the challenge of ensuring they are not distracted by the off-field issues of the past few days, when Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson were told they would not be considered for this Test due to their failure to complete a task set by Arthur. Although Arthur said he would have preferred it if the matters could have been handled behind closed doors, he said it was important the team management made a stand.
"It has to ultimately become public when it involves so many players," Arthur said. "I don't like it being public. That's not my style but we had given the guys a year really to set culture and do what they wanted to do. We just felt we needed to right now put it all together. It's not ideal out in the open but if this is the catalyst to get us to No.1 in the world then so be it. It's all about the cricket now."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here