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Australia's versatile squad throws up plenty of choices

Steve O'Keefe is one of two left-arm spinners in Australia's squad to tour India Getty Images

The first thing that strikes you about the Australian touring squad is the options that are available to the selectors once they decode the Indian conditions.

There are four slow bowlers, with Nathan Lyon being the senior spinner. Two allrounders have been included, but only one spare batsman, Shaun Marsh, who is versatile enough to bat anywhere in the order. The option of which allrounder to choose - the seamer or the spinner - could prove the most difficult leading into the first Test.

Even though the panel have only chosen three fast bowlers, they have given themselves the option of adding to that number after the first two Tests.

That's a lot of flexibility. However, the most important thing is getting the right combination, and this is where the tour selectors will need to concentrate their attention.

"Maxwell is an intriguing player, and it is easy to see why selectors keep hoping he can turn potential into profitable returns"

The No. 6 position, which seems to have been a black hole in the Test team ever since they were discovered in space (or at least since Michael Hussey retired), remains an area of experimentation. It's doubtful if Australia will venture into a Test without a third seam-bowling option. This means either Mitchell Marsh will regain the spot he has been unable to claim as his own, or Glenn Maxwell will be regarded as a second spinner and bat at six.

If Marsh junior does bat at six and act as the third seamer, that would be a steep challenge for a player who prefers to start his innings against pace bowlers. He struggles early against left-arm orthodox spinners - pushing hard rather than letting the ball come to him - and the ever-alert Virat Kohli will surely have Ravindra Jadeja ready when he walks to the crease.

Maxwell is an intriguing player, and it is easy to see why selectors keep hoping he can turn potential into profitable returns. Despite his potential to destroy opposing attacks, he will be a difficult fit for an Australian team whose primary slow bowler is also an offspinner.

It almost means having to leave Lyon out of the side and partner Maxwell with one of the left-arm spinners to attain the right combination. Then there is the added risk of Maxwell scoring a spell-binding 30, with shots flying in all directions, only to squander yet another promising innings by hitting one straight up in the air.

One of Steven Smith's first jobs will be sorting out the batting order. If he opts for three left-handers at the top of the order followed by three righties, it's an imbalance that makes Kohli's job easier. If Smith does retain the status quo, Kohli is almost certain to open with the left-hand-loving R Ashwin.

It may be in Smith's best interests to promote himself to No. 3 and move Usman Khawaja to No. 4. That not only presents Kohli with a more difficult challenge, it also separates the two best players of spin (Peter Handscomb being the other), which could assist their fellow batsmen. If one batsman is always challenging the spinners, it does ease the load on the less competent player down the other end.

The other area of intrigue is the opportunity to increase the fast-bowling ranks after the second Test. This could leave the way open for the addition of either one of the speedsters in Pat Cummins or James Pattinson. With Darren Lehmann's well-known liking for bowlers of pace over 140kph, this is a possibility.

"If Cummins or Pattinson were added to the squad, it would conjure up memories of when West Indies and South Africa won in India by relying predominantly on pace"

Nevertheless, it is going to depend on a couple of factors. Firstly, the two injury-prone speedsters would need to successfully negotiate some Sheffield Shield cricket. Then it would need Australia to be in a promising position after the opening two contests.

There is no point in adding either Cummins or Pattinson if Australia are already two Tests down. If either bowler was added to the squad, it would conjure up memories of when West Indies, in 1983-84, and then South Africa, in 1999-2000, won in India by relying predominantly on pace.

Pace bowling success is probably Australia's best chance of victory in India, but they will also have to bat a whole lot better than they have in the recent past.