Mohali: From wet to wait and then again to wet — Thursday’s story at Mohali was very much an over-wet problem.
The weather was indisciplined, but unlike the Faulty Four of contemporary Australian cricket, it made its ‘power’ point presentation all right, thereby robbing the first day’s play of the third Test.
One assumes that Michael Clarke and Mickey Arthur wouldn’t be complaining much about this act of ‘indiscipline’ as it helped them spend an entire day without losing a single wicket or conceding a single run. Considering the torturous tour that they have had so far, that must have been as refreshing as the no-work-day is to the clerk. Or Clarke should it be?
It started drizzling from early morning on Thursday and by 9am, the toss time, well, the ground condition had gone for a toss. A fantastic drainage system meant that the outfield was playable-dry, but the puddles of water on the covers indicated a damp day ahead.
The Indian team arrived at the ground on time, only to leave for the team hotel minutes later. The Australians, however, didn’t mind being a little late and came to the ground only at around 11am.
The rain stopped around 9.30am and when the umpires inspected the ground at 11am, the clouds were on a retreat. Chances of a post-tea start were brightening when a second batch of clouds leaked again. That proved to be the killer blow as the umpires — Aleem Dar and Richard Kettleborough — called off the day at 1pm.
Friday’s forecast speaks of a cloudy weather, and, if lucky, the rain might just stay away. To make up for the lost day, it has been decided that play will start half-an-hour early, at 9am, on the remaining four days.
The Aussies were, however, very proactive in naming their playing XI for Mohali. But then, when you have 11 to choose from 12, it’s not a difficult choice. With Matthew Wade ruled out with an ankle injury, 35-year-old Brad Haddin made a return to the Test team as the wicket-keeper. Haddin was pretty excited with the opportunity. “I’m excited. It’s a big Test match, if the rain stops,” he said.
The dilemma was whether to choose all-rounder Glenn Maxwell over a specialist spinner. Since the specialists themselves have been treated as amateurs by the Indian batsmen, the Australian team management decided against going for the part-time spin of Maxwell. Instead, both Xavier Doherty and Nathan Lyon would play, accompanying Peter Siddle and Mitchell Starc in the bowling line-up.
Moises Henriques, who can bat sensibly and bowl medium fast, was the obvious choice as the all-rounder. “Maxi did have a good debut in Hyderabad. But 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 all-rounder...
“I guess, in a way, he competes with Moises for one position and we’ve decided we’re going with our specialist attack,” Arthur said on Thursday morning.
Regretting that the recent crisis in the team has become public, Arthur added: “I don’t like it being public… but if this is the catalyst to get us to No.1 in the world, then so be it.”
Also playing will be Steven Smith, who has been chosen as a batsman but can also bowl some leg-spin. This will be the 23-year-old sixth Test, first since January 2011.
Interestingly, Clarke has pushed himself up the order and will be batting at No.3, where compatriot Phil Hughes have batted as efficiently against spin as Venkatesh Prasad would have against Curtly Ambrose.
The Indians are yet to draw up their playing XI, officially at least.
Shane Watson’s wife Lee gave birth to a boy on Thursday. Will Friday see the birth of a new Australian team? God knows… The Weather God.
David Warner, Ed Cowan, Michael Clarke, Phil Hughes, Steve Smith, Brad Haddin, Moises Henriques, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Xavier Doherty