Embattled Australia, down 2-0 in the four-Test series, are banking on their bowling specialists in a bid to salvage pride in the third Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. They will have exactly four days to pick up their pieces and give confident India a run for their money after Day 1 of the Mohali Test was lost to the elements on Thursday.
The first day was washed out after overnight rains left the outfield wet. More rains on Thursday meant 90 overs were completely lost. The forecast for the remaining days is better although the weatherman has predicted bouts of rain on Friday. To make up for lost play, proceedings will start 30 minutes early (at 9 AM) on each of the remaining days. The toss at 8.30 AM will be crucial, especially for the Australians, who have packed five specialist bowlers, including two genuine spinners and a leg-spinning all-rounder in Steven Smith.
Traditionally Mohali has been a fair pitch that has had a bit for both quick bowlers and batsmen. But if the Aussie XI is any indication, spin will once again be a decisive factor. Off-spinner Nathan Lyon, who missed the second Test at Hyderabad, has been recalled and he will pair up with left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty. Smith will surely be the third option for Michael Clarke.
Off-spinning all-rounder Glenn Maxwell, who took 4 for 127 on debut at Hyderabad, lost his place to fast-bowling all-rounder Moises Henriques, who will lend support to quickies Mitchell Starc and Peter Siddle.
"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," explained coach Mickey Arthur.
The decision to drop four players on disciplinary grounds and injury to first-choice wicketkeeper Mathew Wade enabled Brad Haddin stage a Test comeback in more than a year. Smith was also named for the first time since the 2010-11 Ashes. Chosen primarily as a batsman, Smith's leg-spin will come in handy. Haddin's Sheffield Shield performance has been strong this season and he come in with a healthy average of 52, including two centuries. Mohali, of course, can be a different challenge altogether.
The Indians will name their playing XI only at the toss. Shikhar Dhawan is expected to make his debut and open the innings with Murali Vijay. Rest of the winning combination is unlikely to be disturbed with Harbhajan Singh and Ravichandran Ashwin leading the spin attack.