All eyes on Chepauk

India may go into the first Test against Australia with three spinners.

Spin Twins: Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha.BANGALORE: The third and final day of training at the National Cricket Academy here marked the end of India’s preparatory phase ahead of the four-Test series against Australia. The 15-member squad had a last tilt at gearing up for the crucial contest on Monday by going through routine practice, but the identity of India’s attack going into the first Test remained a topic for deliberation.

Captain MS Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher were seen deep in conversation as seamers Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ashok Dinda had a bowl. With the Chepauk wicket – where the first Test begins on February 22 – having a history of facilitating spin, India’s bowling composition for the opening game is under scrutiny.

The home team can go with their leading spinners Pragyan Ojha and Ravi Ashwin and two fast bowlers, aided by all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja’s left-arm fare at No.6. Another option would be to throw comeback man Harbhajan Singh in the mix, in which case it will be three tweakers plus a solitary fast bowler – Ishant or Bhuvneshwar – to take the shine off.

Harbhajan’s inclusion may also be influenced by the southpaw-heavy nature of the Aussie batting line up. India’s decision to play three spinners had backfired against England in the second Test at Mumbai last year as Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann ran circles around the home batsmen.

Australia, however, are a greener team. Their vulnerability to the turning ball surfaced alarmingly in the practice match against India ‘A’ at Chennai recently. The Shane Watson-led eleven lost nine first innings wickets to the combination of off-spinner Jalaj Saxena and left-armer Rakesh Dhruv.

In their earlier practice match, the Australians had succumbed to Board President's XI's off-spinning all-rounder Parvez Rasool, who finished with figures of 7/45. Ojha, Ashwin and Harbhajan bowled continously for a couple of hours on Sunday while the fast bowlers, who had on Sunday hurled around an ‘Aggot’ ball (a flat-sided sphere that fosters swing and movement), reverted to a regular orb on the last day of practice.

The first session was spent on indoor facilities and only after lunch did nets witness the turmoil that accompanies an international outfit: cameras, the odd cute fan and regular hangers on. The three-hour long session saw almost everyone taking turns to hone their respective skills, except Dhoni who didn’t bat outdoors. The Indian squad leaves  for Chennai on February 19.

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