Shane to lead if Clarke is unfit

Calcutta: Despite being disciplined in the lead-up to the third Test, in Mohali, Shane Watson remains Australia's vice-captain and will lead if the recurrence of a back problem keeps Michael Clarke out of the fourth and final Test, in New Delhi.

The Test begins on Friday.

"Irrespective of what has happened, the hierarchy hasn't changed... Clarke is being assessed on a day to day basis," a member of Australia's squad told The Telegraph on Wednesday.

Clarke didn't train during the day, while Watson had a lengthy one-on-one with coach Mickey Arthur, who'd disciplined him just over a week ago.

Usually, Clarke takes "three-four days" to recover from the problem, but it's taking longer this time.

If Watson does get to captain, he could actually write a book on the past 10-12 days, which have been quite out of the ordinary.

Meanwhile, "pressed for time," the national selectors didn't name a second replacement opener (after Gautam Gambhir's illness became known) on Tuesday, "believing" that No.3 Cheteshwar Pujara would be the stand-in opener at the Kotla.

"My understanding is that Sandeep Patil and his colleagues assumed Pujara will again do the job he did in the second innings of the last Test, when Shikhar Dhawan was injured...

[Looking comfortable, Pujara figured in a 42-run partnership with Murali Vijay, as India chased 133 to regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.]

"If that does happen, then it would only be proper for Ajinkya Rahane to finally be capped, in the middle order... In the selectors' eyes, Suresh Raina is a middle order reserve," informed a well-placed source.

The source added: "Of course, the team management may have a very different view and the XI is always their choice."

Rahane, 24, has spent ages warming dressing room seats and is in the squad as a back-up middle order batsman.

Overlooked for the first three Tests, all won by India, Gambhir was specifically asked for by captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and coach Duncan Fletcher once it became clear that Dhawan, who made such a splash on his debut, won't be available for six weeks.

It's assumed that Raina was also asked for by the team management.


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