Chennai, Feb. 14 -- Michael Clarke jogged around the Guru Nanak College ground with team physiotherapist and doctor. Having landed in India with concerns over his hamstring, he showed no signs of discomfort on Wednesday with the two experts seemingly pleased with the progress made by the Australia captain.
But Clarke's major concern was not just his well-being. By his own admission, leading in India is the biggest challenge of his short captaincy career, that too with Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey having retired.
Going into the first Test, his worry will be to fill the slot vacated by Hussey. Phillip Hughes has settled into No.3; he now needs Hussey's replacement.
The uncertainty was only compounded after the three all-rounders on trial for the No. 7 slot failed to make an impression in the drawn game against the Board President's XI.
The two-day tie offered Moises Henriques, Glenn Maxwell and Steven Smith an opportunity but there was no clear candidate in the end.
Henriques would like to believe he has the edge, after the pacer took four wickets as President's XI were bowled out 11 runs short of the tourists' total. But he failed with the bat.
But he was the pick of the Aussie bowlers, troubling the batsmen with reverse swing and variations. He struck with his second delivery, forcing Mandeep Singh to edge a bouncer behind the wicket, before cleaning up skipper Abhinav Mukund.
He also ended a terrific innings from Ambati Rayudu (87, 150b, 9x4, 3x6).
The 26-year-old, who is yet to play a Test, struck a consistent line, and this being his 11th visit to India helped. Among the other contenders, Smith did better than Maxwell.
His 41 on Tuesday underlined his credentials with the bat, but his leg-spin was a letdown with Rayudu and Parvez Rassol (36, 54b, 4x4, 1x6) punishing the short stuff.
Maxwell has come to India with focus firmly on him after Mumbai Indians splurged a million dollars on him in the IPL auction.
The million-dollar man had one more zero to his name after Stuart Binny dismissed him for an 8-ball duck. He took a wicket with his off-spin, but was punished with Rayudu striking two huge sixes.
Henriques said, "At this stage, I'm the only seam bowling all-rounder on the tour, so I certainly give what you could call a unique option. But I guess in these conditions the spin bowling option is also going to be a good one".
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.