MICHAEL Clarke denies Australia has gambled by picking four seamers and only the solitary spinner for Friday's first Test.
On an orange clay track that would make Rafael Nadal's mouth water, India is expected to bank squarely on its slow-bowling contingent headed by off-spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and the recalled Harbhajan Singh. Australia's inclusion of only Nathan Lyon is a clear consequence of the squad's lack of world-class spin options, but the Test captain argues it is not exposing itself to potential calamity with the radical joint selection of Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and the all-rounder Moises Henriques in such conditions.
''I don't think it is [a gamble]. I think we've got a really good attack, we've got three specialist fast bowlers, we've got the all-rounder in Moises and then we have got our front-line spinner in Nathan Lyon and a couple of part-timers in David Warner and myself,'' Clarke said. ''Personally I think we have covered all bases. I think India's team will be a lot different to ours, but I think we have gone with our strengths and we're backing that when the wicket does deteriorate here not only will it spin more it will go up and down more and we think reverse swing will play a part as well.''
The balance of the Australian XI has been upset by the fact that Shane Watson, ordinarily a top-order all-rounder, is taking a break from bowling. Had the vice-captain been at full capacity there would be no requirement for Henriques to be thrust into a Test debut and Clarke's team could have instead included a second specialist spinner or the spin-bowling all-rounder Glenn Maxwell.
Henriques' form in the squad's warm-up matches in Chennai was compelling, however, convincing Clarke that reverse swing and variable bounce was an alternative avenue to victory over M. S. Dhoni's vulnerable side. Clarke and coach Mickey Arthur called a team meeting on Thursday to discuss strategies with the old ball.
''Australian summers are not different but generally here because you sweat so much the guys that aren't bowling need to take control of the ball,'' Clarke said. ''So whether that is me or 'Watto' in slip we have to look after it for the bowlers and keep it out of their hands as much as possible. If the ball is reverse swinging, if you get the shiny side wet it stops the swing so that is something we will talk about.''
If Australia's left-field plan comes off over the next five weeks it could not only claim a rare series win in India but put a full stop on the legendary career of Sachin Tendulkar. India will look to the next generation, Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli, to keep an often flimsy batting unit afloat but Clarke says Australia must remain wary of Tendulkar despite the 39-year-old not having scored a Test century in two years. At Chennai, Tendulkar has bludgeoned 876 runs at 87.6 in nine Tests including five hundreds - the most he has scored at any ground.
''What I know about players like Sachin is once they get in, especially in conditions they're so accustomed to, it's really difficult to get them out,'' Clarke said. ''So the key is if you get any sort of momentum in the subcontinent you have to run with it for as long as you possibly can. So if you make a 50, a 60, a 70, and get out, you're more accountable there than the guy who made zero.''