Tough challenge for bowlers against Indian top order: Clarke

Melbourne: Australian captain Michael Clarke on Thursday conceded that his side`s young bowling group would face a tough challenge against the star-studded and experienced Indian top order batting in the Test series starting here on December 26.

"The sheer weight of runs scored by the Indian top order over the years indicates that our bowling group is in for a tough challenge, but we are confident we`ve identified a few areas where we can have impact," Clarke said.

"The experience and class of India against the talent and energy of this exciting Australian team should make for a thrilling contest for the 75,000 people in the stands and the millions more watching around the world.”

"There`s also the issue of Sachin Tendulkar and his 100th international century, which has been a huge talking point in India and around the cricketing world," said the Australian captain.

Clarke feels that the visiting bowling attack would lose sheen if strike bowler Zaheer Khan is not fully fit.

"The Indians have struggled with a few injuries to their bowling attack, and they will need Zaheer Khan to be fit otherwise there will be a lot of pressure on the other Indian bowlers. As for our own attack, we will be assessing the conditions over the next few days before determining the final XI for Boxing Day," Clarke wrote in his column for `Daily Telegraph`.

"Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Starc will be fighting it out for the third fast bowler`s spot and they obviously bring different skills to the table. Hilfy boasts experience, the ability to swing the ball and bowl long spells, while Mitchell is a tall left-armer who can be a real handful for opposing batsmen when he gets everything in sync," he wrote.

Clarke also indicated that all-rounder Dan Christian could be brought into the playing eleven as Shane Watson was not named in the squad after having failed to recover fully from his injury.

"The option of using Dan Christian at No.6 is another interesting one for us. It`s certainly handy having that extra bowling option as Shane Watson has shown us in recent years, although we have had success playing just the four specialists as well. Again, a lot of it will come down to the conditions," wrote Clarke.

"Another crucial factor in deciding our final XI will be how Shaun Marsh pulls up from his Big Bash League game with the Perth Scorchers last night. He has come along in leaps and bounds the last few weeks from his back injury, and it was great to see him hitting the ball well in our batting camp this week. We`ll know a lot more today about where he is physically," he wrote.

Clarke does not see any problem in the Test players featuring in the Twenty20 Big Bash League just ahead of the series. Rather he said playing in Big Bash would help the players.

"There has been plenty of discussion about the merits of Test squad members playing in the Big Bash between the New Zealand and Indian Test series. I think its been good for players to have some time in the middle and I`ve personally enjoyed watching the games on TV. Certainly the timing has been perfect in getting Shaun a game off the back of our batting camp," he said.

Talking about the batting camp called for some players, including himself, struggling Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey, Clarke said, "The camp has also been in the news of late, and its given the whole batting group a good chance to spend some time together before Boxing Day.

"We`ve spoken about the opposition and brought in some bowlers who have similar traits to the Indians to ensure our preparation is as comprehensive as it can be. It`s all about improvement and I`m confident the boys will put in a good showing over the next four Tests."


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