Australia have named Michael Clarke in a 12-man squad for the first Test against India starting in Brisbane next week, but the hamstrung captain must prove his fitness in a tour match starting on Friday.
Clarke re-injured his problematic hamstring during the one-day international series against South Africa and is in a race to be fit for the first match of the four-Test series at the Gabba on Dec. 4.
The 33-year-old would need to be fit enough to run by Wednesday to have a chance of playing for a Cricket Australia XI in a two-day tour match at the Adelaide Oval starting on Friday, chief selector Rod Marsh said.
“My gut feeling all along was that he’d be fit for the Test match,” Marsh told reporters in Adelaide.
“But now he’s got to play the two-game day here for him to prove his fitness and I think that’s really important because with his recent history, we can’t have him breaking down in the first innings of a Test match per se.”
If Clarke fails in his bid, he would be replaced by a batsman, Marsh added, declining to name any candidates.
Uncapped paceman Josh Hazlewood has been rewarded for an impressive one-day series against South Africa with a place in the squad, but may be condemned to carrying the drinks, with Ryan Harris recalled after a long recovery from knee surgery.
The 23-year-old Hazlewood replaces left armer Mitchell Starc who toiled in Australia’s 2-0 Test series loss away to Pakistan, but the hosts are certain to retain Mitchell Johnson as their main strike bowler with fellow paceman Peter Siddle in support.
“(Harris) will play in this upcoming round of Sheffield Shield to get more bowling under his belt but we are all hopeful he will be ready for a big summer of cricket,” Marsh said.
Marsh added it was unlikely Australia would go with a four-pronged pace attack at the Gabba, meaning a reprieve for spinner Nathan Lyon who was monstered by Pakistan’s batsmen in the United Arab Emirates.
Vice-captain and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin has also been named in the squad after recovering from a shoulder injury sustained against Pakistan.
With Glenn Maxwell dropped from the squad that toured UAE, all-rounders Mitchell Marsh and Shane Watson are a certainty to play at Brisbane, though Marsh said their places in the batting order would be determined by Clarke, if fit.
Squad: Michael Clarke (captain), Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, David Warner, Shane Watson