Hyderabad, Mar 1: It is hard not to install India as favourites for the second Test against Australia. And again, India's main weapon will be spin at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium here.
The second Test starts here on Saturday (March 2) and the hosts enter the match with full of confidence after the eight-wicket victory in Chennai.
In the first Test, all 20 Australian wickets fell to spin. R Ashwin took 12 of them. The offspinner will again be India's strike bowler and there are doubts over Harbhajan Singh's place. The 100-Test veteran could make way for local boy Pragyan Ojha. Another possibility is that India might think of playing four spinners.
Australian batsmen crumbled in spin-friendly conditions of Chennai. Though the Hyderabad pitch might not be the same as MA Chidambaram strip, any Test wicket in India will start to turn from fourth day.
India's spin department is healthy. But same cannot be said of pace. Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were not threatening like the Australian fast bowlers. India's worry is lack of pace from their fast men. While Australia possess bowlers who can consistently bowl 140kmph and even touch 150kmph, India's new ball bowlers rarely cross 140kmph.
James Pattinson showed how a lot of speed can get you wickets. He will again be a threat for India with the new ball and also reverse swing could be a factor with the old ball.
There is a case for left-hander Shikhar Dhawan to be handed Test debut in place of Vijay. But the team management might give the Tamil Nadu right-hander another chance. With the selectors deciding on the squad for the next two Tests, this could be last opportunity even for Sehwag.
India are in the same situation as they were against England in the previous home series. After being 1-0 up they allowed England to bounce back and take the series 2-1 in four matches. Dhoni and his men will be aware of that and Australia don't have Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar like spinners.
When Ashwin was asked about this, the offspinner said the team had not discussed about England series situation.
"We haven't spoken about it (England series) honestly. It's just that result and numbers don't go too much into the head. I think we will have to remain Positive in the dressing room saying, this is what happened against England and didn't happen here. If you put your mind into it, you will see that England played well in the second innings in Ahmedabad and took momentum from it and it shifted a little bit and all that but we had a very clinical performance in first Test this time and that will really help us," he said on Friday.
Australia will be exploring the option of playing a second spinner in Xavier Doherty or Glenn Maxwell. Nathan Lyon had a forgettable game in Chennai conceding more than 200 runs but is expected to retain his spot.
The visitors' batting will depend on captain Michael Clarke, Shane Watson and Moises Henriques who had a fine debut with two half centuries.
Australia have a tough task to bounce back.
India: MS Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Australia: Michael Clarke (captain), Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, Matthew Wade, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Moises Henriques, James Pattinson, Xavier Doherty, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith.
Match starts at 9.30 am