AS CRAZY as it might have seemed as he was belted into submission less than a month ago, Jason Krejza could today become Australia’s fourth debutant in as many Tests as the tourists considered a more attacking spin option to keep the series alive in Delhi.
In a tale of two spinners, the big toe on Harbhajan Singh’s right foot emerged as a sore point for India, but it was Krejza’s late surge into Test contention that dominated the eve of the third Test.
Stuart Clark will replace Peter Siddle in the team that was thrashed by 320 runs in Mohali, while an inspection of the pitch at Feroz Shah Kotla this morning will determine whether the raw off spinner known to his teammates as "Krazy" will play ahead of Cameron White, who has been solid but not spectacular in his first two Tests.
"It is hard to make a judgment yet," Australian captain Ricky Ponting said last night. "He [Krejza] is definitely in the reckoning. The wicket is a little bit loose on the surface at the moment and that would indicate to me that late in the game it will probably loosen up a bit more, so spin is a definite option for us."
Krejza returned figures of 0-199 from 31 overs in the tour match in Hyderabad, where he was treated with contempt by India’s fringe batsmen. However, Ponting was heartened to hear him yelling and screaming in the outfield when the Indians declared their second innings, indicating he was desperate to bowl again.
The NSW-bred finger-spinner moved to Tasmania for a fresh start and averages 50 in first-class cricket but is regarded as the more aggressive option for an Australia side desperate to force a result to level the series.
"He is more of an attacking, aggressive sort of bowler," Ponting said. "He does get the ball in the air and puts a lot of revs on the ball and spins the ball. He gets a lot of over-spin as well, so you would probably look at him as being more of a wicket taker than a containing type of spinner.
"Once again it depends on the wicket that is served up, because if it does loosen up on top then Cameron White, with the way he bowls, could be the more attacking sort of bowler on that surface. Anil Kumble, as we know, has a great record here, which would indicate it might favour those guys who bowl a little bit faster with a bit more over-spin."
India have their own problems with spin, with Harbhajan battling to overcome a toe injury as the home team strives to celebrate the Hindu festival of Diwali by taking an unassailable lead in Delhi. Amit Mishra, the emerging leg spinner who claimed a seven-wicket haul on debut in Mohali, is waiting in the wings.
"He [Harbhajan] is still not sure so we just want to wait and see," said captain Kumble, who has declared himself fit after missing the 320-run drubbing of Australia in Mohali. "He is a key member for our success and we will give the maximum amount of time to make a call.
"We have prepared really well and we are focusing on trying to play good cricket so we can win the series here. Going by the record we have at the Kotla [where India have won their past seven Tests] and the type of cricket we played at Mohali, it gives us a lot of confidence."
The fireworks to celebrate the festival of lights are expected to worsen the pollution that hung about at Australian training this week and could curtail the team’s opportunities to force a result, given winter is setting in and the light becomes murky before 5pm.
"[The first day of the Test] might be an exceptional day with all the haze hanging around from the fireworks," Ponting said. "We will assess that as we go and if it does get to the stage where we need to do things differently to take into calculations about losing some time and some light, then we will do that to try to force a result."
Ponting believes his team has done all in its power to bounce back from the dreadful performance in the second Test, after which senior players Brett Lee and Matthew Hayden were called upon to have a greater impact to keep the Australians in the hunt for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
"We can’t do anymore than we’ve done," Ponting said. "Our training the past two days has been the best I’ve seen it for a long time. Steve Waugh was at training yesterday and he said he’d never seen a team train as well as we did. That’s good stuff to hear.
"Our meeting heading into training Monday was very good … As I made clear to the guys, it’s one thing to talk about them, it’s another thing to go out and do them under pressure in a Test."