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Direction unknown for Aussie batting order
Greg Buckle
15:29 AEST Mon Dec 31 2012

Captain Michael Clarke has a dodgy hamstring and a back problem and his deputy Shane Watson is often injured and is considering giving up bowling.

The Australian Test team's best fieldsman and ex-skipper Ricky Ponting quit a month ago, their best runner between wickets and in-form No.6 Mike Hussey is retiring on January 7 and they've selected seven frontline quicks in five home Tests this summer as they battle injury dramas.

How Australia's chairman of selectors John Inverarity must yearn for a bit of stability in the side with Test tours of India and England coming up in 2013.

Clarke, who has scored a national record of 1595 Test runs at an average of 106.33 in 2012, has been stunningly successful at No.5 and finds himself having to jump to No.4 this week due to Watson's absence with a calf injury.

Even more unsettling is the fact that Hussey, who will have to be promoted from No.6 to No.5 in Sydney, is retiring after averaging 59.86 in 11 Tests in 2012.

The first-wicket pairing of David Warner and Ed Cowan is set to continue, despite Cowan's modest average of 34, and it seems these two are the future leaders of the side according to comments from Cricket Australia's high performance chief Pat Howard last weekend.

CA says it has no particular obligation to appoint a stand-in deputy for Clarke for the SCG clash with Sri Lanka.

But if Clarke is ruled out with a sore hamstring and his standby player Usman Khawaja is recalled, then suddenly it's crisis time and someone who doesn't captain his state side will have to take over as Test skipper.

Offspinning allrounder Glenn Maxwell is a solid chance to make his debut in Sydney and will probably bat at No.7.

But if Australia retain Jackson Bird and play four quicks then Mitchell Johnson, coming off an unbeaten 92 in the second Test in Melbourne, would move up one place in the batting order to No.7 despite a career average of 22.77.

The Sydney Test presents the perfect opportunity to give Maxwell a chance to show his wares as Australia ponder playing two spinners in India.

But it's the batting which throws up the real question marks.

Australia coach and selector Mickey Arthur said he'd been banking on Hussey to play key roles in India and England.

Arthur said it was also a bit of a shock to be told by Watson after Friday's second Test against Sri Lanka that the allrounder was considering playing a batsman-only role.

"And then I thought I'd just have a beer now and enjoy the win and Mike Hussey tapped me on the shoulder," Arthur told cricinfo.com.

"So my first reaction was 'wow', it was myself and Michael Clarke and Huss together, Clarkey and I looked at each other and it was just 'wow, what do we do'."


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