Matt Renshaw and Usman Khawaja are locked in a tight selection showdown for the final spot up for grabs in the Australian XI that will face India in the first Test.
Coach Darren Lehmann and chairman of selectors Trevor Hohns travelled with the 16-man squad from Mumbai to Pune on Monday.
Lehmann and Hohns will soon inspect the pitch at a venue that will host its first ever Test when the much-anticipated series starts on Thursday.
Provided there are no major shocks, it’s expected Lehmann and Hohns will only have one decision to make.
Shaun and Mitch Marsh, who both performed well in the Australia’s tour game against India A, are set to make simultaneous returns in the four-Test series opener.
That would mean either Renshaw or Khawaja misses out. There are good arguments for – and against – both men.
Renshaw scored 184 in his most recent Test at the SCG and is now regarded by Hohns’ panel as David Warner’s long-term partner.
Khawaja, who was the leading run-scorer in the recent Test series between Australia and South Africa, is yet to be given a chance to shine on the subcontinent since being axed in Sri Lanka last year.
Renshaw was picked ahead of Khawaja in the drawn three-day game at Mumbai’s Brabourne Stadium, but scored a total of 21 runs from his two knocks.
“It’s a tight call between probably him and Usman, I would think,” Lehmann said.
“We’ll have to make that decision when we get closer to the Test.
“We’re pretty settled on what we want, but … we need to wait until we get there and see the wicket.”
Shaun Marsh opened in his previous two Tests, notably scoring 130 in Colombo during Australia’s 3-0 series loss in Sri Lanka.
But Lehmann indicated it was more likely Steve “Smith and Marsh would float between three and four”.
Selectors discussed the merits of opening with Warner and Khawaja at the start of the 2016-17 summer. The highlight of Khawaja’s career to date came when he opened at Adelaide Oval in the day-night Test.
Khawaja batted on three consecutive days against South Africa, scoring 145 to help Australia snap a five-Test losing streak.
“It’s about preparing and getting ready for the Test match myself. Once the team is announced, we will work as a partnership,” Warner said, when asked about uncertainty regarding his partner.
Both Marsh brothers haven’t played a Test since the first match of the home summer against the Proteas.
Shaun Marsh retired after reaching three figures in Mumbai, while Mitch Marsh opened the bowling and scored a measured 75 in the first-class match.
“He batted really well for us in Sri Lanka to be fair, he was one of our better batters,” Lehmann said of Mitch Marsh.
“We’ve been impressed with way he plays spin bowling.”
Nathan Lyon went for 5.6 runs an over in Mumbai but claimed four wickets, while Steve O’Keefe grabbed figures of 3-103.
“I’m pleased with the way the spinners are going,” Lehmann said.
“It’s going to be a challenge bowling here, but they’re on the right path.”