Brad Haddin in line for shock Test recall after Michael Clarke breaks down with a hamstring injury.
BRAD Haddin is in line for a shock Test recall after Michael Clarke broke down with a hamstring injury that not only threatens to bring his golden run with the bat to a premature end, but also expose the dearth of Australia's batting stocks.
The five-man selection panel held a teleconference on Monday night and drew up a contingency plan to prepare for conquering the Sri Lankans in Melbourne without their captain and star batsman.
Clarke will receive the results of scans on his injured right hamstring on Tuesday and although he will take the field as Australia pushes for victory in Hobart, he is in doubt to lead the team for the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.
Shane Watson has received an endorsement from coach and selector Mickey Arthur to captain the team in Clarke's absence in Melbourne, but finding a replacement for this year's leading Test run-scorer is looming as a far more difficult task.
Haddin, dumped for Matthew Wade as Test wicketkeeper at the start of the summer, has emerged as a contender after his commanding form with the bat for NSW in the Sheffield Shield and would play as a specialist batsman if selected.
His experience would also help fill the hole left in the dressing room after Ricky Ponting's retirement.
When Ponting called time on his decorated career last month, few would have thought his successor and long-time deputy could be joining him in the outer within two Tests.
Should Clarke be ruled out for the second Test, Australia will have lost its two most experienced players - with 255 Tests between them - in just three weeks.
Haddin was vice-captain in Watson's absence last summer against India and his leadership is highly rated by the Australian hierarchy.
''Haddin's one of them, [Rob] Quiney's one of them and certainly Usman Khawaja's very much in the frame, Alex Doolan's played well [recently],'' Arthur said when asked who was in the running should Clarke be forced out.
''We'll have those discussions. [There's] no clarity just yet.''
Clarke's injury has come at a time of great consternation about the quality of batting reinforcements.
Haddin, 35, would only be a short-term solution and there are question marks over the Test claims of Khawaja, Quiney and Doolan.
Khawaja, dumped 12 months ago, is among the leading run-scorers in the shield this summer but selectors remain concerned over the left-hander's perceived limited range of strokeplay, running between the wickets and prowess in the field.
Quiney, though highly rated as a team man and valuable in the field, did himself no favours with scores of nine, zero and zero in his two Tests against South Africa.
Doolan won acclaim from the selection panel for his unbeaten 161 for Australia A against South Africa's high-class pace attack, but this season has been his first of consistently making runs.
The magnitude of the dilemma confronting selectors was illustrated on Monday when the hosts suffered a dramatic batting collapse in the second innings, losing nine wickets in less than 33 overs.
The pursuit of quick runs for a declaration was a mitigating factor, but there will be concerns over the lack of steel in Australia's line-up when Clarke does not dominate.
The captain had creamed a half-century at better than a run a ball before disaster struck midway through the second session when he hurt his hamstring running between the wickets.
Clarke immediately called for physiotherapist Alex Kountouris, then headed straight into the dressing rooms for more treatment.
He did not return to the crease but took his place in the slip cordon, where he put down a straightforward chance from Sri Lankan star Kumar Sangakkara.
Watson would become Australia's 44th Test captain if Clarke is unavailable, but placing even more responsibility on the star all-rounder is far from ideal.
Watson has skippered Australia eight times for a 2-1 victory over Sri Lanka in the finals of last summer's triangular one-day tournament, and shared a split series against the West Indies in the Caribbean.
''I think it will be a really good challenge for Shane - we'll learn about Shane and his leadership ability,'' Arthur said. ''I'm confident he'll come through that very, very well. If that does materialise it'll be a very, very good opportunity.''