Australia v India: Ed Cowan set for Boxing Day debut

David Warner, Ed Cowan and Shaun Marsh
Warner, Cowan and Marsh will be an inexperienced top three for Australia

Australia will hand a debut to opener Ed Cowan in Monday's first Test against India in Melbourne, while seamer Ben Hilfenhaus has earned a recall.

The Aussies have named their XI two days before the start of the traditional Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Shaun Marsh will bat at number three after shaking off a back injury.

India will give bowlers Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma every chance to prove their fitness before naming their XI.

While suggesting the pair are likely to be fit, captain Mahendra Dhoni also dismissed any suggestion that the pressure of being stuck on 99 international centuries was affecting batsman Sachin Tendulkar.

"He will get it at some point in time, whether it's this series or the next series," Dhoni said of the 38-year-old who has been on 99 since March.

"I don't think there's any added pressure on him. But of course if he gets it soon he will feel a bit relieved. The whole of cricket, all over the world, people will really cherish the moment when he gets his hundredth done."

While Tendulkar will play in his 185th Test, Cowan will appear in his first after Australia opted top leave seamer Mitchell Starc and uncapped all-rounder Dan Christian out from their initial 13-man party.

Christian, who has played three Twenty20 internationals but not represented Australia in the longer forms of the game, had been lined up to bat at six if Marsh's injury, which had caused him to miss the recent drawn series with New Zealand, had prevented him from playing.

Cowan and Marsh, selected in place of Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja, make up a very inexperienced top three together with David Warner.

Hilfenhaus was dropped after Australia lost the Ashes series against England last winter, but has impressed in domestic cricket enough to displace rookie left-arm seamer Starc, who made his Test debut against New Zealand.

Captain Michael Clarke said: "There's probably a few reasons why we decided to go with Hilfy - he is a very good new ball bowler, he can bowl long spells and he has had success against India as well.

"Mitch is obviously disappointed. He would have loved a chance but he understands the reasons.

Ishant Sharma
Paceman Sharma is an injury doubt for India

"He has to keep working hard at his game now to continue to improve. [He needs] to go back to New South Wales and continue to take wickets."

However, the inclusion of Hilfenhaus extends an already lengthy tail - while the omission of Christian has an element of risk as the Aussies must take on India's much vaunted batting line-up with only four front-line bowlers in the side.

But Clarke insisted: "I can use Michael Hussey, Ricky Ponting and myself to bowl a few overs. David Warner can bowl a few leg-spinners.

"I feel we've got the right XI to give ourselves a chance of winning this Test match."

And wicketkeeper Brad Haddin echoed his captain's thoughts, stating that, while inexperienced, the top three in the batting order had the form to shine in the series.

"You talk about our inexperienced top three, I think we've got a very in-form top three, which is good, and if we're going to do any good in this series it's going to be from one to seven with the bat," he said.

"We've all got to perform. We've got to make sure we've got our game heads on and ready to go."

Australia: David Warner, Ed Cowan, Shaun Marsh, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke (capt), Mike Hussey, Brad Haddin (wk), Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Nathan Lyon, Ben Hilfenhaus.

India (from): Mahendra Dhoni (capt & wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Vinay Kumar, Abhimanyu Mithun, Umesh Yadav.