Harris recalled, Watson's prospects cloudy
Ryan Harris has been deemed fit to return to Australia's squad and will be considered for a recall in the New Year's Test match against India in Sydney. However Shane Watson's prospects for the remainder of the Test summer look increasingly cloudy.
Watson was unable to be considered due to the calf injury that reduced him to spectator status during the team's batting camp ahead of the Melbourne Test.
It was better news for Harris, whose recovery from a hip complaint and adherence to a strict training schedule to get his body up to the rigours of a Test match means he is now in contention for a place in the SCG team. His inclusion came at the expense of Mitchell Starc and Daniel Christian, the 12th and 13th men in Melbourne omitted for the SCG.
Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting shored up their spots with vital runs at the MCG, while Brad Haddin was also retained as wicketkeeper and vice-captain despite a difficult match with the bat and an inconsistent one with the gloves.
Australia's captain Michael Clarke is an avowed fan of Harris' bustling seam and swing bowling, which proved highly successful in Sri Lanka and South Africa before he complained of a hip problem in the second innings in Cape Town.
Given a recent history of missing matches due to frequent injury complaints, Harris was put through a miniature pre-season training program between then and the end of 2011, designed to build up his endurance and resilience for the five days of a Test.
"It all starts again on 3 January and we'll go into the game with confidence and momentum," the national selector John Inverarity said. "Ryan Harris has been added to the XI that played in the first Test in Melbourne. Ryan has had carefully monitored preparation, which has gone to plan. Mitchell Starc and Daniel Christian, who were both in squad for the first Test have been omitted but remain very much in our thinking."
Watson's calf troubles remain a source of frustration and conjecture for the selectors, after the vice-captain essentially ruled himself out of both Melbourne and Sydney. The matter of whether or not Watson is to be recalled purely as a batsman is still in debate, with team management now committed to the selection of fully-fit players, as evidenced by Harris' lengthy rehab before Sydney.
"Shane has not fully recovered from his right calf injury and is therefore not available for the Sydney Test," Australian team physio Alex Kountouris said. "He will continue his rehabilitation and hopefully be available for one of the remaining Test matches."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo