South Africa in Australia 2012-13 November 19, 2012

Watson won't bowl in Adelaide


Shane Watson will not bowl in Adelaide, and accepts that his inability to do so will count against him significantly at the selection table ahead of the second Test against South Africa. All eyes were on Watson at Australia's first training session at Adelaide Oval, and while he batted and ran comfortably, the vice-captain did not push his strained calf in an attempt to prove his allround fitness at the bowling crease.

Content instead to present himself for selection as a batsman in Adelaide, Watson said he nonetheless remained committed to the allrounder's path despite its considerable injury risks, and left it up to the captain Michael Clarke and the selectors to decide if he is worth his place ahead of Rob Quiney or David Warner - both batsmen who will be capable of some bowling in the match.

"If that's what Michael and the selectors think is the best balance for the team I'm not going to [oppose that]," Watson said. "I'd love to be out there, but if that's the best balance of the team, that's exactly what's best for the team, and I'm comfortable with that, because the thing I love doing more than anything is being an allrounder, being able to contribute with bat and ball whenever I'm fit, and I know that's my value to a team more than just batting.

"There's no doubt the way Adelaide Oval is as well, it's fairly conducive to run scoring, so the bowling options will certainly help Michael out if things don't go exactly to plan. The most important thing is to be able to run without really hurting it [his calf], so bowling is out at this point in time, so for me it's just being able to run around and do the skills to be able to fit to play as a batsman to start with."

Watson's place in Australia cricket has been the subject of much conjecture since he suffered the calf strain before the first Test in Brisbane, an injury that yet again pushed him to the sidelines at a critical time for the national team. Public comment by the likes of Clarke, the national selector John Inverarity and the team performance manager Pat Howard have shown a range of views on Watson's value to the team and his best role within it, but the allrounder said he felt only support rather than pressure or impatience from the team hierarchy.

"I know how things work within the media, if things are going well they know how to pump up your tyres, and when they aren't and you're not fit they go the opposite way," Watson said. "Within the group everyone knows where I'm at, the things I'm doing to try to get fit, so I certainly don't feel that at all. It's moreso the outer influences around with what's written and talked about more than anything that has an influence away from the group.

"Everyone continues to be unbelievably supportive and wants me to get out on the park because everyone wants me to get fit. They also know how much I love playing and getting out there and trying to show off my skills. I haven't let it affect me as much as in the past because of how quickly it can change either way."

In collaboration with Australia's physio Alex Kountouris, Watson will push up his running intensity on Tuesday before the selectors make their final call on his fitness on Wednesday. Both Watson and the team are conscious of the danger posed by his breaking down in the middle of an Adelaide Test, on a pitch that can be unforgiving for bowlers until it begins to wear on days four and five.

"I'm definitely going to have to up the intensity over the next couple of days, no doubt," Watson said. "If everything goes well and I get selected I need to make sure I am ready to handle a Test match. I know how important this Test is. I need to make sure I'm as good to 100% as I can be to give myself the best chance of getting through the Test without stirring it up again, because that would be the worst case scenario for everyone - I wouldn't want to let the team down."

At 31, Watson is no longer a cricketer with a decade or more ahead of him, and he could be forgiven for thinking deeply about how he might best make use of his talent. However he denied any thoughts about either reducing his workload or being more particular about when he might play, expressing the desire to return to the durability he demonstrated from 2009 to 2011, when he played 23 consecutive Tests.

"The more I think about what we've got and the more things you think about trying to find the right time to have a rest - in the end I just want to be able to play whenever I'm fit," he said. "I know, pushing my body and being an allrounder I know there's a chance that you could get injured, especially the way me body is there is a more than likely chance compared to other people that I'm going to get injured, so when I'm fit and ready to go I just want to be able to play whenever I can.

"I'd love to be able to get to a stage where like I did a few years ago and get a rest where I physically and mentally need a bit of a rest, that for me is the ultimate, to be able to know I've got through that amount of cricket then get a rest even for a week or a few games. That's what I'm dreaming about, to not just be rested because we've got so much coming up, the ultimate is to be rested when I've played a lot of cricket and need a break."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rajaram on November 20, 2012, 12:23 GMT

    Shane Watson is Australia's MVP (Mosdty Valuable Player0. Nurture him. If he is sensble, he will stop playing T20.Like Michael Clarke.

  • wayne on November 20, 2012, 6:05 GMT

    I can't help but giggle a little over comments here regarding Watson's batting credentials in tests. Some comments have even explicitly stated he is Australia's best batsman! Really? If it's true, then we're all damned. Seriously though, he has the talent, but until he shows the kind of application and determination to occupy the crease that Clarke, Cowan, and Hussey showed in the last test, he needs to play as all-rounder to justify his selection. I'll be surprised (and disappointed) if he leap-frogs Quiney in the selection queue for Adelaide without being fit to bowl.

  • disco on November 20, 2012, 5:35 GMT

    I will add to the support for Watson as a batter. I'd feel more comfortable seeing him open against SA than any of his replacements. It is absolutely vital that at least one of our openers hangs around for a while against the SA'ers, if both fall cheaply, then unless we can inflict similar top order damage, it would be a tough task to win against this bowling attack. Watson has proved himself to be a pugnacious and belligerent opener when it really mattered and he has been like this from the moment he got his chance.

  • Ben on November 20, 2012, 4:11 GMT

    I agree that if he can't bowl, he will probably be a liability whilst in the field too, and running between wickets. There is always a chance of straining the calf whilst setting off for a quick single or chasing a ball across the turf.@Blakely, i'm not too sure i'm convinced Quniey's 'bowling' ability is anything to get excited about, and @hhillbumper, can't bowl? Compare his stats with that 'great' (in one series) all-rounder of our time, Flintoff. A better average, economy rate, strike rate and the same amount of 5-fors (from 1/5 the deliveries). And this from a change bowler, not a strike weapon as Flintoff supposedly was.

  • Andrew on November 20, 2012, 3:55 GMT

    @ravikiran.bits on (November 19 2012, 11:58 AM GMT) - India did do some good things between 2007 to 2011, (namely squaring the Test series in Sth Africa), however, their rise was dominated by a many home series. Right now, India is going thru a phase where they don't play Tests abroad for 18mths. I don't think there is any clear cut #1 side in the world atm, my heart says Oz, brain says Saffas, it will be clearer by the 3rd Test. I don't believe Oz will be as bad as England were in the 1st Test. All that said, for India to get the respect or acknowledgement you seem to be looking for - prepping pitches like the Ahmedabad strip won't help.

  • Mathew on November 20, 2012, 2:46 GMT

    Watson is highly over-rated both with bat and ball in the TEST arena. One day is a completely different story. Aus played out of their skins in the last test against a 10 man, ill balanced, under-prepared and poor SA to get a draw (without rain probably a win). The next test most of these issues will be resolved and Aus might find themselves up against it. I hope for another hard fought contest but feel SA (Fatto included or not) might be too much. On a seperate note guess which cricket loving pom was right all along about Cowan?

  • Lee on November 20, 2012, 2:14 GMT

    Honestly, I'm floored by the avalanche of public comment supporting Watson's inclusion for Adelaide as a batsman alone, simply because he has played well in a couple of hit and giggle tournaments recently. Are you people for real? FACT: While his recent ODI and T20 records are excellent, Watson has not scored a test century for more than 2 years. FACT: He has only scored 2 hundreds in his entire 35 test career. FACT: In 35 test matches, he has managed an average of just 37. Since when does 2 centuries at 37 in 35 tests warrant inclusion as a specialist batsman? This is before even considering his constant breakdowns which unsettle the side and throw out the balance of the team completely. Thank God you lot aren't selecting the team or there would be no hope.

  • Cameron on November 20, 2012, 2:11 GMT

    Some simple facts about Watson: 1. He has only played 9 tests over the course of 2011 and 2012. That is about 50% injury rate. 2. During those tests he has played 17 innings which have produced only 3 50's and no 100's. That is a significant score less than once in every 5 innings. Good test batsmen such as Clarke are at least 1 in 4 and great batsmen such has Ponting has been better than 1 in 3 over his career. His average over that period is 26.94. 3. In his only First Class match this summer he got injured so has had next to no red ball cricket in the last 6 to 9 months.

    None of the above facts indicate to me that Watson is an automatic selection as a top six batsmen for Australia, especially with no FC form.

  • Ramakrishnan on November 20, 2012, 1:18 GMT

    Why should the Australian selectors take the risk of playing Shane Watson if he is half fit and cannot bowl? Why not give a chance to someone who can contribute to the middle order with the bat and chip in with a few wickets with the ball?

  • Victor on November 19, 2012, 23:50 GMT

    Don't agree with watson playing just as a batsman. 1st, what if he aggravates his injury while running or fielding. that means he is out for longer. 2nd, without his bowling he is a very average "Test" batsman. australia would be better off giving quiney or khawaja another go.

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