South Africa in Australia, 2012-13 November 3, 2012

Watson injury scare ahead of Tests

Australia's vice-captain Shane Watson was whisked away from New South Wales' Sheffield Shield match against Queensland to hospital for scans on his troublesome left calf and must now be considered in doubt for the first Test against South Africa.

In his first appearance at the bowling crease in a first-class match since the tour of the West Indies in April, Watson delivered only one over before speaking with his state and national captain Michael Clarke and leaving the field.

It soon emerged that he was bothered by a sore left calf, the same muscle he strained during this year's ODI tour of England. A calf ailment had also contributed to Watson missing all of the 2011-12 home Test matches. Medical staff later sent Watson away from the ground to have scans on the injury.

Watson's exit from Allan Border Field continued a fraught round of domestic matches for Australia's Test batsmen, as only Michael Hussey has made any substantial runs while Ricky Ponting was withdrawn from Tasmania's match against South Australia with hamstring tightness.

The close proximity of the Champions League to the first Test of the summer had opened up the possibility of injury disrupting either Australian or South African participants in the Twenty20 event. The visiting batsman Hashim Amla said the adjustment up from the shortest format to the longest was among the more vexing challenges in the post-modern game.

"That element is always a challenge, to go from one format to another," Amla said. "Some guys struggle to do it, some don't struggle to do it, and in managing their body every player has to find what works for him and what doesn't.

"We have medical professionals in our team that guide us along the way. We always take their advice and I'm sure every sportsman takes the advice and tries to stick with it. Everything doesn't go to plan all the time, but you've just got to try to find what works for you and hopefully stick with it."

James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia chief executive, was adamant that the team performance hierarchy, fitness and medical staff had done all they could to prepare players as best as possible for the forthcoming Tests, admitting that the circumstances created by the CLT20 were not ideal.

"I think people are perfectly entitled to ask questions, but at the same time they should have confidence the people involved are doing everything they can," Sutherland told ABC Radio.

"What we have done in recent times is really co-ordinated the effort between state associations and CA management and medical staff and conditioning staff to ensure that the preparation of players for international cricket is as good as it can be in the circumstances. I think Pat Howard and his team have made some giant strides in that regard."

Data collected by Cricket Australia's team performance wing has demonstrated that players are at considerable risk of injury when they are adjusting back up to first-class and Test cricket from the game's shortest format.

Aware of this, and Watson's injury history, the team performance manager Pat Howard had arranged for him to return home early from the Sydney Sixers' squad in South Africa, the better to give him time to rest and prepare in training for the upward surge in his workload.

There had also been discussions about Watson playing in Sydney grade cricket or for the NSW Futures League team in a match against the ACT in Canberra. It was ultimately decided that he would not take part in either.

But the precautions have been unable to prevent the recurrence of calf trouble, and Wtson's place in the XI for the Gabba Test is now open to question.

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

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