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