South Africa in Australia 2012-13

Watson's fitness test not a Test

Daniel Brettig in Adelaide

November 20, 2012

Comments: 19 | Text size: A | A

Shane Watson and Nathan Lyon at training, Adelaide, November 20, 2012
Shane Watson has been active in training in the lead-up to the Adelaide Test but still has plenty to prove if he is to be named in the side © Getty Images
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Shane Watson chugged through a second fitness test in 24 hours at Adelaide Oval on Tuesday, trying his tender calf through jogging, running and near enough to sprinting over 30 minutes under the unblinking morning sun. Afterwards Australia's physio Alex Kountouris gave Watson a pat on the back: whether it was a gesture of encouragement or consolation was difficult to tell.

Whatever Kountouris and the team's recently appointed strength and conditioning coach David Bailey have in store for Watson between now and the start of the second Test on Thursday, nothing can provide an entirely solid indicator of how likely the vice-captain's calf is to flare again under the pressure of a five-day contest. Mindful of this, his fellow batsman Ricky Ponting stated bluntly that Watson should not play in Adelaide unless he is fully fit, no matter how his duties are modified by exempting him from bowling and stationing him permanently at slip.

"He'll have a certain criteria he'll have to pass, there'll be certain amount of running he'll have to do and things to do to prove he's right to play a Test match," Ponting said. "No-one can go into a Test match 70% fit, I don't care if you're a batsman and a slips fielder, if you can't bat at 100% then you're putting pressure on other blokes as well.

"Someone's got to run with him between the wickets, and I'm sure that'll be at the back of his mind, it'll certainly be at the back of the minds of the physios and doctors looking after him for the next couple of days. I've only seen him on what he's done in the nets over the last couple of days, I believe he did some extra running last night and today, but he'll make sure he's ticking all the boxes to be right to play the game."

Ponting has watched both this and last summer's Watson injury sagas from a somewhat less involved viewpoint than in the past, his ceding of the captaincy to Michael Clarke taking him out of the decision-making group that for this match includes Clarke, the coach Mickey Arthur and the selector on duty Rod Marsh, who will liaise with the national selector John Inverarity.

"It's not up for me to decide whether he should play or not, I have watched him train closely the last couple of days, he's getting through his batting fine, he's been a bit restricted with what he can do in the field, he's done his catching work and he'll be in slips if he plays anyway," Ponting said.

"Obviously the selectors and our coaches are going to give him as long as possible to prove his fitness or otherwise, but so far he seems confident in himself and with what's require of his batting at training, he's looked good in the nets. He can play as a batsman, yeah, he's just got to tick all the boxes he can tick and do the things he can do physically and then see what the selectors and captain and coach do from there."

As for whether the rest of the team harboured any impatience about Watson's fitness battles, Ponting said any such feelings were nothing next to the allrounder's own sense of an increasingly frustrated career. "It is what it is for us, I am sure it is more frustrating for Shane himself," Ponting said. "He is a very valued member of our side, anyone who can bat in the top order and bowl the way he can bowl is going to be missed in any team around the world.

"He is also our Test vice-captain and No. 3 batter so he's a vital part of our side, if we've got him that will be great, and if we don't we have to move on pretty quickly and if Rob Quiney gets another opportunity - he looked really good last week in his short stay at the crease and we are pretty confident he will do the job if he gets the chance to play."

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

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Posted by BG4cricket on (November 21, 2012, 0:38 GMT)

Personally I am not sure Marsh is the next all rounder in line anyway. McDonald would be next but he is also out injured as also is James Hopes. Christian would be an option but not sure if he is up to Test standard in either batting or bowling. Maxwell looks a very competent bat but his bowling is a long way short. That leaves 2 realistic contenders in my mind - Luke Butterworth from Tassie is a proven Shield wicket taker and very useful bat however he is not better than Wade which is a problem, and Moises Henriques has started the season well with both bat and ball however this is really the first time he has fired like this. In my mind both would be too much a risk so I would stick with playing Quiney and rely on him, Hussey and especially Clarkey covering the extra bowling.

Posted by Jediroya on (November 20, 2012, 23:56 GMT)

while Ponting is absolutely right in what he says, he ought to be careful making such pronouncements - after all if Quiney and Warner get runs it may well be Ponting himself who makes way for Watson's return.

Posted by ghost_of_len_hutton on (November 20, 2012, 23:15 GMT)

CricketMaan - Mitch Marsh? Test class allrounder? With a first class batting average of 21 and a handful of wickets? Butterworth, Christian and Maxwell are far more effective allrounders at Shield level, though none of them are close to test standard. Give Marsh a few seasons of consistent performances in State cricket and he might have a shot, but frankly, at this stage it seems he lacks the temperament and self-discipline to achieve much at all.

Posted by MattyP1979 on (November 20, 2012, 22:27 GMT)

Watson is a very fine asset to Aus one day side/makeup. But in the test arena he has to play as an all rounder if at all. Far too much is asked of very few in this Aussie side and bodies are breaking everywhere you look. Management of players will be crucial as Aus have a very tough couple of years ahead, especially if Punter/Huss retire or keel over!!

Posted by CricketMaan on (November 20, 2012, 14:37 GMT)

with Mitch Marsh gone for this season, Watto is only other allrounder who can walk into the XI if fit. Why take risk rather than wait for the next test and play him as batsman even if cant bowl, so he is ready for SL!! BTW, to Aus fans, any other allrounder doing well in shield this season?

Posted by Gupta.Ankur on (November 20, 2012, 13:42 GMT)

Completely agree with @winsome here.......and it cannot be a bigger joke that Watson's place in under doubt despite anybody shining in his place either as a batsman or a all-rounder.

Quiney and Hussey are nothing more than part-time bowlers and i am not aware of any other world-class allrounder pushing his claim in the XI.

Posted by AndrewFromOz on (November 20, 2012, 12:30 GMT)

Punter is right. Watto has form on this. He is "brittle" and if he feels a twinge he won't do the job. Not worth the risk. Quiney.

Posted by VivGilchrist on (November 20, 2012, 12:17 GMT)

@winsome, you took the words right out of my mouth. Ponting is at risk of becoming a has-been and a hypocrite before the end of this series.

Posted by sharidas on (November 20, 2012, 9:44 GMT)

Common sense should prevail. Foremost, it is the player himself who should decide if he is fit enough to play. If not, he will unnecessarily worsen his injury and rob a 100% fit player of a chance. Is Australia that bad off that they cannot find a replacement ?

Posted by Shridharan.S on (November 20, 2012, 9:41 GMT)

Go Watson! You can do it.

Posted by crh8971 on (November 20, 2012, 9:26 GMT)

I think if you separate the facts from the emotion in this question it quickly becomes apparent that Watson is far from an automatic selection as a top order test batsmen if he cannot bowl. The facts are: 1. Over the period of 2011 and 2012 (nearly 2 years) Watson has played 9 of a possible 17 tests. So he has missed around 50% of tests through injury. 2. In those 9 tests he has had 17 innings. Those 17 innings have produced 3 50's & no 100's. That is a strike rate of a substantial test knock less than 1 out of every 5 innings. Very good test batsmen score at a rate of at least 1 in 4 and typically convert half the 50's to 100's. 3. His batting average over the period is only around 27. On these figures over a two year period any top order batsmen would be struggling to hold his place. I think the 17 wickets he has taken over the same period at around 23 and his strong limited overs form has saved Watson from greater scrutiny until now.

Posted by   on (November 20, 2012, 9:17 GMT)

Watson is only good for the test team as an allrounder.He is not a specialist in either batting or bowling in test standards.His batting suits only for No.06 or 07 positions in the test batting line up.cricket Australia should manage his workload,because he is more valuable for them in the shorter format.It is better,if they can find a fast bowling alrounder to replace him in tests.

Posted by Winsome on (November 20, 2012, 8:36 GMT)

Thus speaks the man who played in the Ashes 2010 with a broken finger and who couldn't play in slip at all during the last World Cupdue to the previous injury. I can tell already what he's going to be like as a commentator.

Posted by   on (November 20, 2012, 7:50 GMT)

Agree with your comments Meety, would like to see Quiney get another go especially as Watson is unlikely to be close to 100% fit. With his injury record, give him extra time to rest and hopefully he is right for Perth

Posted by jonesy2 on (November 20, 2012, 7:30 GMT)

it depends to the degree of 100% fitness he has, does it mean that he is 100% fit to get through a test match or 100% in terms of long term and fully over the injury?

Posted by kempy21 on (November 20, 2012, 7:23 GMT)

Watson needs to go back and play a 4 day game for NSW. Period. I don't care if he gets through a fitness test or not, he should not come back into the side automatically. His recent performances simply don't warrant it. Go back to NSW and get runs, take wickets, and prove to your teammates and yourself that you can get through a solid game without breaking down. NSW next game is 27 November against QLD. Sorry Shane, you miss out on Adelaide but would come into contention for Perth and the 3 tests against SL if you can prove fitness and form warrants is. Bitter pill to swallow sometimes but that's life.

Posted by acnc on (November 20, 2012, 7:03 GMT)

Well.. a 60% Watson is probably better than a 100% Ponting these days..

Posted by cmonaussiecmon on (November 20, 2012, 7:02 GMT)

Come on! After his recent string of injuries, he said he will recover fully before going into a game. He said he learnt his lesson from last time. Yeah right! Now he's 70% fit, and itching to get out there again! He's going to injure himself if he plays, just you watch.

Posted by Meety on (November 20, 2012, 6:29 GMT)

Yep, spot on Punter. Not wanting to diminish the severity of Watto's injuries, but with the amount that he has had & his clear issues in ODIs between batting & bowling, I don't think Watto is a bloke that can perform in a Test match with the effects of an injury. This is even more the case now that runners are pretty much out of the equation. Pretty sure that slips fielding requires plenty of power from the calves when going for a catch or making a stop, & the crouching position would also have to put pressure on. I think some people have made the whole bowling issue more complicated than what it is. It's not so much about Watto being required to bowl, more that he can't & there's a difference. If he can't bowl physically - he can't be near 100% fit & is a potential liability.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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