I'll bat anywhere - Watson
Not for the first time, Shane Watson's standing in the Australian team appears to have been enhanced by his time away from it. Ankle and calf injuries that kept Watson out of engagements in Zimbabwe and the UAE have created a clamour for his return to the Test top order against India, his experience and aggression missing from the XI that has fallen short of Pakistan.
Watson is back in one Australian team, the Twenty20 squad assembled to face South Africa in Adelaide on Wednesday. While he admitted to it feeling "quite wrong" that two distinct national squads are convened on opposite sides of the globe, he expressed his desire to return to the Test team in any role the coach Darren Lehmann and captain Michael Clarke saw fit.
"Wherever Darren and Michael want me to play or bat, I just want to have an opportunity and wherever they want me in the batting order I'm just happy to be part of the team," Watson said. "I'm sure there's been a lot of things the team have learned on the current tour, so hopefully I can score enough runs over the next month to give myself an opportunity to be in the team. I am as fresh as I have been for a long, long time. I'm ready to play anything.
"I've never experienced anything like this - to be here with an Australian squad but still be watching on TV another Australian team plying its trade in the UAE seems very bizarre. Knowing there's only a day or two between that Test match ending and when we start over here is interesting scheduling, but that's the way it is."
Since he was last seen celebrating Australia's last-gasp series win over South Africa in Cape Town, Watson has spent considerable time working with his mentor Mark O'Neill on batting technique, which was tweaked "on the run" during 2013, when England aimed unerringly for his front pad in the first of two Ashes series before Watson enjoyed greater success from the time of the fifth Test at the Oval and then on through the home summer.
"With my batting I've had to work through my technical issues that have crept in from playing as long as I had [without a break]," Watson said. "So I've had to work very hard on those over the past six months. It was really trying to simplify my batting. I had to make a few adjustments on the run during the English series when I had some lbw issues so I made a few adjustments on the run and I've had to get back to simplifying that. I've been lucky to work with a really high-quality batting coach who's been able to help me bring things back to simplify it."
"I didn't want it [the break] because I just want to play as much as I possibly can for my country. But out of any negative situation I have always tried to find the positives and there have certainly been some positives out of it. To be able to just continue, to be able to refine my batting, but also continue to look at where my physical preparation is as well ... that is also the most important thing to me, to be able to stay fit."
Watson has found himself watching the events in the UAE with a mixture of curiosity and frustration, given how definitely Pakistan have forged ahead of Clarke's team. But he has reasoned that the result provides a worthwhile reminder that the Test team is far from infallible, having won only two - albeit major - Test series since appearing to be in disarray in India in 2013, not coincidentally the last time the team confronted subcontinental conditions.
"After everything that we have done over the last 18 months to build it up, things are never meant to go perfectly well," he said. "We have had an incredible run in the Ashes last summer and in South Africa as well. Things always pop up at times to give you a reality check when you need it. This, certainly from afar, it looks like it has been a really big reality check for everyone.
"We've always grown out of situations that haven't been ideal for us and we'll certainly do that again."
Now Watson faces up to South Africa in the game's shortest form, though he agreed there may be the odd spiky on-field reference to the Test series earlier this year, which was as hard-fought and occasionally ugly as any recent Test encounter. "The relations were a bit rocky no doubt," he said. "It was very hard-fought cricket so there will be a lot of competition on the field, and maybe a few scars floating around from that Test tour as well might pop up, but in the end they're a high-quality team and so are we."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig