Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Hobart, 4th day December 17, 2012

Watson likely to lead on Boxing Day


Shane Watson's Australian Test captaincy debut on Boxing Day is now a "distinct possibility" following Michael Clarke's suffering of a hamstring strain in the first Test against Sri Lanka, according to the national coach Mickey Arthur.

While Clarke led his team in the field on the fourth day and after scans and treatment overnight will do so again on the fifth, his barely mobile state was plainly clear, leaving him in considerable doubt to be fit in time for the biggest date on the Australian cricket calendar. Arthur confirmed this, and mentioned the former wicketkeeper Brad Haddin among a quartet of batsmen in the queue to replace Clarke.

"It is a distinct possibility, it would be a really good challenge for Shane," Arthur said. "We'll learn a lot about Shane and his leadership ability, I'm confident he will come through it very well. If it does materialise, it will be a really good opportunity for him.

"That batter, whoever it is, would have to be part of our extended squad. There are possibilities. [Brad] Haddin's one of them, [Rob] Quiney's one of them and certainly Usman Khawaja's very much in the frame. Alex Doolan has played well also."

Arthur said Clarke was resolved to stay out in the field so long as the Test needed to be won, and having taken two wickets on the fourth evening Australia look in fair shape to take a 1-0 series lead on the final day.

"He will get all the treatment he needs, he will get that after hours tonight and he will get that tomorrow between breaks," Arthur said. "You would have to cut Michael's leg off for him not to be out there. He certainly wants to marshal the troops and he wants to be there if hopefully sometime we can clinch a win. We don't know exactly the extent of the injury just yet. We will wait for the scan and once we have the scan we will be able to assess."

Arthur also confirmed that Ben Hilfenhaus' side injury was serious enough to rule him out of the Boxing Day Test and in all probability the New Year's Test in Sydney. He nominated Jackson Bird and Nathan Coulter-Nile as the two men most likely to join the squad in Melbourne, as Australia's list of injured fast bowlers has now extended to seven.

"All I can say is we've had a list of bowlers leading into our summer, and we're well down the list at the moment," Arthur said. "But it's going to be a fantastic opportunity for a couple of those guys. The names that have been on everyone's lips are guys like Jackson Bird, it could be Nathan Coulter-Nile, and that will form part of the discussions we have tonight."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • rob on December 19, 2012, 0:23 GMT

    @ Paul Connell : "wasn't Watson scared of ghosts?" : I do believe you are correct. It certainly rings a bell. .. some castle in England wasn't it? .. he's a sensitive lad our Shane. Very much in tune with the existential. Is there any rule that you have to wear white? The Lankans could all dress in Halloween costumes and force Watto to captain by walkie talkie from the dressing room broom closet. .. just kidding of course. He'll be fine for one Test as captain but not as a long term prospect. Being an allrounder and captain is too much to ask. .. he's not Imran Khan or Kapil Dev.

  • Prasanna on December 18, 2012, 8:23 GMT

    "Posted by Sinhaya-2 on (December 17 2012, 11:28 AM GMT)

    So clarke goes in to the hiding, he is scared to face us as he knows our boys will chase the remaining runs tomorrow, he thought he can thrash us easily which didn't happen, now he wants Watson to face some beating, let it be!! "

    Do you still mean it, given that we have won ? Show some respect to your opponents mate !!!

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2012, 5:48 GMT

    Johnson and Khawaja will come in but if it was my choice I would go Doolan and Bird the tassie combo.

  • Brendan on December 18, 2012, 4:52 GMT

    Khawaja should deffs come in for Clarke, but Watson captaining is a worry. Coulter-Nile should play over Bird anyday but what about Ben Cutting. Team for Melbourne; 1.Warner 2.Quiney 3.Hughes 4.Khawaja 5.Watson 6. Hussey (c) 7.Wade 8.Siddle 9.Cutting 10.Coulter-Nile 11.A different spinner! I have been saying this all summer. Lyon is not a wicket taker and he never was. There are no wicket taking spinners but chuck Steve O'Keefe in there, or Glenn Maxwell (lengthen the tail), Cam Boyce, Michael Beer, Nathan Hauritz, just not Lyon. commentators have been saying that finger spinners have no success but Boyce is a wrist spinner, so play him and he will fire

  • Roo on December 18, 2012, 1:59 GMT

    Funny no one hasn't brought up Henriques - had an excellent season this year & would be excellent as a no.6 with allrounder abilities - Warner, Watto then Cowan, Hughes, Hussey, Henriques, Wade, Siddle, Starc, 3rd seamer, Lyon... Watto wont have to bowl so much & there would be 8 bowling options available...

    As Johnson is the official 12th man for this Test, then he will be an obvious 1st pick... If Henriques played at no.6 then I'd like to see an outright fast bowler or someone who has shown good seam use for years like Butterworth (& can bat)...

  • Dummy4 on December 18, 2012, 0:27 GMT

    Usman in for Clarke (if not fit), Johnson in for Hilfy, Watso to captain. Why is this even being debated? Some may not like thes choices but we all know what's going to happen.

    I say give Watto the chance - it's only one test match and if he does a bad job then at least the selectors will know his limitations. You can't make a bloke vice captain and then not hand him the reins when the captain is injured. What else is a VC for?

    The other thing to remember is that there isn't much age difference between Clarke and Watson. The selectors never intended for Watson to be handed the captaincy permenantly. He's only got the role as a backup to Clarke, which is fine. The next full-time captain will be one of the "young" batsmen coming through - Hughes, Ussie, Paine... I wouldn't be surprised to see SA, QLD or TAS hand over their Shield captaincy to one of those guys in the near future.

  • Ross on December 17, 2012, 23:43 GMT

    @TerryScot don't mind the idea of Ponting coming in and getting the send off he deserves but it would be unfair to the vice captain watto whose confidence is already down. Looking at Clarke on the field today he looks good, but it would be good to get someone like Khawaja in the squad as a backup as any time near the Aussie players would be fantastic for him.

  • Jeff on December 17, 2012, 23:31 GMT

    Khawaja and Johnson are in for the Second Test. Just heard from a mate who plays first-class cricket in Queensland. Quiney and Cutting have been included.

  • Phil on December 17, 2012, 23:11 GMT

    @Rahul_Ashok i take your point on Khawaja not being given the same chance as others and for some reason every time its his turn another player emerges as Haddin as emerged from left field this time. But you will see the current crop of selectors which includes Arthur and Clarke really do reward perfomance and given he has worked on the things that were asked of him in terms of fielidng and running, you will see he will get the call up soon. I think Clarke is doing a good job as selector as its not easy to do when you are captain.

  • Cameron on December 17, 2012, 22:54 GMT

    I just don't see Watson as a captain, especially given he is really struggling to hold his place as a batting all rounder. An average of 25 over a two year period in tests is not enough to take a top 6 batting position. Based on those figures we would be better off promoting Wade to 6 and bringing in a genuine bowling all rounder like Cutting at 7. Khawaja is the next batsman in line but the captaincy issue might bring Haddin into consideration as he has genuine experience of leading a team. Johnson should be an automatic inclusion for boxing day if Hilfy is not fit as he bowled really well at the WACA.

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