Watson called to fill Hayden's one-day shoes
Shane Watson's wish for the selectors to take his outstanding Indian Premier League form seriously has been granted after he was named as Matthew Hayden's replacement for the one-day leg of the West Indies tour. Hayden's exit with a heel problem created the opening for Watson to re-start his international career and prove his unpredictable body can cope with the extra demands.
Watson is a logical replacement for Hayden - Shaun Marsh, James Hopes and Brad Haddin are also contenders for the spot freed by Adam Gilchrist's retirement - and Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, praised his qualities at the top of the order. "Approximately 18 months ago we identified Shane as someone we thought could open the batting for Australia in one-day cricket and, in the opportunities he has had since, he has played that role extremely well," Hilditch said. "He also adds great flexibility to our bowling attack in this format of the game."
Watson, who played for the victorious Rajasthan Royals, was the Player of the Tournament in India after scoring 472 runs, with an average of 47.20 and a strike-rate of 151. He also collected 17 wickets at 22.52 in his 15 games, showing his body could deal with regular work. "Shane has had a disappointing run with injuries but finished our interstate season well and has sustained his fitness levels throughout the IPL," Hilditch said.
Watson was due to have a holiday in the Maldives after his stint in India before heading to Hampshire for a short-term county contract. However, his plans have changed quickly and he will arrive in the West Indies during Australia's third Test in Barbados, which starts on June 12. The limited-overs series, which includes a Twenty20 and five ODIs, begins on June 20.
Watson had hoped the selectors would look closely at his performances during the IPL. "Even though it was Twenty20, it was a world-class competition," Watson said in the Age before he was added to the squad. "It had the intensity, the crowds and I felt it was a great challenge."
A series of leg injuries has hampered Watson but after his IPL success he wants to continue "stringing games together and improve". He last played for Australia at the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, where he had a successful tournament as a lower-order batsman. "My dream all along has been to break back in and be a permanent member of the Australian team," he said.
The Indian experience will be hard to forget for Watson, who was lauded during the latter stages of the tournament. "I hope one day that adulation might be there in Australia because it's my home country," Watson said, "and I love playing in Australia, for Australia."