Ailing Watson puts Copeland in the frame
Though Trent Copeland does not want to be considered Australian cricket's best reserve, he agrees a bleak injury prognosis for Shane Watson has greatly enhanced his chances of taking part in the first Test against New Zealand in Brisbane.
Having performed creditably in his first three Tests in Sri Lanka, Copeland found himself out of the team in South Africa, shaded first by Peter Siddle and later Pat Cummins.
However the likelihood of Watson's hamstring strain keeping him out of the Gabba Test means that Copeland's knack for long spells will be valuable to a team lacking an allrounder. His ability to field in the slips, where Watson is usually posted, is another useful attribute.
"That does help, and now I'm not in the XI, it may give me an extra opportunity," Copeland told ESPNcricinfo. "But I certainly don't look at it that way, I want to be in the best XI at all times, not just when people are injured.
"In Sri Lanka I was picked where there was not one bowler in Australia injured but I was able to be in the best XI for three Tests. Provided the right situation occurs and the right conditions are there, then I'm still in the mix no matter who's fit or who's firing and all that kind of stuff."
Copeland will turn out for New South Wales in a Sheffield Shield match against Western Australia at the SCG from Friday, having been ruled ineligible for Australia A's fixture against New Zealand, beginning a day earlier, due to his 12th man duties in Johannesburg.
Originally ruled out of the Shield fixture as well as the tour match, Copeland was given permission to play a match ahead of the Gabba Test by Australia's captain Michael Clarke.
"Talking common sense as he does, he thought this Shield game starts the when the Test squad gets named and it is a good opportunity if I'm in that squad to get some match practice in beforehand, having bowled in the nets for quite a while the last couple of weeks," Copeland said. "If I'm not in the squad then it gives me the opportunity to take some wickets and put my name back up in lights."
The scheduling quirk may also work in Copeland's favour, for Ben Cutting, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and Ben Hilfenhaus were given some harsh treatment by Brendon McCullum at Allan Border Field.
The match at the SCG is set to be played on a green tinged pitch due to a series of downpours in Sydney over the past week, and Copeland said his objectives were singular - making sure his control was at the precise level it needed to be to conquer international batsmen.
"I want to go through the things I want to achieve, and whether I take no wickets or 10 wickets I'm not too fussed about that," Copeland said. "It's about being comfortable, ticking the boxes and getting preparation right in terms of building pressure, and when I want to bowl the ball in a certain spot that I actually land it there. My main asset is my control and my persistence and that sort of stuff, so I just want to be able to execute that well this week."
Copeland's time on boundary's edge in South Africa made him a keen observer of others, as he learned how best to meet the needs of the playing XI. But it also filled him with motivation to return to the team, on merit as well as through injuries to others.
"You can't help but learn things about how other people cope in pressure situations and how you can help and how you can contribute as the 12th, 13th, 14th man on tour," Copeland said. "I learned a lot about that, but it also gives you the drive to get back into the team so you don't have to do that, you can just worry about your own performances and helping the team win the game."
The Wanderers victory was significant for many reasons, not least the emergence of Pat Cummins, but Copeland disagreed with the contention that a defeat would have sent the team into another spiral of self-doubt and poor results.
"It is probably a catalyst for good things to happen," Copeland said. "The question has been posed that it was a necessary win and really we were on the brink of bad things and all this kind of stuff, but you wouldn't feel that if you're in the group. Michael Clarke's got a very positive attitude about things, and honestly believes we're on the cusp of good things, and so do I.
"We weren't far off producing a really good first Test, apart from that second innings batting display, and we really turned it around in the second Test and unearthed a potential superstar in Pat Cummins. There's good things happening all around the place, everyone wants to get better every day, and no doubt Mickey Arthur is going to help that. It could prove to be one of those summers where Australian cricket turns a corner."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo