Watson won't play before India squad chosen
Australia's selectors will have their trust in Shane Watson tested by the revelation he will not play a match in his redefined role as a non-bowling batsman before the India Test touring squad is chosen.
Watson is in the latter stages of recovering from a calf strain that was aggravated during the Melbourne Test against Sri Lanka, and ESPNcricinfo understands that he is expected make his return to the game in a domestic limited-overs fixture for New South Wales on January 30.
The national selector John Inverarity has said that the squad for India is due to be announced before the end of this month, meaning Watson's inclusion in the touring party would have to be made on faith rather than form and fitness.
Watson trained in front of Inverarity and Andy Bichel in Sydney on Sunday and batted in the nets on Monday, but he was ruled out of Australia's Twenty20 matches against Sri Lanka and a Sheffield Shield match for the Blues against Western Australia, due to begin on Thursday.
"He had a good running work-out. Andy Bichel and I were there when he did his running drills . . . but he didn't bat," Inverarity said. "When we left it yesterday it was uncertain, but he'll certainly play before the end of this month."
This means that neither Watson nor the man he has effectively nominated to displace in the Test side, Ed Cowan, will play a first-class match before the announcement.
NSW's next Shield fixture is due to take place against Tasmania in Hobart from February 6-9.
Inverarity said that his panel would not be swayed by Watson's public airing of his preference to open the batting. "Not really, no. We'll consider all players on their merits, in a dispassionate way," Inverarity said.
"The captain always determines the batting order. We've had many discussions with Shane. One of the basic points is he's always willing to play and bat where he's asked to bat."
Another player of interest to the selectors is Moises Henriques, who is likely to be slotted into the NSW Shield team to play against WA even if his Australian duties with the ODI team in Hobart on Wednesday means he makes a delayed entry to the match.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here