Inverarity offers no guarantees for Watson
Shane Watson's place as Australia's vice-captain and even as a member of the Test team is far from guaranteed, after national selector John Inverarity indicated that the sometime-allrounder's future would be a major topic for discussion between now and the Ashes tour.
Having gone to India as a non-bowling batsman and as a player with an enormous amount of experience on the subcontinent in a squad largely ignorant of its challenges, Watson produced nothing of substance with the bat and blotted his off-field leadership copybook by being among the four players suspended from the Mohali Test for failing to follow instructions.
Nonetheless, Watson was then appointed captain in Michael Clarke's stead for the dead final Test, in which he was twice out cheaply while leading the team to a fourth consecutive heavy defeat. Inverarity revealed there had been discussions around whether or not Watson should be interim captain in the circumstances, and that the national selection panel will deliberate further about his place in coming days.
"I won't go into details there but it was all carefully considered," Inverarity told reporters of the captaincy choice for Delhi. "There were a couple of other options and that was the preferred option. He was tour vice-captain and he was the one who had captaincy experience at international level, and from all quarters that was the preferred option.
"The national selection panel will have discussions later this week and through April and every player will be discussed. Things will always be discussed. Every aspect of the team will be discussed. Players in leadership roles. That is absolutely normal.''
Watson's habit of flattering to deceive as a Test batsman was summed up by Inverarity in the gap between his often commanding appearance at the batting crease and his mediocre record, which has now been devoid of a Test century for two and a half years.
"We're concerned about his performances," Inverarity said. "In those ODI matches back in Australia [against the West Indies] his form looked to be outstanding, and in the first couple of Test matches when I was there he was playing well until the ball of his dismissal.
"But we need him, he is one of those senior players, and talented players and experienced players, and we need him performing. All I know is that when I see him play well I think, 'Wow, this guy can play'. He is a wonderful talent. It is just crazy he has not been able to perform at Test level in recent years.''
Watson's place as Clarke's deputy has also been placed at the forefront of the selectors' minds by the captain's injury struggles. Clarke is now set to spend the next two months recovering from the back and hamstring problems he accumulated over the home summer and then in India. The need for a reliable back-up leadership option has increased.
"All those things are under consideration," Inverarity said. "The facts are, at the moment, there is a team in transition. In terms of experience and strong consistent performances over a period of time, we're a little bit short on those things, the options we have at the moment are a little less than in previous years.
"We've got to do the best we can with what's available and we'll be doing all we can in terms of trying to get leadership qualities coming through and a good back-up plan. Michael, who has trouble with his back and hamstring, I haven't known anyone [to] prepare better and treat that adversity better than he does, and we just hope he can stay on the park."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here