Watson wishes to open across formats
Shane Watson's immediate future appears to be at No. 6 in the Test team and No. 3 in the ODI side, but he still wishes he could open the batting for Australia across all formats. Watson is expected to begin his comeback from a calf injury by playing for his Sydney club, Sutherland, in a Twenty20 game this weekend, while the Australians prepare for the first Test against Pakistan in the UAE.
Finding the right place for Watson in Australia's Test line-up has been challenging and in the past two years he has batted in every position from No. 1 to No. 6. When used as an opener, Watson averaged 40.98 in Tests but the success of the David Warner-Chris Rogers pairing has meant there has been no return to the top for Watson since the middle of last year's Ashes in England.
During the home Ashes clean sweep he settled in at first drop but was moved down to No. 6 in South Africa, which appeared likely to become his permanent position. However, his injury ruled him out of both Tests against Pakistan and if his replacement Mitchell Marsh, who is battling a hamstring problem of his own, plays and succeeds, it will create yet another Watson-based conundrum.
"I have had my best success opening in all formats," Watson told the Sydney radio station 2GB on Tuesday. "I love going in knowing I can just take on the game and not worry about the consequences, which is when I am batting at my best.
"The biggest challenge for me when I am batting down the order is assessing the situation of the game and also trying not to worry about getting out and that's normally when I get into a slightly negative mindset, which can affect my performance at times."
Should Watson return to the Test side against India this summer, Australia will be keen to get plenty of overs out of him with the ball, which is another factor in his possible use down the order. However, in the one-day arena he appears likely to be No. 3 in the World Cup behind openers Warner and Aaron Finch, despite the success of replacement first drop Steven Smith in the UAE.
"In regards to one-day cricket, if Watto is fit, he will come in and bat No.3," captain Michael Clarke said in the UAE. "He's been very successful there for us and I like him batting in that position leading up to the World Cup. Smithy's grabbed his opportunity with both hands in regards to one-day cricket. He's got an opportunity because we've got guys out injured. He'll probably go back down to middle order."
Watson's ongoing injury problems have contributed to him being juggled around the order and on last year's Test tour of India he even played as a batsman only in an effort to get through the series with his body intact. However, he had little impact with the bat in that series and hopes to make up for that during the home Tests against India this season in more familiar conditions.
"They have got a lot of world-class players, especially in their batting, but over here is a different challenge for them," Watson said of India. "We are hopeful that the groundsmen are going to make the grounds very conducive to what we do [because] in India they certainly make sure the conditions are favourable to them."
Watson hopes to begin his comeback from his latest injury - a calf complaint that occurred while he was recovering from an ankle problem which stemmed from stepping on a ball - this weekend. He started bowling off a few steps in the nets on Monday and hopes to bat at the top of the order for Sutherland this weekend, and he even has his sights set on a possible return to the New South Wales side towards the end of the Matador Cup.
"If everything goes well this week I should be available to play a game on Sunday for my club team," Watson said. "I'm very excited to be back playing. It's the biggest break I've had in three or four years so I'm really itching to get back. It's been a pretty slow process coming back after standing on the ball [in August]."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale