Jaques prepares for the unknown
Phil Jaques, the New South Wales batsman, embarked on a mystery tour of South Africa today after answering an injury SOS from the national team. As an insurance policy for Ricky Ponting [stomach] and Andrew Symonds [hip], Jaques left for South Africa on a trip that could offer endless opportunities or none at all.
The worst-case scenario is he will return to Australia after watching the second and third ODIs against South Africa in Cape Town on Friday and Port Elizabeth on Sunday, but if he grabs a chance his stay could be extended to include the three-Test series. Jaques is not concerned by either situation.
"At this stage I am there for the two games just as cover, so we'll wait and see what happens," Jaques said in The Australian. "I'll be over there so I'll be preparing to play regardless."
Jaques has appeared in only one limited-overs international - he scored 94 in Melbourne during the VB Series - and he was not required for the home finals or the initial touring squad. Simon Katich's form blocked his way at the top of the order but Trevor Hohns, the chairman of selectors, was also concerned with Jaques's fielding.
An old shoulder injury takes some power away from his throwing, but Jaques said he has always focussed on improving his skills and is comfortable in the slips. "It obviously doesn't come as naturally to me as to some other blokes, but I've been working hard doing the hours in the training park, coming in early and staying late," he told the paper. "I won't feel any pressure with regards to the fielding."
With four centuries in the ING Cup one-day competition this summer, Jaques has been in tremendous form and he is ready for any vacancy. A spot in the middle order, where he has played for Yorkshire, is likely if he steps in for Ponting or Symonds. "If you can open the batting you can bat anywhere, so I'll be going about my business and if there is a spot I'll take it," he said. "I'm just going to go out and enjoy it and take every opportunity that I can."