World Cup 2015 February 7, 2015

Watson endorses captain Clarke

Shane Watson - "It's nice to have Michael back and in and around the group again. Everyone's very confident that he'll be right to play the second game. It's great for the group to have him around" © Getty Images

Michael Clarke trained lightly alongside his Australian World Cup team-mates at Adelaide Oval on a scorching Saturday morning, but it was his presence at another gathering the previous evening that confirmed the squad are settling quite happily into the idea of being led by him at the tournament.

The full Australian squad, Clarke included, was present for a low-key barbecue at the suburban home of the fielding coach Greg Blewett on Friday night, a chance for the team to bond about the concept of claiming the cup on home soil and get comfortable in the company of one another at the start of the event.

Shane Watson spoke of how the squad was feeling more settled with each passing day, aided further on Saturday by the presence of the team's Adelaide mascot "Nugget" Rees, resplendent in the yellow kit that marks Australian teams at this event rather than the deep green favoured during bilateral ODI series in recent years.

"It feels really settled," Watson said after training. "It's nice to have Michael back and in and around the group again. Everyone's very confident that he'll be right to play the second game. It's great for the group to have him around - his calibre as a batsman and also his experience of playing in the big tournaments as well."

Watson acknowledged that Clarke will have felt better for being reassured of his leadership by the chief executive James Sutherland, as reported by ESPNcricinfo on Friday. "It's very important for a leader to make sure he feels comfortable leading the group," Watson said. "Tactically, he's always been great. He reads the game incredibly well. All those factors coming together provides a great package."

Australia's selectors will choose Watson to make his return from niggling injury in the practice match against India on Sunday, a conservative path having been taken in the weeks leading up to this juncture. Their prudence has been underlined by the injury sustained by James Faulkner, meaning a fit Watson will now be doubly crucial to bowl key overs through the middle and even the end of the innings.

"Yes, I'll be ready, I'll bowl a few overs," Watson said. "I won't be bowling 10 overs, but I've be bowling a few to get back into it again. I can't wait to get out there. Just from my history of injuries, if we just give a little bit more time, I've never had any problems coming back. It's normally when I've really pushed it that I've stirred it up again. From previous experience, we were just making sure I gave myself extra time to be alright.

"[The powerplay and death overs], that's part of my bowling role, if that opportunity comes along. I've done it previously in one-day cricket so I just need to make sure I'm at my best to execute what I need to do through those periods, whether it's a power play or the back end as well. I've done it a hell of a lot throughout my career so I'm ready."

Mindful of how the 1992 campaign failed despite overwhelming favouritism and familiarity with Antipodean conditions, the coach Darren Lehmann has already generated discussion among his men by having the former Australia opening batsman Geoff Marsh speak to them in Perth about the events of 23 years ago. George Bailey said the team went away from that discussion feeling far better prepared than their forebears had been.

"Regardless of the tournaments, it's always good to sit down with that generation, where cricket's changed a bit since then, and talk about what it was like," Bailey said. "The really interesting thing about that group, from my point of view, was that they won in 1987 when they weren't expected to. I think they would even admit that a few of them weren't expecting to win that. It was just an assumption that they would come to '92 and do really well.

"So he talked a lot about the lead-up, I think they played a Test a week-and-a-half before their first game. I guess other teams were better prepared, and because they were a good one-day side, teams were up to play them. So there are a few similarities, I guess, for what our group is expecting to face. It was just good for him to express that, and it got us talking about the things that we were thinking about as a group."

The concept of being under pressure at home is not something Watson is entertaining at this point, preferring to talk up the joys of playing in familiar climes for a major trophy. Even so, Australia do have a few adjustments to make, as simple as the fact they are presently staying at Adelaide's Intercontinental Hotel, across the road from their usual base at the Sebel Playford.

"In any World Cup, there's pressure to win anyway, whether it's home or away," Watson said. "The pressure's the same, I think. For me, it's more exciting. You get to play a World Cup at home. We know the conditions better than anyone. Depending on who's in the crowd, we play in front of our home crowd. It's more just excitement.

"In games where if you lose, you're out, there's a lot of pressure, whether you're home or away. With us knowing the conditions, it gives us a bit of an advantage. With the squad we've got now, we've got a lot of match-winners, whether it's batting or bowling. The great sides are the ones with guys who will step up on any given day. We've got the talent to do that. We just need to put it all together."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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