Australia in UAE 2014-15 September 21, 2014

Injured Watson to miss UAE tour

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Mitchell Marsh appears almost certain to make his Test debut against Pakistan next month after Shane Watson was ruled out of Australia's tour of the UAE with a calf injury. Fast bowler Ben Hilfenhaus will replace Watson in the Test squad, having not worn the baggy green for nearly two years, while Kane Richardson will join the ODI and T20 squads.

However, it is Marsh who looks poised to benefit most immediately from Watson's injury. The selectors are likely to lean towards an allrounder who can bat in the top six and provide seam-bowling support in the UAE. That would allow them either to choose two spinners, or three frontline fast men who could then work in shorter spells in the hot weather.

Either way, it suggests that Marsh will probably become Australia's 438th Test cricketer and join his father Geoff and brother Shaun as owners of a baggy green. Only twice before in Test history has a Test cricketing father had two sons who also played Tests: Lala, Mohinder and Surinder Amarnath of India and Walter, Richard and Dayle Hadlee of New Zealand.

It could also lead to a fascinating selection quandary for the home Tests against India if Marsh plays in the UAE and succeeds. The national selector Rod Marsh said on Sunday that Watson remained "an integral part of our plans for the summer", although there appears little way the selectors could squeeze both Marsh and Watson into the Test side in Australian conditions.

However, it also remains to be seen how persistent Watson's calf injury is on this occasion. He missed the first two Tests in South Africa earlier this year with a strain of the same calf, his right, which allowed Shaun Marsh to return to the side. His left calf ruled him out of three Tests of the 2012-13 home summer against South Africa and Sri Lanka and he missed all six home Tests in 2011-12 with calf and hamstring problems.

He was ruled out of the recent one-day tri-series in Zimbabwe with an ankle sprain sustained when he stepped on a ball at training in Brisbane before the team departed. However, it is the calf injury that has proven the major setback and the physio Alex Kountouris said Watson's history of similar injuries led the team management to take a cautious approach.

"Whilst Shane has made steady progress with his rehabilitation after he stepped on a ball and sprained his ankle, he has suffered a setback, experiencing some right calf soreness," Kountouris said. "As Shane has previously had similar calf injuries, we plan to hold back his return to running and bowling for approximately seven to ten days.

"The unfortunate timing of this calf injury will mean that his preparation for the UAE tour will be considerably affected and he would have been unavailable for the T20 and ODI part of the tour and significantly limit his bowling preparation for the Test matches."

Australia's previous selection panel showed a willingness to pick Watson as a specialist batsman during last year's tour of India but his results were disappointing. Watson himself much prefers to be available as an allrounder and he said he would work as hard as possible to ensure he was ready for the home summer, which begins with limited-overs games against South Africa in November.

"I'm naturally disappointed because I was desperate to play against Pakistan which is our opportunity to get back to number one in Test and one-day international cricket," Watson said. "Despite my strong desire to be on the tour, I understand why the selectors have made this decision.

"Given I can't be with the boys, my goal now is to work as hard as I can to get back to 100% fitness so that I can make myself available for selection ahead of our series against South Africa in November. I've been here before and know what I need to do to get back to full fitness. That means remaining positive and working hard. We have a huge summer of cricket at home and my priority now is to play a big part in that."

Watson's place in the Test squad will be taken by Hilfenhaus, who last played Test cricket against Sri Lanka in Hobart in December 2012. The national selector Rod Marsh said Hilfenhaus and Richardson would had earned their call-ups to the Test and limited-overs squads respectively.

"The selectors have opted for another pace option in Ben as we feel we have enough cover in the all-rounder position," Marsh said. "He is an experienced bowler who has worked very hard to get himself back to peak fitness and we know how well he can bowl in tough conditions.

"Kane is a talented young player who had an excellent series for Australia A in July and didn't disappoint in Zimbabwe earlier this month. He now has another opportunity to stake his claim at international level."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Md Tanweer on September 26, 2014, 3:55 GMT

    I think Mitch Marsh is as good as Watson, he can do the job at T20 or even ODI, but Mitch Marsh is not going to challenge him in test cricket.

    By the way if they both play at the same time then surely Aussies team will going to be delighted.

    Tanweer Ahmad, Nawada,India (Malaysia)

  • Peter on September 25, 2014, 8:37 GMT

    @biggus. Like you I hope March emerges & produces on his talent. As you know, I am big supporter of Mohen and he has been delivering, too bad he is out. We'll see how he goes.

  • jim on September 24, 2014, 13:30 GMT

    Very Happy that Ben got chance. Unlike other bowlers, Ben is a gem who has been ignored by clarke in last years ashes in england. I love both Watto & Ben. They are old school & good friends. Back then, the trio "Watson, hilfenhaus, brett lee(then)/Johnson(now)" are as strong friends as trio "Rod Marsh, Lillee and Rodney Hogg". I read "Watson is to Clarke what Lillee was to Hughes" article a while ago where it said "watto did not punch clarke". Wish he punched. But watto is too good human & sincere. I would punch clarke just like katich did. If watto was captain, then naturally old school mindset guys like hilfenhaus would be in power. Kids like warner, maxwell,…etc would look up to them & other seniors. What a formidable force Australia would be(like Austraia 90′s era)

  • Richard on September 24, 2014, 3:28 GMT

    @Chris_P:- I agree that if they want to play two spinners they need Marsh at 6 (or 7 if they move Haddin up) as third seamer, but I don't really think he has the credentials as a Test number 6 at this stage, and a double against a South African A side doesn't really count. I saw some of that and there was a fair bit of pie chucking from the Saffers. Anyway, since I back a two spinner option I'm implicitly backing initially Watson and now Marsh for inclusion as well. I know Marsh is faster than medium but I've just never seen him do much with the ball so I wonder how he's going to take wickets at Test level. Watson, for all his faults could pull out some real jaffas to break a partnership. We shall see mate, and I'd be more than happy to be proven wrong. He's only young so if he could metamorphose into a real Test all rounder we'd be set for years in that department.

  • Bren on September 23, 2014, 23:54 GMT

    So tired of Watson's injuries. I understand that it is beyond his control, but he is injured so often that it makes it hard to have a settled team. Perhaps there is value in picking Marsh and waving goodbye to Watson.

  • Peter on September 23, 2014, 20:31 GMT

    @Biggus Mitch Marsh hasn't got credentials as a batsman? I have been one of the loudest critics in not selecting him due to his ordinary returns in FC, but last season he averaged 50 with the bat, 27 with the ball plus kicked off this season with a double ton against Sth Africa A. Current form & that alone is the main criteria for selection, the guy has been delivering so he has earned his spurs, if selected. I have seen him bowl & was actually surprised by his pace as I thought he was just a medium pacer, while not express, he gets it around the 140 mark. If they want a 3rd pacer behind 2 spinners as a holding bowler, he is the best option, if they want a 3rd spinner, then Maxwell (please not as a 2nd spinner).

  • David on September 23, 2014, 13:02 GMT

    @ dunger.bob wrote "Don't get me started on Harris. You'll never get me to shut up. I'll just say this much. I watched practically every ball he bowled last summer and in 8 consecutive Tests there was hardly a bad one among them."

    Have to agree there. My vote is that he is much more 'skillful' than "Mr. Sledegit" from England …. ya know, the one with the enormous lip! Before the Aus tour to SA I said that I feared Harris more than anyone else. Sure enough, in the final test, with the series on the line and just a few overs remaining, Rhino secured the win for Aus. Genuinely a champion bowler who deserves a lot more respect. Give him some bio-knees and he would be a threat for another decade! A real iron man, Rhino.

  • Richard on September 23, 2014, 12:09 GMT

    @rickyvoncanterbury:- Mate, my biggest problem with Mitchell Marsh as a test player is that I don't see his bowling being all that penetrative, so he's going to have to be able to bat, and he doesn't really have the credentials for that either at this stage. There's a whole lot of difference between test and one day all rounders. I'll be interested to see how Hughes and Doolan take their chances. I'm just going to go ahead and assume Clarke will be injured, in which case it will be interesting to see the team dynamic without him calling the shots.

  • richard on September 23, 2014, 8:29 GMT

    Biggus Sorry mate wrong Marsh.

  • John on September 23, 2014, 8:20 GMT

    Genuinely stumped for an XI. I suppose if Clarke is fit: Warner, Rogers, Doolan, Clarke, Smith, M. Marsh, Haddin, Johnson, O'Keefe, Siddle, Lyon. Batting is a bit thin, but I'm not convinced that this is the ideal series to bring back Hughes. I never realise how valuable Watson actually is until he's gone.

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