The Ashes 2013-14 November 16, 2013

McDermott won't rush Watson into bowling

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Craig McDermott, Australia's fast bowling coach, does not expect Shane Watson to be ready to bowl during the first Ashes Test in Brisbane, as he recovers from a hamstring strain, and based on what he's seen of Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle, McDermott is in no rush to press the allrounder into premature service either.

In his first sessions with Harris, Siddle and Johnson since resuming his duties as formal mentor for the pacemen, McDermott has been decidedly impressed by the rhythm, swing and speed of the three quick bowlers who are expected to shoulder the bulk of the bowling load at the Gabba.

The collective impression they have made means there will be less pressure on Watson to return to the bowling crease without any time building into his work, lessening the chance of re-injuring his fragile hamstring. "We will wait until the day before the game to see where he is with his bowling," McDermott said of Watson. "But he hasn't bowled so far. To rip him straight into a Test match would be pretty difficult at this stage."

While Harris and Siddle are maintaining the high standards McDermott expects, he has been gratified to see Johnson bowling with high pace, decent control and late swing. "He's in a really good space mentally, very confident about what he's doing and that's a great place for him to be at the moment," McDermott said. "The last two days he's bowled really well and really fast, so that's one great thing.

"We've got a great bowling attack - Ryan Harris is figures-wise the best bowler in Australia of all time almost, Sidds is in the top five in the world and you don't get there by not bowling well, and Mitchell's now back to his best, bowling fast and swinging the ball. That puts us in good stead for Thursday."

Among McDermott's first orders of business upon resuming a role he relinquished in 2012, was to travel to Perth and meet with Johnson, resuming a relationship that will be vital to Australia's Ashes fate this summer. He was delighted to find Johnson flushed with self-belief in both word and deed, and importantly considers the left-armer now capable of bowling in partnerships with others, rather than simply trying to win matches on his own.

"I didn't really go there to work with him, it was more to have a chat with him and watch him bowl in a game and see how everything was going for him," McDermott said of the Perth visit. "I think Mitchell can be bowled in both ways, whether it be impact bowling and that depends on the game situation and who's batting at the time, but I think he can be used in both ways.

"Certainly his control has been very good the past two days, and with the new ball if we can get him swinging that new ball, which he's shown he can do at training, 150km/h inswingers are pretty tough to keep out, and if he only swings the odd one even better, because then the batsman doesn't know which one he has to play at."

Alongside Johnson, Siddle and Harris in the nets at Allan Border Field have been Jackson Bird and James Pattinson, both fast bowlers returning from back stress injuries. Their presence at the bowling crease is an encouraging sign for Australia's future pace endeavours, but McDermott said neither Bird nor Pattinson will be in contention for a Test spot, as he attempts to re-shape their actions to reduce the twisting "counter-rotation" that is a harbinger of back problems.

"Jackson's progressing but he's still been working on some technical things that I'm not 100% happy with at the moment," McDermott said. "So we just want to keep working on those over the coming weeks and certainly don't want to rush him in any shape or form from that point of view.

"Patto's rehab work and the couple of changes that we've made to his technique have come along nicely, he's only off about six steps or so at the moment, so he's got a fair way to go. I'm in no rush for him to be back, he's in his early 20s and can be a 10-year bowler for Australia or more, so I'm not keen to rush him until we've got it exactly right … otherwise I haven't done my job."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • ScottStevo on November 18, 2013, 9:49 GMT

    @Chris_P, actually he's averaged 38 over that period.At the same time he's also averaged 29 with the ball. Considering the last 2 years he and Arthur's well known dislike, he treated Watson like dirt and had him up and down the batting order like a yo-yo, I don't think he's done too badly at all. He also averages 45 @ #3. You discuss hype, yet are the one seemingly trapped in it as the media were so quick to pounce on Watson and you've jumped on the bandwagon. As for Bailey, well, once again you're completley incorrect as in 11/12 season he averaged 55 in FC cricket in Aus. I'd say he was more than cutting it...

  • Micky.Panda on November 17, 2013, 23:07 GMT

    Siddle ranked as a top bowler. Ha Ha! the rankings give far too many points for merely showing up and treat the last 3 years pretty much equally. Look at test blowing averages and then award some points for performances in the recent year. Players should not completely lose a ranking just because they are not playing. Harris is clearly our best bowler. Bird has very good figures and should be great on the right pitches. Pattinson is better than Siddle and so is Hilfenhaus. Siddle is just in front of Johnson, who is only just in front of Watson as a bowler. Siddle is ranked highly because he has played more tests in 3 years than any other bowler. Definitely would pick him before Johnson who has just been too inconsistent. Why is Hilfy not picked or even Cutting?

  • MinusZero on November 17, 2013, 20:41 GMT

    I dont understand what it is about Australias golden boy that makes him get selected no matter what. Watson is only an average bowler and an average test batsman and yet one half discipline is enough to get selected.

    Australia will fall into the same trap again of not giving younger players a chance to play before retirements of the older guard. Watson should not play anyway, but definitely not if he cant bat and bowl.

    I give Watson maybe two years before retirement, Clarke maybe less if his back keeps playing up...what then?

  • 2MikeGattings on November 17, 2013, 14:17 GMT

    It speaks to a dearth of batting talent that an unfit Watson can get in the side. Playing an opener at 3 seems like a defensive move to protect Clarke from the new ball, and is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the top 2.

  • gogoldengreens on November 17, 2013, 7:24 GMT

    @browners76 The Gabba is a graveyard for England - they have lost more tests there than Australia has & Australia has not lost there since 1988 - It is our home ground where we play every year not every 4 years or so!!!

  • dunger.bob on November 17, 2013, 7:04 GMT

    @ Diane Skinner: Every word you said, agreed. Especially the last bit about spelling the greyhounds. I think they're micro-managing our fast men straight into early cricketing graves. .. It's ridiculous the number of injuries we always seem to be battling against. Take Cummins for instance. Mr. Snuffle-Uffugus I call him. He's supposed to exist but no-ones ever actually seen him. .. It drives me batty. .. Somethings gone wrong and no-one seems to care or agree. It seems to me that they (CA) reckon everythings honk-dory. Well, it ain't.

  • kensohatter on November 17, 2013, 4:56 GMT

    Please can we stop with this Watson experiment now! He doesnt warrant a spot as a bowler (even when fully fit) or as a batsman (he never converts and ENgland have worked him out) aside from that his attitude is toxic and he is injury prone. I will concede that he holds value in the ODI side provided he stays fit. Faulkner needs to be picked to allow for the selection of Mitch Johnson. So happy that Bird and Pattinson are on the comeback trail. I look forward to the days of a bowling attack of Bird, Pattinson and Cummings with hopefully Siddle, Harris, Hilfy and Johnson still about. Hopefully Agar is still being developed as well cause that kid can bat (he got 90odd again last week) so if his spinners come good that would be nice.

  • mnemoniny on November 17, 2013, 3:36 GMT

    People should stop knocking Siddle. Excepting the first test he had a bad ashes series, but he has certainly been a world-class bowler for the last couple of seasons. Prior to the latest ashes, his last 18 tests had yielded 72 wickets at an average of 25.82, S/R 52.72. By any metric comparison those are good numbers.

    Also worth noting is he is currently ranked 7th-equal with a certain Mr Swann, despite having taken only 9 wickets in his last 4 tests. Still at 7th! Go Sid.

  • dummy4fb on November 17, 2013, 1:36 GMT

    @ Steve .... I concur .... it's a 5- Day Match. You simply cannot risk taking him into the game.

  • browners76 on November 17, 2013, 0:10 GMT

    I think Australia missed a trick by not having the first test at Perth. Its been a good ground for them over the years and i cant think when we last beat them there. If Johnson gets the freemantle doctor working for him like in 2010 then they could have surprised England. I think Brisbane is going to be flat, if Cook wins the toss it could be long 2 days in the field for Aus.