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March 15, 2012
Shane Watson will happily return to Australia's Test team as a No. 3 batsman, having reasoned that he is no longer in a position to demand the opening spot he vacated due to injury in 2011.
Since Watson fell prey to hamstring and calf injuries, the contrasting David Warner and Ed Cowan have begun a fledgling top order partnership that shows all the signs of developing into a fruitful union. They are now set to resume opening duties in the Caribbean, as Watson slips into the No. 3 spot vacated by an under-performing Shaun Marsh.
A year ago Watson could have named his place - and his price - in an Australian team struggling to find successful practitioners in most positions. However now the team led by Michael Clarke has completed a successful home summer without him, Watson said he was grateful to have any kind of place in the team, and would have no qualms about walking out at No. 3.
"I'm happy to play anywhere to be honest after sitting out all the summer and seeing how successful the Test team was, there's no doubt that I'd love to fit in wherever I possibly can," Watson said in St Vincent. "I have really enjoyed opening the batting in Test cricket and all forms of the game, but in the end batting at No. 3 you're still certainly in the engine room with a newer ball potentially.
"So I'm happy to try and compliment the team wherever I possibly can, because it has been an extremely exciting and successful Test summer and I'd love to be a part of that."
Watson was given the first hint of his future position when he returned to the ODI XI at No. 3 during the home triangular series. He may yet return to opening in the West Indies in limited overs formats, as he and the coach Mickey Arthur formulate the best plan to attack the hosts.
"That's where I finished up this summer, batting at No. 3, and what we're working through at the moment is what's going to be the best balance for our batting line-up, not just with me but with the other guys we've got at our disposal as well," Watson said. "So that's what we're talking through at the moment, what's going to be the best balance and what we think the West Indies are going to throw at us as well."
Australia's reduced reliance on senior players has been part of the coaching and selection strategy across the summer, which Arthur said had been geared at building a squad of about 22 players capable of stepping into action at any given moment. He pointed to current absentees including Pat Cummins, Clarke and Mitchell Johnson as proof the team was now better equipped to cope with a relentless cycle of fixtures.
"One of the briefs at the start of the summer was to create depth, and I think that's really important to create a depth pool that you can choose from," Arthur said. "With the amount of cricket we play, there's injuries always crop up and obviously loss of form. I think we've realised that we need to manage our best players better in order to get better results from them, so we needed to create that depth.
"We wanted to create a depth pool of 22 players by the end of the summer and we've prettymuch done that, and that has been reflected in the Test selections. I'm very confident that every player who steps up now to the side has had the opportunity and knows what is expected of him, so it has been a pretty successful summer in that regard."
The West Indian team, led by Darren Sammy, can call on a strong record at the Arnos Vale Ground for confidence ahead of their first meeting with Watson's team. Sammy has enjoyed two of his better international displays at the venue, 4 for 26 in an ODI against Zimbabwe in 2010, and 5 for 70 against Bangladesh in a Test in 2009.
"So far St Vincent has been a very good ground for us, as a West Indies team we always get results in our favour here, and for me personally it is a happy hunting ground," Sammy said. "The last three games we've played here we won all three, so obviously what happened against India and Pakistan we're looking to repeat that and start this series off on a winning note.
"We know we're playing Australia and we're not going to go out and play names, we're just going to play good, positive cricket, and hopefully we can come out on top."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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