Reborn Katich content and relaxed
Simon Katich's vow to enjoy an unexpected Test recall paid off as he produced a gritty third Test century to guide Australia to 259 for 3 on the opening day against West Indies. Benefitting from Matthew Hayden's tour withdrawal, Katich opened for the second match in a row and was rewarded for a more considered approach with an unbeaten 113.
Katich has done a lot of thinking and working on his technique - he hits the ball straighter now - in the two-and-a-half years he spent out of the side and believes he is more relaxed. "I sort of thought to myself, whatever's left, I just wanted to enjoy it," he said. "Once you get to 30 a lot of people ask you what are you going to do when you finish playing and it was starting to dawn on me that it wasn't that far away. That's changed my mindset. If I've only got a few years left I'm going to enjoy it."
Katich said he was "too revved up" in the opening Test in Jamaica, where he scored 12 and 1. "Definitely in the first innings, I felt like I blew a good opportunity," he said. "Sometimes the problem as a batsman is that you can play with a bit too much intent and pay the price. Today I felt a bit more relaxed and content just to occupy the crease."
While he was with New South Wales he never gave up hope of returning to the national team he left in 2005. "But at times you're always thinking at the back of your mind whether that opportunity may come again," he said. "Particularly as the years were starting to tick over. It's just nice to be back and playing."
His first Test century came against India in 2003-04 and he picked up another in New Zealand the following year before his struggles against England and West Indies led to his sacking. In Antigua he started the second Test by batting throughout the day, facing 241 balls and striking nine fours.
"It felt special because it's obviously been a long time," he said. "As a Test batsman that's what it's all about, trying to score hundreds. That's what perhaps happened first time around, I probably got too many starts and didn't go on with it and convert."
Ricky Ponting, who posted a handy 65, wants Australia to build quickly on their total when Katich and Michael Clarke, who is 38 not out, resume on the second morning. "It's a good day, a very pleasing day," Ponting said at stumps. "Whenever we win the toss and bat the whole objective for us is to try and bat once in the game, or get enough runs for me to have a decision whether to enforce the follow-on or not. We'll be trying to make a really big score from here."
Australia were able to move more freely in the final session after West Indies had tied up the visitors earlier in the day. "Katich has played a great innings and Michael has looked a million dollars since he's been out there," Ponting said.
Katich benefitted from a dropped catch by Runako Morton on 90 and Xavier Marshall, who came into the side, felt the toll of playing back-to-back Tests may have had an effect on his team-mates. Chris Gayle had hoped to return for the game, but he was ruled unfit and Marshall stepped up to take the place of Brenton Parchment, who struggled in the 95-run loss in Jamaica.
"I'm a bit surprised [to be picked] but I've been working hard over the past few months and I guess when you work hard it pays off," Marshall said. "I am a bit more mature. People used to think I was a bit rough, now you can see I am more relaxed, enjoying my team-mates, friends and so on. I think I am getting there."