Watson and Lee fly home to uncertain future

Brett Lee went off the field with a foot problem AFP

Shane Watson and Brett Lee are flying home early from Australia's poor ODI tour of England and face cloudy futures beyond it after both were confirmed to have suffered calf strains during the series-deciding loss to England in Durham. Watson bowled only one over before leaving the field at Chester-le-Street and Lee soon joined him in the treatment room after two deliveries of his second spell.

Following initial scans conducted on tour it has been decided to send the duo home in order to begin treatment of the injuries. Both are in doubt for Australia's Twenty20 and ODI series against Pakistan in August. Watson's calf problem is on his left leg, the opposite to that which suffered hamstring and calf problems that kept him out of the majority of the last Australian summer. Lee's injury is a bad sign for a fast bowler who at 35 is already close to the conclusion of his international career.

"They were both disappointed, obviously Shane has had a few injuries in his time, but he's a hard worker, and works extremely hard on getting his body right, so he was fairly disappointed," Mitchell Johnson said. "But I think he can still do an allrounder's job, and that's how he wants to play his cricket as well. I definitely think we need him in that role as well, for his experience.

"Brett's had a pretty good career through injuries, he hasn't had too many majors ones, but it's jsut a little one at the moment, and I'm sure he'll be back pretty quickly."

The issue of Watson's ability to cope with the all-round demands of his preferred role in the national team is a recurring one, and the coach Mickey Arthur has said he is unsure of the best way forward. Arthur pointed out that in addition to the injuries Watson has suffered, his batting and bowling best seldom coincide.

"We want Watto as an all-rounder. He gives us immense value and great balance. We need to have Watto as an all-rounder in that team for the balance of the side," Arthur said following the Durham defeat. "It seems that he bats well for a period of time then he doesn't bowl well. And if he bowls well [he doesn't bat well]. We have got to get it right as Watto is a great cricketer. He will get it right, we just need to sit down and plot a way forward and think how we are going to use him better."

The injuries to Watson and Lee have meant an early call-up to Australian duty for the left-armer Mitchell Starc, who joined the squad in Manchester late on Sunday night after taking 2 for 27 to help Yorkshire qualify for the domestic Friends Life t20 quarter-finals. Starc was chosen for the Australia A tour that follows the final ODI at Old Trafford, and has won the approval of the national selector John Inverarity.

"Starc, his figures over here, I've been watching closely and he's been taking wickets consistently, and a very high proportion of his wickets are bowled and lbw," Inverarity said. "I think he looks in really good shape. He's 22 and his body is slightly gangly - I reckon it'll be a year or 18 months; he's going to keep improving, and he's a good bowler."