Stuart MacGill has been given a month to prove he is fit enough to cope with the heavy demands of Australia's upcoming Test schedule. The back-to-back games that opened the summer severely affected MacGill's recovering knee and the way he bowled in the second innings in Hobart cast doubt over his international future.
Tim Nielsen, the coach, said MacGill had some serious work to do if he was going to be Shane Warne's full-time replacement. "That goes without saying," he said. "We've got three blocks of back-to-back Tests this summer and if you - not just MacGill but all the players - can't physically cope there's no way the players will give themselves the chance to execute their skills the way they want. That's as simple as it gets."
MacGill, who had knee surgery last month, now heads back to New South Wales and Nielsen expects him to play in the two Pura Cup games before the first Test of the India series, which starts in Melbourne on Boxing Day. "You don't need to be the fittest guy to be competing on the international stage, but you certainly can't do the things you need to do for five days in a row unless you've got some physical soundness about you," Nielsen said.
"Legspin bowling, while it doesn't look like the strain of fast bowling, puts a lot of strain on knees and shoulders. When one part of the action isn't working well it puts more stress on other parts. We've got to get him as fit as we can."
MacGill's action wasn't working well in Hobart and he delivered some wild full-tosses in the second innings, when he gave away more than five runs an over and was treated harshly by Kumar Sangakkara. It was an eventful game for MacGill as he battled numbness in his hand before the knee problem bothered him over the final two days.
"He bowled very well in Brisbane, but not quite as well here," Nielsen said. "He's found it difficult coming back from knee surgery six weeks ago and he had trouble backing up. We probably didn't make it any easier for him by enforcing the follow-on in Brisbane."
Nielsen is an upbeat character and he was so edgy before the first game at the Gabba that his wife had to talk to him about calming down. "She said you can't be like this before every Test," he said. "I've been a bit more relaxed this week with things being a bit more normal."
He has tried not to change much in the successful Test set-up, but he brought the players together to discuss what they wanted to achieve in Australia's new era. "We've done a bit of work on how we want to be perceived as a group," he said. "We've refreshed our ideas a bit there and I'm pleased to see the players grab hold of that.
"It's not so much behaviour, we understand where the goal posts are. There's been a lot of talk about the new era so we talked about how this team is going to go about it and make sure that people see that. That doesn't happen by fluke. We renewed those ideas and dragged some thoughts from the senior guys about the next nine Tests or so."
Australia's win in Hobart was their 14th in a row, but the attempt on the record of 16 is not something that will consume Nielsen. "I wasn't involved in the past," he said. "At the moment it's 2-0, that's all I'm concerned about. Now we need to start again for India."
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo