Watson will have to ensure he stays fit all summer long
Australia all-rounder Shane Watson has been ordered by Cricket Australia to return home from the Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) in order to rest up and start preparing for the upcoming Test series against South Africa that starts in Brisbane on November 9.
However, Test captain Michael Clarke has warned Watson that he still has the possibility of being dropped if he fails to perform in the first Test.
As of right now, Watson will be lucky to even play one first-class match before the start of the Test series, but many cricket pundits believe his recent surge of form during the International Cricket Council (ICC) World Twenty20 will spur him on to extend that run in the longer format as well.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said: “We are reviewing his load and circumstance very closely … I think it’s reasonably well known that it’s likely he won’t see the tournament out, we’re concerned about Shane. His injury record is unfortunate and what that tells us is that we need to monitor him and manage him very carefully and we are. I don’t know the specifics but the priority will be for him to get himself right as possible. That’s one, to give him a little bit of a break, then give him a little bit of therapy and whatever else he needs. But then also to really focus on getting him right to play Test cricket which he hasn’t played for a long time – which most of our players haven’t played for a long time … give him the opportunity to play a Shield game and at least play with the red ball.”
In November last year, Watson suffered a hamstring injury against South Africa, and his recovery period took him so long, despite complaining of a few calf problems, that he missed the entire Test series against New Zealand and India.
Even though Watson performed extremely well throughout the World Twenty, captain Clarke stated that it would not save him in the longer format if he failed to perform this time.
Clarke added that he was keen to see Watson stay fit all summer since the team have a really hectic schedule ahead of them.
“Watto didn’t play one Test last summer, so we don’t want that to happen again, we want to manage him as well as we can, but in saying that Watto’s no different to any other player, he’s got to be performing to be picked in that team, we beat India 4-0 without him last summer, he is a big player for Australian cricket, but he needs to be performing,” Clarke said.
Watson was supposed to represent the Sydney Sixers throughout the CLT20, and after being rushed home, the Sixers’ general manager Stuart Clark expressed his frustration at Cricket Australia’s rather last minute decision.
Speaking exclusively to The Sydney Morning Herald, Clark said: “We’re disappointed by it all. They want Shane to prepare for Test cricket. I understand those reasons – I just wish someone had told me this 15 months ago, Cricket Australia made it very evident when we said what are the value in Australian players [to us]? They said they can play cricket in the Champions League. That was obviously not conveyed to the high-performance team who don’t give two hoots about the Champions League.”
Australia have had bad experiences with players playing in the CLT20 in the past, especially in 2010 when Michael Hussey and Doug Bollinger arrived in India only three days before the start of the Test series since they were representing the Chennai Super Kings throughout the Twenty20 tournament.
In hopes to avoid anything of that sort happening again, Cricket Australia have sent bowling coach Ali de Winter to monitor bowlers like Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Ben Hilfenhaus, while also making sure they get adequate practice with the red ball before the start of the Test series.
“We’ve got Ali de Winter over there, I know they’re bowling with a red ball at training, bowling longer spells, that’s the thing where it is so difficult for a bowler compared to a batter. Bowling four overs in a day compared to coming back and playing a Test match where you’ve got to bowl 30 overs in a day – no wonder guys get injured. So we’re trying to manage it as well as we possibly can. Whether we like it or not, that’s the way the game’s gone, Champions League is here to stay, IPL is here to stay, it’s just about trying to manage individual players. The priority is, first Test of the summer, trying to get your best XI players onto the field,” Clarke said.