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Australia must chalk out strategy to prolong injury-prone Shane Watson’s career

Australia have found James Faulkner as an ideal replacement for Shane Watson (above) remains a crucial part of the squad with an eye on the 2015 World Cup © Getty Images
Australia may have found James Faulkner as an ideal replacement for Shane Watson (above) but Watson remains a crucial part of the squad with an eye on the 2015 World Cup © Getty Images

Shane Watson has been given an extended rest of three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) against England. While the star all-rounder would be looking forward to a much-needed break after a tough Ashes 2013-14 series, it becomes imperative for Australia to have a strategy in place for the injury-prone all-rounder. Devarchit Varma has more…

On the first day of the Boxing Day Test match at Melbourne, Shane Watson gave Australia an injury scare when he walked off the field having suffered soreness in groin. The all-rounder did play a critical part in the rest of the game and continued to feature in all the remaining Tests. But, his vulnerability to injuries and the past record of having missed many games for Australia must be paid heed to and the team management must plan a strategy to keep Watson on the field and safe from injuries.

It seems to be a wise decision made by the Australian camp to rest Watson for the three ODIs and bring him in for the final on January 26 at the Adelaide Oval, in order to give him some match practice ahead of the tough tour against South Africa next month. Australia must mastermind the optimum use of Watson, as the three-match T20 series that follows the ODIs again would add the workload on the all-rounder. Watson’s presence is a boon for Australia in many ways. He can open the innings when needed and can also play the role of a solid middle-order batsman in the lower order puts Watson much above any of his competitors for the post in the Australian line-up.

Watson will continue to remain a key player for Australia in the years to come. The 32-year-old fits in well in the rejuvenated Australian camp and is enjoying a successful run under the new coach, Darren Lehmann and captaincy of Michael Clarke. The incidents of past one year wherein he stood down as the vice-captain after being suspended for a Test match on India tour seems to be a thing of distant past and the current dressing room atmosphere allows him to express himself completely and not get bogged down by the pressure of results.

Australia must not only think about how to utilise the all-rounder in the best possible manner, but also how to prolong his international career. Fitness is the only issue that has provided roadblocks in Watson’s career and the new team of Lehmann and Clarke faces the challenge of making the optimum use of Watson. The work that was done behind the scenes by team physio Alex Kountouris and team doctor Peter Brukner was commendable and they would aim to continue in the similar passion.

Watson is likely to take the captaincy role in the Indian Premier League (IPL) side Rajasthan Royals, and the amount of cricket that he will be playing over the course of the next two months is something that the Australian camp must take into account.

The year 2014 is a crucial one for Australia, as the Ashes 2013-14 win has put them back on the path to progress and they would not like to waste the opportunity to get back to winning ways. Australia will be facing South Africa, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and India in bilateral series and with the ICC World Cup 2015 being just a year away, the availability of all key members will be a must.

In Watson’s absence, Australia may have recalled Daniel Christian for the ODIs against England, who has been impressive in the domestic circuit, but in James Faulkner they have a ready replacement. Faulkner’s rise in the international arena and his exploits in the IPL makes him an ideal replacement for Watson.

(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)

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