Shane Watson‘s return to Test cricket during the upcoming four-Test series against India will be tough as he faces competition from a much bigger pool of players by deciding to play as a batsman rather than an all-rounders, Australian skipper Michael Clarke said.
Watson, who was named the T20 International Player of the Year at the Allan Border Medal ceremony, is set to make a comeback to international cricket as a batsman in the third ODI against West Indies at Canberra on Wednesday after spending a month on the sidelines due to a calf injury.
One of the best all-rounders, Watson has decided not to bowl for the time being as it has typically been his bowling that has caused many injury problems for the 31-year-old over the years.
Clarke believes Watson is as good as any player in the world and said his team will help him get back to his best.
“I don’t think anybody walks into the Australian cricket team. It’s about performance, and the strength of Shane is that he’s performed over a period of time, in all three forms of the game,” Clarke said.
“He’s vice-captain of the team and it will be great to have Watto back. As I’ve said to Watto, while he’s not bowling he goes into a much bigger pool of players … the pool of batsmen is much bigger than the pool of all-rounders in Australian cricket at the moment.
“But Shane knows if he’s at his best, he’s as good as any player in the world, let alone in the Australian team. Our goal as a team is to help Watto get back to his best,” he added.
Watson has always been plagued by injuries and last summer was no different as he missed all of the 2011-12 home Tests with calf and hamstring problems and managed only three of the six played this season.
He has batted in many positions in the past two years, right as an opener in November 2011 on the tour of South Africa, to filling in the No.3 spot and then the No.4 slot which was vacated by Ricky Ponting in December.
On his comeback, Watson knows he can’t be a chooser but he still desires to return to the opening position in Test cricket at some point.
“At this point in time it is purely as a batsman and wherever I fit in,” Watson said of his role in the Test side.
“It’s been something that I’ve been thinking about for a long period of time, especially over the last 12 months, when things haven’t gone exactly to plan with my body.
“Hopefully I can just get some continuity with my batting over the next few months and then slowly build into getting some bowling under my belt.”
Watson said ideally he would love to contribute with the bat and the ball during the Ashes series but he knows it is still a long way to go.
“The perfect world for me would be making sure I’m able to bowl and contribute with the ball during the Ashes. I know that’s looking a long way forward, but even just physically to be able to give myself a chance to get to that is a dream for me at the moment.”
Since his debut in international cricket against South Africa at Centurion in 2002, Watson had to make his way back into the team many times after multiple injuries and he said it is one of the hardest thing to do.
“One of the hardest things about being injured is coming back and trying to find form as quick as you possibly can,” said Watson, who has played 38 Tests of a possible 89, in his career so far.
“Hopefully I can do that over the next couple of weeks leading into the Indian Test series. Then we’ll see how things evolve from there. But I’m certainly not getting in front of myself because I know how quickly it can change.
“The times when I’ve had the most success playing for Australia has been when I’ve been able to play games back to back. That’s been one of the most frustrating things about the past 12 months, it seems like a lot of the times when I’ve been playing I’ve been coming back from injury, which makes it difficult to be able to build some momentum and find some form and hold some form, which I’ve been able to do in the past.”