Australia consider playing two allrounders
Australia will consider re-vamping their side to play allrounders Shane Watson and Andrew Symonds together for the first time in next week’s first Test against New Zealand at the Gabba.
Symonds was today welcomed back to the fray by being included in a 13-man squad, after being sent home from Darwin in August for fishing when he should have been in a team meeting, which also cost him a place on the Indian tour.
Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland and captain Ricky Ponting were delighted by the recall and said Symonds had proved he was ready to commit to the team after undergoing counselling and soul searching.
His inclusion would normally be ominous for Watson, as Symonds has been Australia’s preferred allrounder ever since Watson suffered a shoulder injury in the Brisbane Test three years ago.
But Watson’s breakthrough series in India means Symonds has to earn back his spot, although chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch said it was possible both could play in Brisbane.
The selectors also included paceman Peter Siddle in the squad as cover for Brett Lee, who suffered from a virus in the final Test in Nagpur and has undergone blood tests.
Vice-captain Michael Clarke was also ill towards the end of the 2-0 series loss to India and has pulled out of tomorrow night’s Twenty20 exhibition match at the Gabba.
The selectors are confident both will recover for Thursday, while paceman Stuart Clark has been passed fit after sustaining an elbow injury in India.
Cameron White was dropped from the squad despite playing all four Tests in India, where he batted well at No.8 but had limited impact with his legspin.
Offspinner Jason Krejza was named after his 12-wicket haul in Nagpur, but might be a bit-part player at the Gabba, which should suit the fast bowlers.
Despite his brilliant debut, Krejza could even be squeezed out altogether if Australia play three quicks, plus Watson’s pace and Symonds’ spin, but Hilditch was keen for a specialist spinner.
Playing both allrounders plus Krejza would require either dropping a batsman or playing only two fast bowlers, with Watson the third quick.
Symonds at least gives Australia cover if Clarke does not pass fit.
Centre of Excellence coach Greg Chappell today called on selectors to break convention and play both.
“I don’t have any problem with that,” Chappell said.
“There will be times perhaps that it doesn’t work out that way, but it’s great – they both have the added incentive that they want to make sure they put themselves forward.”
Watson and Symonds rose in estimations after Australia yearned for a star allrounder after Andrew Flintoff led England to Ashes victory in 2005.
Watson played the first two home Tests of the 2005-06 summer before he was injured, which allowed Symonds to cement himself in the side.
Watson was to play in the first Ashes Test in 2006-07, but a hamstring injury meant he was replaced by Clarke, as Australia for a while played six specialist batsmen until Symonds replaced the retired Damien Martyn.
Symonds’ fishing episode gave Watson his chance after years of injury setbacks and he played every Test in India, making 170 runs at 24.28 at No.6 and claiming 10 wickets at 32.10.
Ponting said Watson’s encouraging tour meant he would start this series as first-choice allrounder.
“We saw how good a batsman he can be but more important, I think at different times he probably stood up to be our best bowler over there in those conditions,” he said.
“Obviously we’re confronted with different conditions here in Australia but he’s certainly done himself no harm, Shane Watson.”
But there is a groundswell of support for Symonds to be recalled, despite ordinary domestic form.
Hilditch said his return was exciting for Australian cricket while Ponting hailed him as a great player and team man.
Chappell was confident Symonds would play.
“I can’t imagine they would have picked him in the squad to make him 12th man,” he said.
“Under most circumstances you would want him in the team and I have no doubt that he’ll slot back into the team well.”
Asked if Symonds was picked on reputation, Hilditch said the selectors did not have to take the 33-year-old’s domestic form into account given his recent performances for his country.
“Selecting a great player, we don’t think he had anything to prove,” Hilditch said.
“I thought he was exceptional in Australia last year under some difficult circumstances (and) I thought he played really well in the West Indies Test series (in June-July).”
© AAP 2013
Australian squad: Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Stuart Clark, Brad Haddin, Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Simon Katich, Jason Krejza, Brett Lee, Peter Siddle, Andrew Symonds, Shane Watson.
Watch Glenn Mitchell's wrap of the second Test, where Australia were victorious early on the final day, winning by 218 runs and taking a 2-0 series lead into the third Test in Perth.