Watson ponders batting role in Test team

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    Australian coach Mickey Arthur expects Michael Clarke to be fit to play in next week’s Sydney Test, but the question remains who would lead the side in Clarke’s absence.

    Vice-captain Shane Watson has already been ruled out of the January 3-7 third Test against Sri Lanka with a calf-muscle injury.

    Allrounder Watson’s latest setback means he’ll only play three of a possible six home Tests this summer, which also raises the question is it wise to have such a player as the captain-in-waiting?

    Watson’s suggestion that he may consider playing as a batsman only in the future could help solve his injury problems, although that issue won’t be clarified until after the third Test.

    If something happened to Clarke, as it could have done this week when the skipper scored a magnificent 106 in Melbourne but risked further injury by carrying a hamstring complaint into the match, Australia’s leadership stocks would be stretched.

    “I don’t think it will be an issue because I do think Michael will be playing in Sydney but there would need to be some extra discussion around that so there’s no firm decision,” Arthur said on Saturday.

    Cricket Australia’s high-performance chief Pat Howard mentioned the names of openers Ed Cowan and David Warner as possible captaincy options, but not that of veteran batsman Mike Hussey who led a depleted Australia one-day side to a 3-0 series defeat in New Zealand in 2007.

    “Michael Clarke’s hamstring is well-documented, so we have planning in place,” Howard said.

    “There’s no obvious answer at the moment. We have a young team in transition, but many people have captained.

    “David Warner captained the Sydney Thunder last year, you had Ed Cowan take Australia A away, David Warner captained the Chairman’s XI the year before.

    “I can’t really speculate (on a stand-in captain) unless I’ve got that green light from the board.”

    Howard says while any suggestion from Watson about playing as a batsman-only will be duly considered, selectors are keen on multi-skilled players.

    The inclusion of uncapped Victorian allrounder Glenn Maxwell in place of Watson in a 13-man squad for the Sydney Test could be the answer to Australia’s hopes of finding a batsman capable of contributing 10 or 15 overs per innings.

    “He brings quite a lot. He can bat for us in the top six or seven,” Arthur said.

    “We’re really keen to develop his offspinners.

    “The important thing there is that he replaces an allrounder so we need to be able to get some overs.”

    Injury-plagued Watson says he wants to get some continuity in his game, particularly with the bat.

    Asked about Watson’s future as an allrounder, Arthur said he wasn’t sure.

    “That’s something we’ll sit down and chat to Shane over the next couple of weeks about,” the coach said.

    Watson has admitted he felt a niggle in his calf following the first Test in Hobart earlier this month, where he bowled 47.4 overs. It was Watson’s highest-ever tally of overs.

    “There was some consideration of it (resting Watson),” Howard said.

    “He (Watson) had a niggle, but it did get worse during the Test match.”

    Australia had rested in-form paceman Mitchell Starc.

    Starc was very disappointed, however he’ll be recalled for the Sydney Test as Australia chase a 3-0 sweep.

    The 37-year-old Hussey announced on Saturday night the Sydney Test would be his last and this would be his last summer as an international player.

    Hussey says as a father of four he is no longer fully committed to long tours like the ones coming up next year in India and England.

    © AAP 2017