All eyes on Shane Watson

What should’ve been the happiest week of Shane Watson’s life has been rather bitter-sweet.

Last week, Watson’s wife Lee delivered the couple’s first child, Will, and the man from Ipswich, Queensland, was at hand to witness the birth — a proud moment for any parent.

However, in professional terms, Australia vice- captain Watson faced the ignominy of being one of the four players to be suspended for the Mohali Test before flying out to Down Under, after failing to submit a three- point presentation demanded by coach Mickey Arthur.

Now that he is back in India and regular skipper Michael Clarke is struggling to recover from a back problem in time for the Delhi Test that begins on Friday, Watson is cutting a bit of a lonely figure.

As the team began its practice session at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Wednesday, virtually the entire team — minus Clarke — was in the net area with Arthur and selector on tour Rodney Marsh. Watson, however, was in the adjacent area stretching and warming up with the team trainer, and when he did come to the nets to prepare for his batting stint, only David Warner walked up to have a conversation with him.

Watson first batted against the pacers in the centre net, before switching to the spin of Xavier Doherty and Glenn Maxwell, and his session lasted about 35 minutes. Later, there was a short conversation with Arthur, and soon the 31- year- old went to the main ground with coach and another member of the support staff to practice slip catching.

Clarke, however, did not practise with the team and could be seen having a session with the physio.

Opener Ed Cowan, when asked what he thought about the possibility of Watson leading the team in case Clarke doesn’t recover, said: “At the moment, Shane is not captain of the team. There are expectations that the vice-captain will step up if the captain is injured and Shane is a good player and a good leader.”

However, Cowan soon went all diplomatic when asked about the events of Mohali. “It proved that if you are in, you are in. And Shane has shown that he wants to be a part of it. The team is happy to have him back as he is one hell of a player,” he said.

The other players who had got suspended — pacers Mitchell Johnson and James Pattinson and batsman Usman Khawaja — seemed much better integrated into the team. Pattinson worked up some furious pace and looks ready to slot straight back into the side in place of the injured Mitchell Starc, while Johnson was steady and provides another option.

After having just 12 players to choose from for the third Test, which they lost by six wickets, the Australian squad's strength is now at 16, with first- choice wicket- keeper Matthew Wade also fit.

In case Clarke does play, Phillip Hughes, who made his first decent score of the series in Mohali (69), may yet make way for Watson, since the right- handed Steven Smith (92 in the first innings) appeared more at ease against the spinners than the left- hander.

The other headache will revolve around the inclusion of a spinner, as neither Nathan Lyon nor Doherty have done too well with the ball. If the pitch is a rank turner, all- rounder Moises Henriques is expected to make way for Glenn Maxwell.

Also Read:

On the wrong side of the coach
Aussies may get stuck in Kotla web
Raina replaces injured Dhawan
Dhawan played like Bradman: Cowan
Hussey, Ponting rule out Ashes return


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