Shane Watson. Photo: Getty Images
Canberra has emerged as an unlikely comeback destination for Shane Watson if the Australian vice-captain is left out of the national team for the Adelaide Test starting on Thursday.
NSW play Queensland in the Sheffield Shield at Manuka Oval, starting next Tuesday, but Cricket NSW is awaiting the Australian team selection on Thursday morning before talking with Cricket Australia over Watson's availability.
While the all-rounder is expected to be ruled out of the Adelaide Test as he recovers from a calf injury and cannot bowl, the timing of his return is complicated by whether he is considered a chance for selection in the Perth Test, starting on November 30.
The Australian team flies to Perth next Tuesday and the first day of the Perth Test clashes with the final day of the Sheffield Shield game in Canberra.
Cricket Australia has no blanket policy of making players available for state selection if left out of the national team, with each player's release assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Ultimately, the decision will come down to the Cricket Australia coaches and selectors, with Cricket NSW and CA unwilling to speculate on Watson before the second Test.
Australian selectors would need to determine if Watson, who is only available as a batsman, would benefit more from time in the middle in Canberra, or focusing on rehabilitation with the national squad.
Watson will be put through a final, punishing fitness test in Adelaide on Wednesday with a warning from his former captain, Ricky Ponting, ringing in his ears.
Ponting, who presided over Watson's two golden years in Test cricket, said he would place an unacceptable burden on his teammates if he returned at anything less than full fitness.
''No one can go into a Test match 70 per cent fit. I don't care if you're a batsman and a slips fielder, if you can't bat at 100 per cent then you're putting pressure on other blokes as well,'' Ponting said.
''Someone's got to run with him between the wickets, and I'm sure that'll be at the back of his mind.
''It will certainly be at the back of the minds of the physios and doctors looking after him for the next couple of days.''
Watson came through a solid rehab session at Adelaide Oval on Tuesday but he will be pushed harder before a decision is made about his availability on Wednesday, Test eve.
Watson's two Allan Border medals were won as an opening batsman while Ponting was captain.
Michael Clarke asked more of Watson with the ball, but his batting has tapered off. He averages 25 since the change of leadership, and Clarke in recent weeks has refused to guarantee his selection unless he is bowling.
So even if Watson is passed fit by the medical staff, Clarke and his fellow selectors might prefer to see more of Rob Quiney at No. 3.
The medical staff are said to be pleased with Watson's progress. Satisfying Clarke and his fellow selectors, not to mention his teammates, that he is worth the risk as a specialist batsman will be the next hurdle.
''It's not for me to decide whether he should play or not,'' Ponting said. ''I have watched him train closely the last couple of days, he's getting through his batting fine, he's been a bit restricted with what he can do in the field. He's done his catching work and he'll be in slips if he plays anyway.
''Obviously the selectors and our coaches are going to give him as long as possible to prove his fitness, but so far he seems confident in himself and with what's required of his batting at training.
''He's just got to tick all the boxes and do the things he can do physically and then see what the selectors and captain and coach do.''
Second Test: Australia v South Africa, at Adelaide Oval. Play Starts at 11am.
TV: Live on WIN.