Shane Watson out of First Test
Australian selectors have a couple of decisions to make ahead of the First Test against South Africa, with Shane Watson out with a calf injury. Nine News.PT0M36S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-329eq 620 349 February 9, 2014
Shaun Marsh has dramatically re-entered contention to restart his Test career in South Africa after regaining his place on Australia's touring squad because of Shane Watson's injury.
The 30-year-old was part of Australia's original 15-man squad for the three-Test series but was withdrawn on January 30 - Phillip Hughes replaced him - because selectors doubted he would recover from a calf strain he suffered earlier in that week.
Selectors' rationale for withdrawing Marsh at that stage is that he would not be fit for Australia's only tour match, starting last Wednesday. Once that match was washed out Australia did not play until an intra-squad match on Friday in Johannesburg. At virtually the same time that match began Marsh was back in Perth making his comeback in the final of the Big Bash League, scoring an unbeaten 63 in the Scorchers' victory.
Shane Watson hurt his right calf about a week ago in Potchefstoom but has since been nursed by the team. Photo: Edwina Pickles
The trigger for Marsh's recall to the squad was the inability of Watson to pass a fitness Test on Saturday. Once he was ruled out, for at least the first Test but quite possibly more, selectors contacted Marsh and instructed him to fly to South Africa as soon as possible.
"Shaun has now recovered from injury and the National Selection Panel has selected him to join the squad in South Africa in light of Shane Watson not being available for the first Test with a calf injury," chief selector John Inverarity said in a statement.
Marsh's arrival means Australia will have four candidates to fill two batting vacancies for Wednesday's first Test at Centurion: original squad members Marsh and Alex Doolan and replacement players Hughes and Moises Henriques (who replaced fellow all-rounder James Faulkner, who is recovering from knee surgery).
Marsh has played only once against South Africa, making a stoic 44 at Cape Town in late 2011 when he was severely hampered by a back injury.
Watson hurt his right calf about a week ago in Potchefstroom but has since been nursed by the team. The first confirmation of his injury came on Friday when the team said he would not bowl in its intra-squad match on Friday, but was on track to bowl before the series began.
Watson made 34 playing as a specialist batsman on Friday, a score only exceeded by Hughes, but nevertheless had to do more to prove his capability of facing the Proteas on Wednesday. He was made to run at a higher intensity as the team trained at the Wanderers Stadium. Once he was unable to do so he was ruled out, with team doctor Peter Brukner and physiotherapist Alex Koutnrouris judging he would be not be fit to play even as a batsman.
"He batted yesterday and was fine, and we've been building up his intensity. Today we were trying to get him up to match level ... and he struggled with that today. He could feel it," Kountouris said on Saturday.
"We just don't think he he's going to be right for the first Test.
"We need a few more days now to let him recover and start up again."
Kountouris said a scan of Watson's right calf had confirmed the injury, although he insisted it was not a strain.
"It's not a tear, but he has got an injury there. We've had a scan and it showed he's got a low-grade muscle injury that we've been managing," he said. "We were hopeful he'd recover, but it needed to be a little bit more advanced than what it is at the moment."
Kountouris did, however, concede Watson's unfavourable record of suffering soft-tissue injuries could make for a longer-than-hoped recovery period.
"He's had these before . . . they can take a short period of time or they can taken an extended period of time. In this case it's looking like it's going to be a little bit longer," he said.
Watson is unlikely to run for at least the next three days, to give his calf time to recover. He said the hierarchy were hoping to get him fir for the second Test which begins on February 20, but conceded even an appearance there would likely be as a batsman only because of the "lag" involved in getting him right to bowl as well as bat.
"You've just to got to go gradually. if he feels it you've got to stop again. Trying to manage it is a balancing act," Kountouris said.
"Hopefully he gets to the point where he's able to train unrestricted by two or three days' out [from the Test], which is what we were planning to do here, and then being able to reproduce that two or three times and be confident he can get through a game. "There is usually a bit of a lag [until he can bowl again], because running [in the field] and running between the wickets is generally a bit easier than bowling. It'll be a four or five-day lag.
"Our first priority is to try and get him back as a batter, give the selectors that option."
If there is a setback in Watson's recuperation he could very easily miss the entire series, as there is only a three-day gap after the first Test and a four-day gap after the second.
Kountouris said Watson, 32, was "very disappointed" by this latest injury setback.
"We were very happy we got everyone through the past Ashes, and 'Watto' himself hasn't missed a game [due to injury] for a very long time," he said. "It's disappointing, but it's part of the game."