Shane Watson feels the effects of his injury. Photo: Getty Images
SHANE Watson is the latest victim of Australia's compromised preparation for the major Test series against South Africa.
The Australian vice-captain is in doubt for the Gabba Test, starting on Friday, with soreness in the same calf he injured during the winter. He bowled one over in the Sheffield Shield game against Queensland on Saturday - his only first-class fixture since the West Indies Test series in April - before talking to his state and national captain, Michael Clarke, and leaving the field for scans.
He is not the only Test batsman under an injury cloud, with ex-captain Ricky Ponting receiving treatment in Hobart for a sore hamstring.
Illustration: Matt Golding
The Watson drama presents Cricket Australia with a nightmare scenario, having consented to sending its pivotal and injury-prone all-rounder to the Champions League, in which it has a substantial commercial investment, if only for a short time.
It also presents selectors with a last-minute headache. Should Watson fail to recover they will have to decide whether to replace him with a batsman or an all-rounder. Victorian Rob Quiney (85 runs) and Tasmanian Alex Doolan (161 not out) have both performed for Australia A against the Proteas' attack, George Bailey is regarded as a future Test batsman, and national selector John Inverarity has recently spoken of Andrew McDonald's return to Test contention.
Watson's injury comes after CA's team performance unit was left in the dark about Pat Cummins' back soreness during the final week of the Champions League, which turned into a season-ending bone stress injury.
CA chief executive James Sutherland admitted the preparation of several Test players had been compromised by the lucrative Twenty20 tournament, which earned the Sydney Sixers a $US2.5 million ($A2.42 million) prize but robbed the participants of valuable shield games before the Test series. CA's own research suggests that bowlers are more vulnerable to injury when they are moving from the short formats to four or five-day matches.
''I can assure you that Test cricket is worth a lot more to us than $2.5 million, so I don't think that commercial issue is relevant,'' Sutherland said on ABC's Grandstand.
''We took the effort and sacrificed [Watson] out of the Champions League recently in order to come back and prepare for Test cricket.
''I'm confident, in the circumstances, we have been meticulous in our preparation and planning and we are continuing to take that to a new level. In my experience as chief executive the planning around each individual player is at a higher and more sophisticated level than I have ever seen.
''There's probably a number of players you can highlight who haven't had an ideal preparation but it's not as if our opponents are in a different boat … we're doing the best we can in the circumstances.''
Cummins' season-ending injury has reignited debate about how Australian cricket looks after its young fast bowlers.
James Pattinson, who was left out of Australia's World Twenty20 squad to prepare for the longer formats, has no doubt short-form bowling places more strain on developing bodies.
''I tend to get a bit sorer when I do play one-day cricket because you're trying different balls, you're coming wide of the crease, you're trying to bowl slower balls. Your action changes when you do that,'' Pattinson said.
''The good thing about shield cricket is … you can just hit the right spot over and over again and your body can get into a rhythm.''
Pattinson, 22, described Cummins' latest setback as ''shocking news''.
''Everyone forgets how young he is. He's 19, he's playing Test cricket, he's bowling 150s. I was in the same position as him at 19, I had a couple of stress fractures,'' he said. ''Everyone wants it to be happening right now but … if we're just patient with him he'll come round and his body will be fine in a couple of years.''