Shane Watson should return for Wednesday's match at Manuka Oval. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo
Shane Watson will make his comeback to international cricket in Canberra this week as Cricket Australia aims to juggle competing interests at home and overseas.
National selectors convened on Saturday and again on Sunday after the second match in Perth to finalise plans for the rest of the ODI series, and decide who in the 17-man touring party to India will leave early.
Watson is expected to be named on Monday in Australia’s squad for the final three matches against the West Indies, starting at Manuka Oval on Wednesday, and will not be in the group to leave this week for the subcontinent.
Brad Haddin is also tipped to earn a recall for the remaining ODIs to deputise for Matthew Wade, who will be given every chance to acclimatise to the spin-friendly conditions in India.
That would give Queanbeyan-product Haddin a chance to renew his feisty on-field battle with West Indies star Chris Gayle on his former home ground.
Comeback kid Shaun Marsh and Adam Voges, who were both part of Australia’s Twenty20 campaign against Sri Lanka, are also likely to to be considered after crunching match-winning centuries at the weekend for Western Australia.
As many as 11 players, including incumbent ODI squad members Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja, could be sent over early to India.
Also likely are Test specialists Ed Cowan, Nathan Lyon, Peter Siddle, Jackson Bird and James Pattinson, while Steve Smith and Moises Henriques appear set to join them.
Australia begins its tour with a two-day game in Chennai against an Indian President’s XI, which starts on Tuesday week, two days after the end of the five-game series against the West Indies.
CA is striving to ensure Australia’s Test preparations are not jeopardised but also wants to avoid over-diluting its one-day side and risk defeat by the Windies, against whom they halved a five-game series in the Caribbean last year.
CA’s marketing interests will also need to be protected as it will not want to be seen to be devaluing the final four matches of their international summer, including the first ever ODI in Canberra.
The return of Watson’s star power combined with the decision to leave skipper Michael Clarke in charge of the ODI side will not hurt box office appeal.
Both have toured India several times, reducing the need for them to spend time adjusting to the wickets.
Others likely to be present for the remainder of the home summer are Xavier Doherty, Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson, while David Warner’s availability for the ODIs hinges on his thumb fracture.
Watson has not played for Australia since breaking down with a calf injury during the Boxing Day Test.
The vice-captain, who has since decided to shelve his bowling indefinitely to focus on batting, has played at grade and domestic one-day level in his latest comeback from injury. His return will stiffen an Australian top order that has struggled for consistency in ODIs.
The matches against the Windies will be the 31-year-old’s first as a specialist batsman but also clash with NSW’s Sheffield Shield game against Tasmania starting on Wednesday.
One-day international: Australia v West Indies at Manuka Oval, 2.20pm. TV time: Live on WIN.