AUSTRALIA'S captain Michael Clarke has warned Shane Watson that the injury-plagued all-rounder's decision to return to international cricket as a batsman exposes him to a much bigger fight for a Test berth.
Clarke said that at his best Watson – who will make his latest injury comeback as an opener in the one-day international against the West Indies in Canberra on Wednesday – was as good as any player in the world.
But he also warned his vice-captain he would need to perform to earn back his Test spot for the upcoming tour of India.
"As I've said to Watto, while he's not bowling he goes into a much bigger pool of players," Clarke said, while sitting next to Watson at a press conference in Melbourne on Monday night, after winning the Allan Border Medal for a fourth time.
"In regards to the pool of batsmen, it's a much bigger pool than the pool of all-rounders in Australian cricket at the moment. But Shane knows if he's at his best, he's as good as any player in the world let alone the Australian team.
"Our goal as a team is to help Watto get back to his best.
"Hopefully, that's batting and bowling in time, but right now that's batting."
Watson, who won the Twenty20 player-of-the-year award, said that was only a minor consolation after a year in which soft-tissue injuries, most recently calf problems, have frequently sidelined him.
"One of the hardest things about being injured is coming back and trying to find some form as quickly as you possibly can," Watson said.
"Hopefully, I can do that over the next couple of weeks leading into the Indian Test series."
He won't bowl at all in India, but hopes to resume all-rounder status for the Ashes series against England starting in July.
"Hopefully, I can just get some continuity with my batting over the next few months and then slowly build into getting some bowling under my belt," he said.
"The perfect world for me would be making sure I'm able to bowl and contribute with the ball during the Ashes. I know that's looking a long way forward, but just even physically to give myself a chance to be able to get to that is a dream for me at the moment."