Shane Watson has conceded he does not deserve to play in Australia’s Test team as a specialist batsman, but is bullish about his new role, which demands he be able to bowl in every match.
A five-over spell in training in Cape Town on Thursday at match-like intensity is the last hurdle Watson needs to clear before beginning his new role – adopted by selectors since he missed the first two Tests in South Africa with a calf injury – in the series decider against the Proteas starting on Saturday.
The intensification of Watson’s bowling training over the past week meant that when the squad last trained, in an informal session on Monday, he bowled at about 95 per cent intensity. He emerged unscathed and hopeful of facing the Proteas at Newlands.
”I have to bowl one more time to be declared fit to play and then it is up to the selectors,” Watson said. ”I’ve been running and doing [bowling] run-throughs and jogging and I pulled up well. I shouldn’t have any problems about getting through another session.”
The 32-year-old all-rounder insisted he had not felt slighted by the new selection policy, disclosed by captain Michael Clarke last week, that involved him only being considered for Test selection if he could provide the team with an additional seam-bowling option.
”I know where I am at and where I have been with my batting. In Test cricket especially I haven’t been as consistent as I would have liked. I don’t warrant a spot as a batsman at this point in time, but I do know what I can provide as an all-rounder,” he said.
Watson said the new policy was actually beneficial for him, because it meant injuries that prevented him bowling, but were not severe enough to stop him batting, could be given time to heal, as had occurred with him missing virtually the first three weeks of this tour.
”It also gave me a chance to get my body right. I’ve had a few niggles through the summer that I was able to play with, so this actually gave me a bit of time to get over those,” he said.
”In the end it’s actually worked out better, because when I come back this time, those niggles that I had have gone away.”
Had Watson not been injured for the start of the Test series, the unofficial plan was for him to bat at No.6, theoretically in the hope it would allow him to bowl more overs and bowl later in innings, rather than have to be preserved because he would soon be batting.
”Six wouldn’t worry me at all. I’ve batted there in Durham [in last year’s winter Ashes series] and on an Indian tour a few years ago. It’s certainly different to opening or batting at No.3. Normally the bowlers are a bit more tired and the ball’s a little bit older,” he said.
The last time Watson played in Cape Town, in late 2011, he excelled with 5-17 as South Africa was routed for 96, before Australia was routed even more severely in its second innings for 47.
”The wicket has normally got a bit of seam and swing in it for the first couple of days,” he said of Newlands.
”I know if I’m fit and I get picked that my bowling could be pretty suited to it.”
Watson said he would use the Test team’s extended winter break to get his body more prepared for the increasing bowling demands he will face in Tests.
”Once I have a break after the IPL, I’ll be talking with Alex [Kountouris, team physio] and also the doc [Peter Brukner, team doctor] about getting a good pre-season in for the first time in quite a while to try and make my body more hardened to be able to bowl the overs I want to bowl,” he said.