Australia have been dealt another significant injury blow ahead of the VB Tour of the UAE against Pakistan with allrounder Shane Watson ruled out of the entire tour after suffering another injury setback, with Mitchell Marsh now more likely to be awarded a Baggy Green Test cap as a result.
Watson missed the recent one-day international tri-series against Zimbabwe and South Africa after spraining his ankle at training ahead of the tour, but it’s his troublesome calf that will keep him out of the month-long tour of the Emirates. He missed the first two Tests of the South Africa series earlier this year due to an injury to the same calf muscle.
Tasmania quick Ben Hilfenhaus has been brought into the Test squad, while Kane Richardson will replace Watson in the limited-overs squads.
“Whilst Shane has made steady progress with his rehabilitation after he stepped on a ball and sprained his ankle, he has suffered a setback, experiencing some right calf soreness,” Cricket Australia Physiotherapist, Alex Kountouris, said.
“As Shane has previously had similar calf injuries, we plan to hold back his return to running and bowling for approximately 7-10 days.
“The unfortunate timing of this calf injury will mean that his preparation for the UAE Tour will be considerably affected and he would have been unavailable for the T20 and ODI part of the tour and significantly limit his bowling preparation for the Test matches.”
After defeating England 5-0 with the same XI in each Test last summer, Watson’s omission represents the latest setback for an Australia side aiming to regain the No.1 mantles in Test and ODI cricket.
Ryan Harris (knee), James Pattinson (back), Watson (calf) are three players from the side that played in the epic Cape Town Test in March who will be out of action next month, while captain Michael Clarke (hamstring) and pace spearhead Mitchell Johnson (rib) are both recovering from ailments of their own.
“I’m naturally disappointed because I was desperate to play against Pakistan which is our opportunity to get back to number one in Test and one-day international cricket,” Watson said.
“Despite my strong desire to be on the tour, I understand why the selectors have made this decision.
“Given I can’t be with the boys, my goal now is to work as hard as I can to get back to 100 per cent fitness so that I can make myself available for selection ahead of our series against South Africa in November.
“I’ve been here before and know what I need to do to get back to full fitness. That means remaining positive and working hard. We have a huge summer of cricket at home and my priority now is to play a big part in that.”
Watson’s absence opens the door for Western Australian Marsh to take the reins as the nation’s No.1 allrounder.
Long regarded as an exciting prospect, the 22-year-old Marsh has put his talent out there for all to see in the past three months with a string of dominant performances at home and abroad in all three formats.
Hilfenhaus makes his return to the Test set-up after almost two years on the outer and 27 Test matches already under his belt.
The Tasmanian Tigers paceman took 21 wickets at an average of 34.47 last season in the Sheffield Shield and spent time training with Australia assistant coach Craig McDermott during the Australia A tour in Townsville last month.
“The selectors have opted for another pace option in Ben as we feel we have enough cover in the allrounder position,” National Selector Rod Marsh said.
“He is an experienced bowler who has worked very hard to get himself back to peak fitness and we know how well he can bowl in tough conditions.”
With the ICC Cricket World Cup less than five months away, West End Redbacks quick Richardson gets another opportunity to perform in the coloured clothes as Australia looks to lock in a death bowler before cricket’s showpiece event.
Richardson claimed three wickets at an average of 44.66 in the Zimbabwe tri-series and was initially overlooked for the UAE tour, with NSW allrounder Sean Abbott given the nod in the ODI line-up.
“Kane is a talented young player who had an excellent series for Australia A in July and didn’t disappoint in Zimbabwe earlier this month,” Marsh said.
“He now has another opportunity to stake his claim at international level.”