Shane Watson will only return to the Test side if he’s fit enough to bowl, according to Michael Clarke.
Watson is approaching a level of fitness where he could play as a specialist batsman, but Clarke suggested that would not happen on the three-Test tour of South Africa.
“The information I have from the selectors is if he’s not bowling, he’ll be unavailable for selection,” Clarke said of Watson, who is recovering from a calf injury.
As such it is unlikely national selectors will have to make a tough decision on how to fit Watson in their XI until at least March 1, when the third Test starts in Cape Town.
When news broke of Watson’s calf issue 10 days ago, team physio Alex Kountouris suggested the plan was for the allrounder to “be able to train unrestricted by two or three days’ out (from a Test)”.
Watson batted in the nets on Tuesday, but instead of taking part in the main fielding session he completed some short shuttle runs at limited pace under the watchful eye of team doctor Peter Brukner.
There is no obvious candidate to be dropped for Watson, but Clarke was keen to have the allrounder back in the side as soon as possible.
“It’s a good problem to have, Any time you’ve got a class all-rounder available you’ve got to try and find some room,” he said.
“He’s a huge player for us, so the sooner we can have Watto back I think the better for this team.”
In the absence of Watson, Clarke is likely to again throw the ball to part-time medium pacer David Warner.
Warner, who is now charging in off his long run-up instead of sending down leg-breaks at training, finished with figures of 0-3 from two overs in the first Test.
“It’s been good fun working with him, he’s actually a pretty good student,” paceman Peter Siddle said of the dynamic Australia opener.
“He’s been in the nets working on his little off-cutters and leg-cutters.
“They’re coming out alright.”