Monday, September 8, 2008

Watson hopes for Symonds Test role

Shane Watson's skills make him the most convenient replacement if Andrew Symonds is ruled out.

The expected withdrawal of Andrew Symonds for next month's tour of India has the allrounder Shane Watson thinking about what would be his greatest challenge. Symonds, who was sent home from the one-day series against Bangladesh for going fishing, is waiting to start formal counselling sessions as part of his Cricket Australia rehabilitation and it is highly unlikely he will be picked in the Test squad towards the end of this week.

Watson has won support from James Sutherland, Cricket Australia's chief executive, who admitted Symonds could be lost to the game. "I don't think that's impossible," Sutherland said on ABC radio when asked if Symonds might never play for Australia again.

"I think the message the Australian players have sent is that we want Andrew Symonds in our team, but we want Andrew Symonds absolutely committed and wanting to be there. They're really asking him that question. If he can't answer that question, it may well be that he's lost to the team."

Sutherland said being without Symonds would be a "great loss", but there were other young talents who could fill his place. "People like Shane Watson may well get the opportunity they've yearned for for so long in his absence," he said.

Watson is the most convenient contender for the No. 6 spot and his all-round skills would give Australia options, including playing another spinner. However, Simon Katich and David Hussey, the batsmen who are part-time bowlers, may also come into contention, especially if fitness concerns remain over Matthew Hayden (heel) and Ricky Ponting (wrist).

"There is absolutely no doubt that, if I get the call-up, this would be the biggest challenge I could face as a cricketer," Watson told the Sydney Morning Herald. "We've only won once there in 30-odd years as it is, and there are obviously other considerations as well this time around. I would love to go, but I am not going to spend too much time worrying about selection, like I used to. If it happens, it happens."

Watson said the team was "wishing the best" for Symonds, "but if there is an opportunity there, hopefully I can take it with both hands". "The leadership group have made a difficult decision [to send Symonds home from Darwin], but the message they were trying to convey was that they needed everyone at 100% to set a good example to the young guys."

After missing the first game in Darwin with a leg problem, Watson picked up 29 and 27 as an opener as well as 2 for 8 in the final encounter. The last of his three Tests came against West Indies in 2005-06, when he partially dislocated his shoulder and was replaced by Symonds.