Shane WatsonThe ability of Shane Watson to bowl in Tests has always been a preference for national selectors when picking him. Now, it is a prerequisite.
The possibility the all-rounder may miss the entire three-Test series against South Africa, due to a calf injury he sustained at the start of the month, was given credence on the eve of the second Test by Michael Clarke.
The captain said the issue of whether Watson was fit to play had to be considered in line with the message conveyed to him by selectors that they would not consider picking him while he was fit to bat but not to bowl.
‘‘The information I have from the selectors is if he’s not bowling he’ll be unavailable for selection,’’ Clarke said.
Asked to elaborate on the apparent shift in policy regarding the 32-year-old, Clarke replied: ‘‘I don’t know the answer to that question. You’ll probably have to ask Darren Lehmann and the other selectors.
‘‘From the information I have they’ll on reselect him if he’s available to bowl.’’
Clarke is no longer a selector, with that role being chiefly assumed this series by coach Lehmann and touring chief selector John Inverarity.
At the end of the 2012-13 home summer, then coach Mickey Arthur said Watson had successfully requested permission to play in the Test team as a specialist batsman.
He maintained this role throughout the India series, not bowling in any of the three Tests in which he was selected.
While Watson is an integral part of Australia’s Twenty20 team, Clarke rejected the possibility he could be excused from the Test series to be right to bowl in the three-match Twenty20 series after the Tests, to best prepare him for next month’s world cup.
‘‘No chance. Not while I’m captain of this team,’’ Clarke said.
‘‘There’s no greater priority than playing a Test match for your country … As soon as Watto is fit and available I know he’ll want to be back out on the park.’’