Michael Clarke has rejected rumblings about discontent between him and his vice-captain Shane Watson, and defended the decision to keep the injured all-rounder with the squad when his quest to be fit for the Adelaide Test appeared doomed.
Watson was finally ruled out of the second Test against South Africa on Wednesday, three days after admitting he would be unable to bowl in Adelaide. He continued to press for selection as a specialist batsman, although Clarke had made it clear before the series began that he needed to be bowling to be assured of a place.
In announcing an unchanged XI for Adelaide, the captain said there had been no disagreement, and described his relationship with Watson as strong.
"We have a great relationship, firstly. I know there's been talk of that being a little bit different but Watto and I, our friendship and our professional relationship when it comes to captain and vice captain is as close as I can certainly ask for," Clarke said.
"We spoke daily even before we flew to Adelaide as a team and I was kept well and truly in the loop as to how he was travelling and what he was doing preparation-wise. Once we got here our intent was to give Watto every single chance as a very important player and vice-captain of the team to walk out onto this park for the second Test match. ''Unfortunately, we've run out of time."
In Watson's absence, Rob Quiney will get another chance at No.3, having made a forthright nine on debut in Brisbane.
It is hoped that Watson will be fit to bat and bowl in the third Test in Perth, starting on November 30. From the moment bowling was ruled out for Adelaide, his hopes of playing nosedived. He continued to perform daily rehab sessions under the guidance of physiotherapist Alex Kountouris, but had not proven he could run between the wickets at full tilt of play an epic innings of the sort Clarke produced in Brisbane.
Watson publicly dismissed talk of dressing room frustration with his regular injury dramas. Clarke has previously said Watson is not indispensable, pointing to Australia's four-nil series win over India without him.
On Wednesday, Clarke said Watson remained a vital part of Australia's team, provided he was 100 per cent fit.
"That is Watto's feeling as well. He wants to be an all-rounder. He knows the impact he has with both bat and ball and he's a huge part of our squad when he is doing both very well. So our plans are to try and get him to 100 per cent knowing we've got eight days now before the third Test in Perth," Clarke said.
Australia will try to break the nil-all deadlock in Adelaide with the same bowling attack that recovered from a bad start in Brisbane.
Ben Hilfenhaus fended off a challenge from left-armer Mitchell Starc despite struggling for pace and effectiveness at the 'Gabba, and Clarke admitted the selectors were tempted to bring Starc into the XI.
"He's performed really well for NSW and he's been bowling beautifully in the short form of the game. [But] our attack improved as the game went on in Brisbane and this attack has had some success especially last summer against India in these conditions. We're confident we've picked the right attack to take 20 wickets," Clarke said.
Michael Clarke (capt), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Rob Quiney, Ricky Ponting, Mike Hussey Matthew Wade, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Nathan Lyon, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Starc (12th man)
- Sydney Morning Herald
Should the NZ selectors pick Jesse Ryder if he's available?