Clarke: Watson faces ‘stiff competition’

Australia captain Michael Clarke has faith that all-rounder Shane Watson has a future with the side in all formats, as long as he can stay fit, but warns that youngsters are nipping at his heels.

Watson was ruled out of the tour to the UAE to face Pakistan next month, with a calf injury, and this could allow Mitchell Marsh to make his Test debut. Marsh has been in superb for in the shorter formats, making a return for Watson difficult.

Clarke said on Wednesday: “I think if Watto is batting and bowling, he’s a huge part of our team, but he’s obviously got some stiff competition now as well.

“Watto’s greatest challenge has been trying to stay fit and healthy and I think we also need to understand and respect that he’s pushed his body to the max being a batsman and bowler.

“He bowls at a good pace and is a destructive batter so there’s still going to be injuries for the rest of his career, as there is for Mitchell Marsh, James Faulkner and all the all-rounders.

“If Watto can get himself fit and healthy he’ll certainly play a lot more Tests, one-day and Twenty20 cricket for Australia.”

As for the skipper himself, he’ll be going to the UAE earlier than the team in order to recover from the flight and get his lower back in shape again. He says he’ll listen to physio Alex Kountouris when it comes to playing in the first Test.

Clarke added: “Alex knows my body very well. He’ll be the one that gives me the all-clear to play the Test matches if he thinks I’m fully fit. If I pass what Alex needs me to pass that will give me a lot of confidence as well.”