Melbourne:Australia skipper Ricky Ponting feels Shane Watson is the best possible replacement for sacked all-rounder Andrew Symonds and has backed him to be in the playing XI during next month's Test series against India.
"Him for Symonds is probably the absolutely likely swap at the moment," Ponting was quoted as saying by 'The Australian' on the eve of the team's departure to India for the four-match Test series.
Ponting feels Watson's all-round ability may have helped him win a place in the side even if Symonds around.
"I think he might have played anyway if Symonds was around just for that flexibility and what his bowling can offer," the captain said.
"I would be surprised if he didn't play in the opening game."
It was Watson's spate of injuries that had opened the door for Symonds to establish himself in the Test side and now Symonds' sacking for indiscipline has presented Watson the chance to do the same.
Watson has played just three Tests, the last in November 2005 against the West Indies.
"He's been pretty harshly viewed in recent years but you don't average almost 50 in first-class cricket, particularly batting at the Gabba, if you haven't got the right game.
"He could get himself picked in the side as a batter alone, but what he can give us with the ball is a bonus," Ponting added.
The retirements of Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill mean Australia will have to bank on uncapped spinners Bryce McGain and Jason Krejza on India's turning tracks and that could see Watson playing a larger role, feels Ponting.
"It will be tough but I'm pretty excited about it," he said about using his untried spinners," Ponting said.
"They are very different spinners but at the same time they could complement each other really well if we happen to play both in the same side."
Ponting lauded McGain's performance during Australia A's tour of India. He also spoke highly of Krejza.
"He's (Krejza) always impressed me from the time I first saw him at the academy five or six years ago," Ponting said.
"I've been talking about him quietly for a long time because what I see with him is what a lot of other off-spinners don't have, the ability to turn the ball really big. He puts more work on the ball than probably any off-spinner I've seen."
The 36-year-old McGain sustained injury to his upper arm during the India trip and met Australia's physiotherapist Alex Kountouris for a last-minute assessment.
"I'm right on schedule and looking forward to the tour," McGain said.
Ponting said he would be banking on the tried and tested formula of using pace to deflate the Indians which had led to their success in 2004, a first in 35 years.
That time they had Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz. This time it will be Brett Lee, Stuart Clark and Mitchell Johnson, all of whom are yet to play a Test on Indian soil.
"The tactics last time worked very well for us. We were able to strangle them. We were able to take their boundaries away and make it difficult for them.
"A lot of the time we bowled at their strengths with strong fields in those areas. We did things differently last time and we'll look at doing that again if conditions suit."