Perth: Australia's captain Michael Clarke believes his former state team-mate Peter Forrest can go on to become a top order Test batsman, though he has not yet revealed whether or not he will hand him a debut ODI cap in Friday's match against Sri Lanka in Perth.
Forrest is expected to be included in the XI for Australia's second match of the triangular series, but Clarke and the rest of the selection panel must decide which batsman should make way. Having watched Forrest at close quarters in New South Wales, then admired his run-scoring for Queensland this summer, Clarke was in little doubt about his capacity to make an impression in Tests. They were heartening words for Forrest ahead of the West Indies tour, and a little more than a year out from the 2013 Ashes.
"Foz is a wonderful talent and has been pretty successful for Queensland this year, he's got a very good technique, certainly a good top order batsman, and he can play a big part in Australian cricket going forward," Clarke said. "A very gifted player, a good fielder, very good batter. And not just in one-day cricket, I think he's got the potential to play Test cricket as well in the future.
"I think it's good that Foz is around the group, it gives him a great opportunity to see what it's like inside the Australian change room and how we go about our work, training and things like that. If he gets an opportunity to play then it's important that he makes the most of it and tries to grab it with both hands, but I'm not sure yet what XI we'll take onto the ground."
Forrest was not the only young player Clarke was quizzed about as his team prepared at the WACA ground. Alister McDermott, son of the bowling coach and former Test fast man Craig McDermott, has made a striking impression this summer as a much improved fast medium bowler. His 7 for 24 earlier in the day at the Gabba had almost granted the Bulls an outrageous Sheffield Shield victory over Western Australia, and Clarke said he had noted his progress.
"He's had a really good year for the Bulls and he bowled really well in the Twenty20 as well," Clarke said. "It looks like he's been working on his death bowling, his yorker is probably as good as there is in domestic cricket at the moment. Nice to see him putting consistently good performances on the board. He's a 20-year-old kid, he's got plenty of time, but I'm sure he's got goals to represent Australia in whatever form he can. If he keeps performing like that, it'll be hard to keep him out."
Given the injury-enforced absences of Brett Lee, James Pattinson and Pat Cummins among others, Sri Lanka's captain Mahela Jayawardene has pointed to Australia's attack as a possible area to exploit. However Clarke countered that he was not overly worried about the visiting combination, so long as his men continued to improve themselves. He is also keeping half an eye on the team's subsequent assignments in the West Indies and England, mindful of how few international sides are presently performing as solidly on their travels as they do at home.
"That's Mahela's opinion, he's a very good player and played against a lot of opposition teams, so he feels that way, we just have to make sure we play some really good cricket, whether that be with the bat or the ball," Clarke said. "I'm not really concerned about the opposition right now, whether that be India or Sri Lanka. There's a lot of areas of our game that we've been working on as a one-day team, and that'll be our focus at training again.
"We will be tested as a team all around the world. It's been a really good start to the summer winning the Test series, but you are expected to perform in your own backyard, it's now going to be a test to see how we go when we play overseas."
Clarke's own pre-match routine was upset by the fact that Australia's hotel in Perth did not offer access to the digital television channel on which the India v Sri Lanka match was screened, though he did not lose too much sleep over the fact.
"I didn't see one ball. I was asking on Twitter how I can watch the game, but unfortunately we don't have Gem in our hotel," Clarke said of Channel Nine's digital offshoot. "So I was getting the scores off Twitter but didn't see one ball unfortunately. We looked at a lot of footage yesterday of the Sri Lankan team, so everyone in our change room knows the opposition, knows their strengths and weaknesses and what we need to do to beat them."