All-rounder Shane Watson got the first taste of Australian captaincy after a chronic back problem forced captain Michael Clarke to retire hurt during a practice game between the one-day team and Queensland on the final day of the two-week training camp that ended on Wednesday.
Clarke retired hurt after scoring 13 from 31 balls and watched Australia defend 8-263 (from 46 overs) at Allan Border Field. Former captain Ricky Ponting missed the match due to a calf problem that restricted him to the nets.
Watson, appointed vice-captain in March, is Australia's best player in all forms in the past two years and has never captained the national team.
Coach Tim Nielsen said Watson was a true back-up to Clarke and was confident that the 30-year-old all-rounder was capable of coping with the extra pressure and responsibility.
"Very much so. Selectors don't just give people the vice-captaincy with the thought you deserve it because you played well. It's an idea that if something does happen to the captain, who is the person we feel can take over the reins and do a good job?"
"We can't forget that we have people with the experience of (Brad) Haddin and Ponting still around the team and I'm sure if Shane needs to, he will lean on them pretty strongly, and also Michael Hussey. While he's the nominated one, and probably giving him the opportunity is a longer-term view, he certainly won't be on his own out there if he captains the side," Nielsen was quoted as saying by The Australian.
Nielsen stressed that both Ponting and Clarke were rested as a precaution ahead of next month's tour to Sri Lanka.
"Clarke pulled up a little stiff, which is why he retired, and we're just going to take the opportunity to get everybody out there. Ponting has had a bit of a sore calf as well, which we're just being careful about. Really, it's a training day for us and, if these guys were like this at training, we wouldn't expect them to train, so we certainly won't put them through the fielding," Nielsen said.