Shane Watson will be sent home from the Champions League only a week after Cricket Australia threatened to withdraw him from the tournament if South African star AB de Villiers did not play.
CA chief executive James Sutherland said that workload issues and Watson’s need to prepare for the South Africa Test series next month drove the decision to pull the all-rounder out of the Sydney Sixers squad.
Watson is likely to play the Sixers’ next two matches against Yorkshire and the Lions but will miss the final qualifying match and any finals.
He will probably play a Sheffield Shield match for NSW against Queensland the week before the first Test at the Gabba.
“We are reviewing his load and circumstance very closely,” Sutherland said.
“I think it’s reasonably well known that it’s likely he won’t see the tournament out.
“We’re concerned about Shane.
“His injury record is unfortunate and what that tells us is that we need to monitor him and manage him very carefully and we are.
“He’s a fantastic player ... he’s the sort of player who can win series and certainly win Test matches for Australia.”
But The West Australian can reveal that CA threatened its Champions League joint partner Cricket South Africa with a “tit-for-tat” response if de Villiers withdrew from the tournament.
“Shane Watson was going to be taken out of the tournament if de Villiers did not play,” a CA source said.
“It was going to be tit-for-tat if South Africa wanted to rest him before the Test series.”
De Villiers has a workload to rival Watson given his top-order batting role and wicket-keeping duties in all three formats.
He claimed a back injury would prevent him playing for Champions League team Titans but was last week retained in the Titans squad only days after high-level talks between the boards of the two countries led to the Watson threat.
De Villiers did not play in the opening match against Perth, though Titans coach Matthew Maynard said he may be available for later games.
“Even if he doesn’t play, having AB in the squad will still be a benefit to us as his experience and knowledge of the game will rub off on to the rest of the team,” Maynard said. “We hope that we could use him during the latter stages of the tournament.”
Sydney chief executive Stuart Clark said he understood the reasons for Watson going home early but said he would be fuming if Australian pacemen Mitchell Starc or Pat Cummins were also withdrawn to help them prepare for the South Africa series.
Clark recognised that players such as Mitchell Johnson and Mike Hussey, who were part of Indian Premier League franchises, would stay for the entire tournament.
“We all know the reasons it can’t happen with IPL teams,” he said.
Australia, South Africa and India are joint owners of the Champions League, which signed a $900 million 10-year television rights deal with ESPN Star Sports.
ESPN’s main audience is in India, which provided four IPL teams to the Champions League.