Sydney, Sept.20 : Australian all-rounder Shane Watson should find himself penciled in for the first Test against India at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium next month, because he offers flexibility, both as a batsman and as a fast bowler, says skipper Ricky Ponting.
Speaking ahead of the team's departure for India on Sunday, Ponting told news.com.au that having Watson in the squad would make it possible for the Australians to defend the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Ponting believes Watson's all-round ability as a technically correct batsman and lively change bowler may well have won him a place in the four-Test series even if Symonds had been part of the squad.
"I think he might have played anyway if Symonds was around just for that flexibility and what his bowling can offer," Ponting said. "I would be surprised if he didn't play in the opening game. 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. Him for Symonds is probably the absolutely likely swap at the moment."
Watson has played just three Tests, the last in November 2005 against the West Indies.
Australia is likely to base its attack around pace given its uncredentialled spinners, Bryce McGain and Jason Krejza, have not played a Test between them.
Ponting said there may be times when conditions dictate that both spinners must play, making Watson's bowling even more valuable.
Despite India being synonymous with spin, Australia is likely to try to employ the same tactics which led to the success of 2004, Australia's first series victory in India for 35 years.
It was based on the disciplined pace bowling of Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz.
This time Brett Lee, Stuart Clark and Mitchell Johnson, who between them have not played a Test in India, will be expected to do the same job.
"The tactics last time worked very well for us," said Ponting, who was a spectator for all but the last Test because of injury when Adam Gilchrist led the side.
"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."