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End of the Road for Watson
After trundling through 6.3 overs last night, the inevitable happened: Shane Watson picks up an injury. Happens almost every series, could run your clock to it! The biggest irony is at different stages during the last 12months Shane has said if it prolongs his batting career he won’t bowl any more. Then he’s said he’ll bowl as much as the captain says, and hurts himself. He’s a confused individual at best, a selfish cricketer at worst. The injury could rule him out for the final Test in this Ashes series, although it is possible for him to bat in the second dig here, albeit without a runner.
Watson is one of those very divisive players in Australian cricket circles right now, on one hand he’s one of the most damaging T20 batsmen going around (ave of 34 in domestic T20 S/R of 140), and has been one of the more solid ODI batsmen for Australia. Primarily he’s picked as a batsmen but his bowling on this tour has saved him from being dropped, just the one wicket but bowling very tightly, before going off with injury his record was almost every 2nd over he bowled was a maiden. Wickets are everything but the man has been doing everything but with the ball. This is the pro-Watson argument, adding in the absolute lack of any batting depth in the country right now, so he’s getting a gig more on the fact there’s no one competing for his spot.
The case against Shane is much stronger. At Test level, he has had 81 innings for just 2 centuries. Majority of these innings as opener, and he won the Alan Border medal for his efforts in one season on top of the order. Take out his 68 from last night (which admittedly was decent but lucky at times too) his average since the start of 2012 was just under 26, again almost all as opener. Yes, opening an innings is a tough gig, but in Tests a team needs a stronger start, and in a young inexperienced team like Australia’s right now, those that have got plenty of games under the belt need to lead the way. This is before we throw in the fact he has issues with his batting technique constantly dismissed LBW, is injury prone, has been referred to as a ‘cancer’ in the dressing room, and had it not been for the birth of his most recent child he too would have been sent home after ‘homework-gate’. Add to this, he’s not exactly the type that instantly springs to mind as ‘excellent fieldsman’. And I won’t even begin on his use of the Review system.
The man should never have been made captain in Clarke’s absence. And he has had plenty more chances than those on tour and those still in Australia as well. But, the fact he has won an AB medal, and can bowl puts him above the seemingly more deserving pack. For the last Test on this tour, every chance the opener’s spots will be taken by Warner and Rogers who has played very well. So the selectors have to pick a new 6, providing Khawaja stays 3, Clarke 4 and Smith 5. Of the current men on tour, Hughes or Cowan could fit in that role as a one-off fill in position.
Other options could be James Faulkner, who I’m sorry but I don’t rate just right now. 4th best bowler for his state and not good enough to bat 7 either, hardly says Test quality all-rounder to me. Nor does the Moises Henriques experiment, a very strong first innings in India but in reality didn’t deserve to be in the side for his batting and eventually was dropped. As far as all-rounders, for Test cricket I’d be inclined to pick a full time batsmen over a batting all-rounder, need someone who can bat properly all day not someone who is a good hit.
One idea is playing Wade as a batsmen and leave Haddin to keep, which in theory works. But then your end up left with one guy whose keeping is average while bats ok, and another guy whose batting is average but keeps ok, why pick both? Wade is the future for the keeping role so perhaps swapping him for Haddin not Watson is something to consider come the return series.
So for long term we need to look at just the batsmen available. Hughes would seem logical, scores plenty in First Class but exposed often in Tests, just needs to be treated right by selectors. Give the man a whole series in one position to prove himself once and for all, with one simple aim: score runs! Cowan has had his chances, unfair to judge him on the first test at Trent Bridge as he was ill, but has failed to cement his spot. Followers of Test cricket wanted him to do well, as he has the qualities that make us love this form of the game, but he’s been without runs plus another man with similar qualities has taken over the openers role in Rogers. For what it’s worth, Rogers may be a short term fix but he’s gotta stay in this side for the experience he brings and he’s one of a rare group in form right now.
One look at the top run scorers in the Sheffield Shield last summer shows the depth just isn’t there for Australia. When the top guys are Rogers, who is in the side already, Katich and Ponting who are retired, and Hughes who has struggled for consistency, makes you think back to the late 90′s & early 00′s at how strong the shield comp once was. Plenty of fast bowling options, limited quality batting. There’s 3 that might one day make up the future for the batting in Australia; Doolan, Burns, and Silk, and of them I’d say Silk would be the front-runner. Lehmann as an ex coach of QLD may be inclined to select Burns but an average of mid 20′s in the Shield doesn’t stand out much, and from his home state in SA, stocks aren’t great either as ex Test player Ferguson has struggled to match the run-making the initially got him selected.
Some say Shaun Marsh, I say take out one good innings at Test level and he has struggled, take out his T20 and ODI efforts and his numbers aren’t looking good for Test promotion! What about Mitch Marsh? Same, numbers don’t impress much, but then you could argue Warner played bugger all first class cricket before he got selected to open the innings. Well look at his record, can not possibly tell me that is what you want from an opener. That famous Hobart carrying the bat innings aside, every single Warner innings is either bang or bust, and this is where the lack of years in first class experience shows through. He, like many others, need to learn how to pace themselves in an innings.
For me, Hughes fills in at 6 the final test, then come the Australian summer, insist on everyone playing shield cricket to gain some sort of form. From there, I feel Silk is the future, with a player like Rogers up the other end opening. The man at the start of this discussion, Watson, needs to score big runs in the Shield before even considering a Test call-up. At 32yrs of age though, this could and should be the end to an unfulfilled Test career.