Watson is good enough, but is he smart enough?

Duncan Gering Roar Rookie

By Duncan Gering, Duncan Gering is a Roar Rookie

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    Shane Watson is back in form. Can he dislodge James Faulkner? (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

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    How long will it take for Australia to return to the top if we continue to play dumb cricket? Shane Watson, who yesterday ran out former captain Ricky Ponting against the West Indies, has form in playing dumb cricket and making dumb decisions.

    Here is a look at his track record:

    Watson has been involved in eight of the 21 run outs that have occurred in his 33 tests. He piled pressure on team mate Phil Hughes by announcing his intention to open while Hughes was still the incumbent, which was not good for team harmony.

    While I’d rather have Watson than Hughes in my side, the comment showed that Watson is sometimes lacking as a team player.

    While Watson consistently scores 50s (he has 16), he has only two test hundreds, suggesting he puts himself into a position to deliver, and then doesn’t. With the bat he averages 37.32 when Australia win, 36.1 when Aus loses and 46.63 in draws. I’d like to suggest those statistics prove he has not scored vital runs when we win, and doesn’t deliver when we lose.

    On the other hand, with the ball he averages 23.92 when Aus win, 26.00 when Aus loses and 41.00 in draws. This suggests he’s much more likely to contribute with the ball than with the bat.

    When he was injured (and Haddin was the vice-captain) we won five Tests from six. Now, that he’s back and Haddin is out, what contribution does he make? He runs out Ricky and then plays a loose shot right after lunch and exposes the lower order, all after being set and looking good to get some big runs. What about the responsibility to go on and make a big one after the error?

    No matter what Haddin’s failings are as a batsman/keeper over the summer, I didn’t really see Watson stand up and take accountability for the No.3 slot and vice-captaincy either.

    Of all the quality No.3 batsmen around the world in recent years, guys like Ponting, Dravid, Sangakkara, Amla, Lara, Kallis, Fleming and Khan, the worst average among them is Fleming with 47.25. The lowest high score is Kallis’ 189*.

    These guys are the cream of the batting talent crop going around in world cricket in the past 15 years and their records prove that they can make big runs when it counts. Is Watson good enough (or will he ever be) to mix it with them, or even David Boon (66 tests, 4412 runs, HS 164*, 45.16 Avg, 13 tons), the next most successful Aussie No.3 after Ponting and Bradman?

    Now Watson has only had the gig for one innings, so it may be somewhat premature to judge, however, calling without looking and running out Ponting, and then getting out to a loose shot, was not a good start. Especially considering the openers had somewhat done their jobs (put on a 50 run partnership and blunted the new ball) and it looked an easy wicket to bat on (not one West Indian made a single figure score) even if scoring was slow and difficult.

    Unfortunately for Australia, Watson is lazy and self obsessed. And the worst part is that he’s an Allan Border Medalist (for whatever that’s worth) because he shone in a year where Australia went so badly, no-one could mount a reasonable challenge for the jewellery. That win just reinforced his opinion that he’s going ok, and that he doesn’t need to change.

    I’d have him in my side but only because his bowling makes up for his lack of discipline and hardness in batting. However I’d make it clear that expectations are that if he’s to be considered a batsman then he needs to start converting. All rounders bat at six or seven unless you’re a freak like Kallis, Miller or Sobers. That’s where Watson should be playing his cricket.

    And god help Aussie cricket if he’s our great Test hope. After 33 tests he has a batting average or 38.14 which doesn’t suggest he’s going to be in our engine room. Conversely his bowling average of 28.33, which is much better than I thought it would be before I started to research, suggests he’s more of a bowling all rounder in tests.

    I’d also suggest that he’s better with the ball because he has more team mates in his ear when fielding/bowling than when batting, and he’s therefore more likely to stay on track.

    As long as Australia are willing to accept mediocrity this is fine, but if we want to be top of the pile then we need each member of the team to stand up and take accountability for their role in the team. I just don’t see how Watson is doing this from No3.

    So please selectors, make the right call, get off your arses and tell him to get off his, or move him somewhere in the order where he will do less damage to Australia and more to the opposition.

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    The Crowd Says (26)

    • April 11th 2012 @ 5:53am
      Lolly said | April 11th 2012 @ 5:53am | ! Report

      He’s an excellent bowler and I was very pleased to see Clarke give him the new ball in this match. He’s got very good control and a beautiful wrist position.

      I’ve felt he shouldn’t be in the top 3 for a long time but have given up on them moving him. Maybe when Huss retires he might be sent down the order but till then we are stuck with his angst and inability to go on with it at either 1,2 or 3. As with Punter and Huss, he’s hardly being pushed from behind. The new guys just aren’t putting their hands up.

    • April 11th 2012 @ 7:47am
      Jason said | April 11th 2012 @ 7:47am | ! Report

      Good article. Watto has been mediocre for a while now. He has the talent but you are right, he’s a bit soft and a bit stupid.

    • April 11th 2012 @ 8:32am
      formeropenside said | April 11th 2012 @ 8:32am | ! Report

      He’s the ultimate “me” player, not “team” player.

    • April 11th 2012 @ 9:00am
      Rookie said | April 11th 2012 @ 9:00am | ! Report

      Too many holes in your argument for me to comment on. However Watto deserves better respect than has been shown in this article.

      Keep in mind that less than 18months ago, during Australia’s tour of India, Watto opened his account with his second test century. He topscored again in the second innings with a run-a-ball 56, which proved vital in setting a competitive target as Australia’s middle order again collapsed in spectacular fashion following his dismissal.

      • April 11th 2012 @ 12:48pm
        Bayman said | April 11th 2012 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

        Rookie,

        To be honest, I couldn’t find any holes at all. Watson will get respect when Watson actually delivers. Which he is patently yet to do.

        Watson is not a top order batsman and never has been. Attractive, aggressive fifties are all very well but they don’t help much when you’re chasing 450.

        As Duncan suggests, Watson is pretty….but dumb. It must be said, however, that he is a lovely fellow – and I mean that. Being nice, though, is not what is required here. Being smart, and tough, is.

        Watson has a habit of ball watching when he bats. Given that, he then has little idea what his partner is doing. He makes poor decisions and he shows poor judgement. He seems, at any moment in time, unaware of the game situatiuon. He ran out Katich in Adelaide during the last Ashes series because he was a) more interested in whether the lbw appeal against him was going to be upheld and b) unaware a run was on and his partner was keen. By the time Watson realised he would not be given out he then just took off despite the fact that Trott was now very much closer to the ball. Katich was burned because Watto was just so self-absorbed.

        In this game it was his former captain who suffered his lack of attention to detail. As for his dismissal, go back to his “triumphant” elevation to the opening spot in England in 2009. He made several fifties and almost without exception was dismissed within minutes of resuming a session. Breaks in play are his worst enemy. Or, maybe, he is is own worst enemy!

        And it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a lunch, tea or stumps break. Ten minutes after any restart – he’s gone. Most famously, perhaps, two balls into the next day after being 96no overnight against the Windies in Adelaide. A brainless shot next morning and clean bowled.

        Watto looks good, he is a nice chap, but he’s exactly as Duncan describes. No holes there Rookie!

    • April 11th 2012 @ 9:49am
      Paul said | April 11th 2012 @ 9:49am | ! Report

      Yeah, good article. Can’t really disagree with any of the points raised here but especially liked the AB Medal comment.

    • April 11th 2012 @ 10:23am
      jameswm said | April 11th 2012 @ 10:23am | ! Report

      I’ve always wondered about Watto’s grey matter, but then I don’t necessarily think that has anything to do with run outs.

      Firstly, he shouldn’t be batting at 3. He’s batting there because it was an easy swap (him for marsh), plus Punter did well at 4 and Clarke at 5, so they didn’t want to move them. If Punter, Clarke and Hussey are scoring our runs, surely one of them should be batting higher than 4, 5 and 6. Really, they all need to move up one slot, and watson should bat at 6. He’s a very good 5th bowler, so he needs more rest when the innings change. They haven’t got thie right yet.

      I don’t see any long term options at 3, though. You’ve got Khawaja and Marsh, but neither has put their hand up. Forrest and Tom Cooper are options, but they haven’t played a test yet. This has to be sorted out, and soon.

      • April 11th 2012 @ 10:51am
        Disco said | April 11th 2012 @ 10:51am | ! Report

        Khawaja is the one that’s done the most (in spades at first-class level and somewhat at Test level) yet he’s been ostracised.

        Watson’s always appeared suspect temperamentally.

      • April 11th 2012 @ 3:36pm
        Craig said | April 11th 2012 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

        How about Klinger – captain of SA and leading from the front. Oh, right, he is originally Victorian so no chance.
        I thought the article was good, and spot on about Watson, however let’s be honest, while the stats aren’t great for Watson, I would like to do a year on year comparison of the whole batting order over the last 2-3 years…which of them would stand up to scrutiny or compare favourably with our glory days of Haydos, Punter at his peak, langer, Gilly, Hussey when he ave. 80 etc…

        We are not the team we were, but then, the quality of cricket world wide has been declining an the IPL is partly to blame (lots of money, hit and giggle) effecting Test cricket. F…ing ramp shots and switch hitting. No wonder we all think Warner is good. Would ANYONE have him opening ahead of Langer and Hayden??? I hold my breath every time he faces up. TEST cricket people…TEST cricket.

        Bring n David Hussey or Michael Klinger. Sack Ponting and drop Warner down the order. Why do you think our middle order keeps failing, they’re expecting him to go out any ball also…confidence…lacking!

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