Watson is good enough, but is he smart enough?
Australia's batsman Shane Watson plays a shot. AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena
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.
Listen to Glenn Mitchell's preview of the Third Ashes Test in Perth at the WACA ground:
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