Shane Watson is underperforming

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Shane Watson (Image: AFP)

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Shane Watson has made plenty of headlines lately with questions about his fitness, ability to bowl and best position in the batting order.

But the bottom line is that, wherever and however he is used, Watson needs to perform.

There is no doubting his ability from a technical standpoint, but it is fair to say that Watson has underachieved, especially in the batting department.

With Michael Clarke’s dicky back a constant worry for the national selectors, vice captain Watson could find himself thrust into the top job at any time.

One of Clarke’s greatest strengths as captain has been his ability to take his own game to a new level.

Since assuming the mantle as Test skipper, he has scored three double centuries and a triple while boasting a batting average of 68.1.

While he is yet to carry the responsibility of captaincy, it is high time for Watson to produce on a far more regular basis.

There is no doubt that injury has marred his continuity in the baggy green, with the third Test against South Africa at the WACA his first on home soil since January 2011.

But when Watson has been in the side recently, his performances have largely been below par.

In a Test career which now spans 36 matches, he has a batting average of just 36.9.

One of the more worrying aspects of his batting is his inability to make opponents pay once he gets settled at the crease.

The fact that Watson has scored just two centuries from the 20 times he has surpassed 50 at Test level is a massive blight on his game.

He has currently gone 30 Test innings without a century – hardly acceptable for a top-order batsman.

In his past 11 Tests (21 innings), he has scored 552 runs at a paltry average of 26.3, during which time he has made eight single figure scores, including three ducks.

In the one day arena, Watson has proven himself to be a far more valuable batsman, with an average of 41.5 and a rapid fire strike rate of 88.

He holds the record for the highest one day score by an Australian – 185 not out against Bangladesh in Dhaka.

At times his belligerent and prolific scoring at one day level seems to mask the fans’ view of his Test form.

He has proven himself to be an effective bowler in the longer form, with a creditable career record of 60 wickets at 29.2.

His recent form, however, has not been flattering, excepting one performance against South Africa in Cape Town late last year where he captured 5/17 in the highly abbreviated Test which featured Australia’s ignominious innings of 47.

In his past 11 Tests he has produced 18 wickets at 26.9, however if you remove that one innings in Cape Town his return is far less impressive – 13 wickets at 35.9.

Watson has been told that he will most likely bat at four in the forthcoming series against Sri Lanka, to which he responded: “It’s taken me a few days to get my head around that, but it means I can bowl a few more overs”.

Here’s hoping that his often fragile body is up to the task.

At 31 years of age, and as deputy to Clarke, it is time for Watson to impose his presence on opposing sides.

On both fronts – batting and bowling – he has to find consistency and the ability to put the opposition under pressure.

As one of the senior members of the squad, for Watson the time is now.

After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.