Earlier this month, Shane Watson told selectors he wanted to give up bowling to focus on his batting and possibly return to being Australia’s Test opener.
With Watson now only going to play as a batsman, it will certainly extend his career into his mid-to-late 30s. But now that he isn’t an all-rounder, his spot in the Test side may be debated and he may not be considered as important as he was.
Throughout Watson’s whole career he has played as an all-rounder in all forms of the game, whether he would bowl lots of overs and come in late in an innings to score quick runs, or as a top order batsman who bowled only a handful of overs.
Through the 2008 Test series against India, the 2010 series against Pakistan and the 2011 series against South Africa he showed he is our best reverse-swing bowler. Without him as the fourth or fifth seamer, it leaves a big dent in Australia’s bowling attack.
In Test matches he as a record of 62 wickets at 30.06 and a strike rate of 63, including three five-wicket hauls.
In One Day Internationals he has a record of 155 wickets at 28.83 and a strike rate of 36.
In T20’s he has a record of 35 wickets at 20.42 and a strike rate of 17.
His averages and strike rates in each form of the game are better than Jacques Kallis, who is considered to be the game’s greatest all-rounder. It’s also better than Andrew Symonds, who was one of the most dangerous all-rounders in world cricket during the early 00s.
Every time Watson comes into the attack he brings line and length, rarely bowls a bad ball and puts pressure on the batsmen. He almost always takes a couple of wickets and helps the bowler at the other end to set up a wicket.
Had Watson played all the 89 Test matches between his debut match in 2005 until now, he wouldn’t have played until age 36 or 37 like Kallis, but he could well be considered an all-time great all-rounder.
If Watson is ending his all-rounder status for the rest of his career, Australia will ultimately miss his wicket taking ability and have to find one of the bowlers in the attack to master reverse swing consistently going to India and England.
But if Watson can end his career with 5000 Test runs and an average of 45, it will be a move he won’t regret.