Watson moves up, Compton moves out
Shane Watson. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)
Darren Lehmann’s promotion of Shane Watson to the top of the order may be viewed as the new coach putting his own stamp on things but it’s really a case of common sense coming to the fore.
Plenty of column inches have been used up debating the best place for, even the actual point of in some instances, Watson and it seems Lehmann is in little doubt.
David Warner’s lunacy may have forced the Australian camp’s hand, however, whether or not that incident ever took place, Watson opening is a shrewd move.
It’s been well documented his record is far superior against the new ball than in the middle order, it’s a position where he wants to play and the side doesn’t have the tools to fudge any issue.
If Watson is there then those in charge have to try and get the best out of him.
He has plenty of ability, that hasn’t ever really been questioned, and while his temperament is flaky at the best of times, nothing stabilises fluctuations in attitude like a decent run of scores.
A fit and firing Watson, in a batting order that could do with any boost it can find, has to be a significant plus and Lehmann is well aware of that.
In the English camp, Nick Compton’s non-selection in the 14-man squad for England’s warm-up game with Essex this weekend, unless injuries occur, as good as rules him out of the upcoming Ashes and could well signal the conclusion of his brief international career.
Some may view it as being unduly harsh, and the man himself will almost certainly see it that way, but sport can be a cruel occupation at the best of times and seven into six won’t ever go.
With Kevin Pietersen announcing his return in some style with a big hundred for Surrey – was he ever really going to miss such a high profile series? – it came down to a straight choice between Compton and Jonny Bairstow and the right decision has been arrived at.
Compton, in his last six Test innings, has made a fraction over 50 runs in six hours at the crease, which represents a player trying desperately hard to succeed while giving himself all the tools needed to consistently fail.
The Somerset man has never been the most fluent of players but those statistics show someone who has become paralysed by an overwhelming desire to do well.
When that manifests itself in the kind of tortuous effort Compton produced in the second innings against New Zealand at Headingley there is an issue.
Crank up the pressure of the occasion by a few notches, as will be the case at Trent Bridge in a fortnight’s time, and the outlook isn’t particularly promising.
To keep Compton in and prevent Joe Root from taking the position he has been earmarked for would be akin to the selectors shirking their responsibility and this isn’t the time for pussy-footing around.
Some sympathy should be felt for Compton because he did a decent job while in occupation having worked extremely hard to get there in the first place but the correct decision has been arrived at.
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Alec Swann is a former Northants and Lancashire opener turned cricket writer. Outside of the joys of a Test match, Newcastle United and golf generally occupy his other sporting interests with a soft spot for the Newcastle Knights.