Shane Watson is becoming increasingly likely to join a small list of those players that have developed during Australia’s golden period, and subsequently failed to live up to their potential.
Watson, Brad Hodges, Chris Rogers, and ironically, coach Darren Lehmann are on the list of those who have struggled to amount to more than a small smudge on Australian cricket’s glorious history.
At the age of 32, it is becoming clearer that Watson isn’t going to live up to everything he has long been on the verge of. At this stage of his career, Watson should be heading towards the types of numbers somebody like a Jacques Kallis is producing, and although matching a modern champion is near impossible, not even Watson’s biggest doubters would’ve imagined as substantial a gap between them as we are now subjected to.
As time continues to pass through his career, we reflect on how both the Australian set-up and public have continuously given him more time simply because everyone saw the potential and the ability to turn a match consistently.
Unfortunately, Watson has turned the match as often in the opposition’s favour as he has in Australia’s, getting out at crucial times (such as just before lunch at Lord’s) and contributing to Australia’s all-to-familiar collapses.
To blame Watson solely for the collapses would be unreasonable, but Watson, as a senior member of a line-up full of unstable and inexperienced youth that at times were seemingly participating on an internship-based trial, needed to provide more.
Watson needed to grab a game by the ‘scruff-of-the-neck'; he needed to provide that big score that not only guided the game, but also taught his apprentices in the art of batting.
Watson has been one to constantly tempt and entice the Australian team and public. He produces innings such as his 161* against England and 185* against Bangladesh, in the one-day format that dare the fans to dream of what he could do in the Test arena.
Taunting the fans further, he has made scores of 84, 60, 90 and 109 in his tour games leading up to both the India series and the Ashes this year, yet has only averaged a touch over 20 in actual Tests this calendar year.
That has led to questions being asked about his technique. However, he doesn’t really have a technical flaw, just a common way of getting out when he lapses in concentration.
Watson has this ability to consistently get starts easily, something that a technical flaw wouldn’t allow, before mocking the nation’s hopes and aspirations for that ‘big’ innings and right on cue departing through yet another lapse.
In an age where psychologists are omnipresent around not only the cricket team, but every other sport as well, it is becoming increasingly difficult to comprehend why Watson hasn’t yet fixed this mental inability to go on.
There are probably numerous problems. Watson’s inability to rotate the strike would mean that he has to concentrate for longer periods straight, which would hinder his ability to make larger scores.
Another reason could be a lack of understanding of how to make those big scores, and hence, disbelief in his own ability.
Before Michael Clarke scored his 151 against South Africa in November 2011, he had the ability to score centuries, but not the belief to score even bigger like he did after that innings.
That century, against the best bowling attack in the world, in tough conditions, and in a foreign country, convinced Clarke he could match it with the best. He hasn’t looked back since, averaging over 60.
Everyone waited for that breakthrough innings from Watson, in some aspects praying that one of those one-day innings would be the trigger, however it still hasn’t resulted well in the Test arena.
It could be due to support out in the middle. Watson doesn’t seem to be too cohesive with his teammates, and in some aspects, unlike Clarke, looks like he hasn’t altered the personality that was so effective in that champion Gen-X team of the last decade to the modern Gen-Y culture.
His ability to constantly look miserable, and always be the last to celebrate a team achievement gives the public the impression he doesn’t ‘fit in’. This was evident in the second innings in Manchester, when Warner replaced Watson at the top of the order.
Although there could’ve been numerous technical reasons as to why Watson did not join Warner, it seems odd that Australia would not send out two of the best strikers in world cricket in their search for quick runs.
Even if Watson’s diminishing form was the reason behind it, it seems only logical that this scenario was perfect for him to play himself back into form. Unless, he and Warner just refused to bat together, which would signal disharmony in the team and unfairly or fairly, will only ever end badly for Watson, especially in his current form.
It’s interesting that Chris Rogers, Watson’s new partner for the Ashes series, was quoted saying before the Ashes began that he would like to help Watson concentrate in the middle and help convert his overriding talent into those big scores we all craved.
Fans loved hearing it, and one immediately reflected to when Jacques Kallis finally broke the 200 barrier against India in 2010, and scored numerous other big centuries against quality opposition soon after.
When asked about his recent trend of converting centuries to bigger scores after a decade beforehand of smaller centuries, he spoke about the influence Hashim Amla, the South African No. 3, had on his batting when they batted together out in the middle, and the way they excelled working off one another. Unfortunately, Rogers hasn’t had the same effect, at least not yet.
Watson is getting on, and as previously witnessed over recent times, has probably peaked. For those at his age that thrive like never before are by-and-large the exception rather than the rule.
It is for this reason and many others that one believes Watson is running out of time, not just to remain in the team, but to make something more than a smudge on Australia’s glorious cricket history, one he should have written a chapter in.