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Shane Watson’s troublesome body is providing the catalyst for a host of confusing comments by the Australian team management and selectors.
Performance manager Pat Howard has made it clear that Watson must bowl if he is too be guaranteed selection in future Test matches, while half of the selection committee agrees with that, the other half seems to think he can be picked solely as a batsman.
However, there seems to be some consensus that the Australian team would be better balanced with a four pronged front line attack and a genuine fifth bowling alternative at Adelaide, a role that Watson is typically charged with.
If this is the case, why haven’t the selectors investigated in bringing in an all-rounder to cover for Watson, instead of Rob Quiney?
With all due respect to Quiney, it does not seem to make much sense to advocate for a five-man bowling attack and yet fill Watson’s vacancy with a specialist batsman. Quiney’s (or Hussey’s) bowling at the Gabba was simply to fill overs.
They both never really looked like genuine wickettaking bowlers. Why haven’t the selectors raised the possibility of blooding John Hastings or re-selecting Andrew McDonald to fill Watson’s absence, if they are indeed of a fifth wicket taking bowler?
In regards to the other theory circulating that Watson is capable of being picked as a specialist batsman, it would be counterproductive to pick Watson in such a role in the Adelaide Test for two reasons.
Firstly, Watson is unable to demonstrate that he is fit enough to play a long innings. Secondly, even if he was fit, Watson’s first-class form suggests that he doesn’t have the form to play a long innings, especially at first drop.
Picking Watson as a batsman sends a message that the selectors believe he is one of the top six batsman in the country, which he is not.
Furthermore, picking Watson at first drop, indicates that the selectors want to build an entire team innings around his contribution.
Watson is a talented cricketer yes, but he is not a number three. Nor is Quiney for that matter. Michael Clarke should step up to that key position, but that is a debate for another day.
Unfortunately, the mixed comments from the selectors make it difficult for the media and public to speculate over the best make-up for the test eleven. One certainty is that Watson should definitely be kept on ice until he is fully fit.
The next question is whether the selectors want a four or five man attack? A four man attack keeps Quiney in the team, but a five-man attack should see the selection of an all-rounder.
It’s just not cricket to pretend that a host of part-time bowlers can make a fifth bowler.