Shane Watson must open in India

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert

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    Shane Watson - (AP Photo/Gautam Singh)

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    During the week both Michael Clarke and John Inverarity warned Shane Watson his place in the Test side was no certainty now he has decided not to bowl.

    For mine, they were two foolish comments that should have been made behind closed doors.

    Yesterday at Manuka Oval in the third ODI against the Windies, Watson proved how foolish the captain and chairman of selectors were by cruising to a chanceless century off 102 deliveries.

    He ended up with 122 off 111.

    The innings was so magnificently dominant, Watson should not only be the third player picked behind Clarke and Mitchell Starc for the four Tests against India, but he must open the batting as well.

    While the David Warner-Ed Cowan opening batting experiment hasn’t been a failure, it hasn’t been as flash as one would like either.

    They have batted 22 times together, for just three big scores:

    * The 214 opening stand against India at the WACA where Warner smoked 180, Cowan 74, and Australia won by an innings and 37.

    * The 132 against Sri Lanka at Bellerive – Warner 68, Cowan 56 – for Australia to win by 137.

    * And 95 against Sri Lanka at the MCG – Warner 62, Cowan 36 – Australia won by an innings and 201.

    Three out of 22 starts demands a change, and Shane Watson is the answer.

    His two Test tons and 19 half-centuries also demand a far better conversion rate.

    So far Watson has scored four 90s, three 80s, one 70, two 60s, and nine 50s.

    Promoting Watson up the order means Cowan would be the casualty, and in many ways that’s a shame. He’s a gutsy honest tough competitor, but Watson is the better proposition.

    His best scores have been as an opener, and it would be the biggest folly of the year to ignore that fact.

    India, even in India, would be afraid of the Watson-Warner opening batting combination – and with good reason.

    If both teed off in the same innings, all hell would break loose. And with the Indian attack fragile under pressure at the best of times, that would make life a lot easier for skipper Clarke.

    So forget Watson won’t be able to bowl. Cowan doesn’t bowl anyway so there’s no change in the team balance.

    But the prospect of boom starts from the two ‘W’s could actually decide ownership of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn?t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world?s great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (95)

    • February 7th 2013 @ 6:59am
      AndyMack said | February 7th 2013 @ 6:59am | ! Report

      Agree David

      Watson should be in the top 6 for sure.

      I dont like to pick people for the test team based solely on ODI form though, so dont think im bowing down to this level, I just feel Watto is in our top 6 test batsmen, regardless of his batting yesterday. Def a better option than Ed.

      • Columnist

        February 7th 2013 @ 7:27am
        David Lord said | February 7th 2013 @ 7:27am | ! Report

        AndyMack, there’s no argument Shane Watson is a far better proposition as a Test opener than batting down the list. Just as importantly, he prefers to open:

        Opening – 126, 96, 93, 89, 88, 62, 57, 57, 56, 54, 53, 51, and 51.

        Batting 3 – 120*, 97, 95, 65, 56, and 52.

        Batting 4 – 83.

        And batting 6 – 78.

        • February 7th 2013 @ 8:03am
          AndyMack said | February 7th 2013 @ 8:03am | ! Report

          Yes David, when i said he was def in our top 6, i wasnt debating his position in the order, was just saying i think he deserves to be in the test team as he is in our top 6 batsmen. And given he is a better option than Ed C, then a spot at opener is def open for him to slot into. I think he will do OK in india.

        • February 7th 2013 @ 8:07am
          Red Kev said | February 7th 2013 @ 8:07am | ! Report

          I think the fact he prefers to open is as important as the stats to be honest. Watson is most comfortable opening, he plays better cricket because he’s feeling better mentally as an opener. A bit of chicken-and-egg knock on effect, but if it works why question it.

          • February 7th 2013 @ 8:57am
            Varun said | February 7th 2013 @ 8:57am | ! Report

            Yes watto should open and khawaja at 4 and cowan has to go as his average of 32 after a full year is not good enough, watto should never
            Have been put down te order

            • February 7th 2013 @ 10:20pm
              Jake said | February 7th 2013 @ 10:20pm | ! Report

              Couldn’t help yourself dropping in Khawaja, Varun?!?
              Try to keep your comments to the article

              • February 9th 2013 @ 6:12pm
                Rob Barrow said | February 9th 2013 @ 6:12pm | ! Report

                Varun I agree with you 100% mate.

          • February 7th 2013 @ 9:29am
            WOLF said | February 7th 2013 @ 9:29am | ! Report

            I see you have changed your tune Red Kev. Good to see

            • February 7th 2013 @ 9:39am
              Red Kev said | February 7th 2013 @ 9:39am | ! Report

              Yeah I’m warming to the idea of Watson opening in all formats. If he can stay injury free I might even become a full convert.
              I’m not totally sold because his technique is still very poor (front foot plonk and play from there – his dismissal yesterday was a classic – front foot hook shot) but he is valuable and he is better than Cowan.
              I’d like to see him used like Kallis as a bowler (see biltongbek’s article) as a partnership breaker who only puts in 5-6 overs per innings.

        • February 7th 2013 @ 8:32am
          B.A Sports said | February 7th 2013 @ 8:32am | ! Report

          Oh my god!

          Of course he has scored more half centuries batting 1 than 6!

          He has batted 1 over 60 times. He has batted 6, seven times!

          • Columnist

            February 7th 2013 @ 9:58am
            David Lord said | February 7th 2013 @ 9:58am | ! Report

            B.A Sports, let’s get the stats accurate. Watson has batted 71 times in Tests:

            Opening – 47.

            Batting 3 – 8.

            Batting 4 – 3.

            Batting 6 – 7

            And batting 7 – 6.

            No quality batsman should be shunted around the order, so leave Watson as an opener and get on with it.

            • February 7th 2013 @ 10:41am
              B.A Sports said | February 7th 2013 @ 10:41am | ! Report

              Well what is his average batting at 6? about 39? Thats is pretty good for a six, why not stick with him a little longer there? Everything about his batting style, temprement, concentration and technique points to him being a six over an opener and we have openers, we don’t have midddle order bats. If he must be in the team, he should fit in with the team.
              Australian cricket has bent over way too many times for this guy.

            • February 7th 2013 @ 12:12pm
              jameswm said | February 7th 2013 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

              What do you mean “leave Watson as an opener” David? He’s not currently opening for us in tests.

              I don’t necessarily agree about not shunting him round, but he’s most use to us as a batting all rounder. And that means batting at 6.

              Here’s my ideal scenario:

              1. in India, Watto opens and Khawaja bats 4/5 (I’d prefer Clarke 4 UK 5, but I’m not that fussed).

              2. In India, UK and Watto both do well. UK settles in to the test team.

              3. Watto gets the right advice and gets his body in shape over the next 3-4 months. That’s enough time.

              4. Watto starts bowling again for the Ashes and moves to 6. A now settled and confident Khawaja takes Watto’s spot in the top 3. Watto is available to bowl whenever needed by Clarke, which means if Watto’s having a good spell, Clarke can leave him on, rather than be restricted by his number of overs. If he gets injured when batting at 6, it doesn’t disrupt the batting order. And you can’t be a 10-20 over bowler and open the batting. There’s a 40% (2 in 5) chance you’ll be bowling at the end of their innings, and in that case you’ll need a proper break, which means not batting in the top 4. Time to have a shower, warm down, and have a feed, so your fatigued muscles repair (remember, muscles most fatigued and susceptible to injury after intense exercise). Watto at 6, and the WK (presumably Wade) at 7, is a formidable test middle order. The oppo gets the 4th wicket, then looks up and sees those two names coming in next. Watto is solid and pretty consistent, and wade by then could be averaging in the high 40s (and can hopefully keep wicket better).

              So I’d say Watto to open in India, to ease UK back into the team, to get his confidence so he can take his spot in the top 3. Maybe even start him at 4 and Clarke 5 in India, so moving to 3 is only up one spot. Hughes can move from 3 to opener.

              • Roar Guru

                February 7th 2013 @ 5:53pm
                DingoGray said | February 7th 2013 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

                Sound theory….in theory only!

                Watson body can’t handle to rigors of bowling! He continually breaks down whenever his bowling workload looks at increasing!
                I certainly don’t mind him being used in the Hussey mould, comes on bowls 3 overs and then he’s off again! But other than that he’s going to continually break down!

                I am of belief there is enough options in the middle order for Australia to use Watson at his preferred spot at number 1 or at the very least guys like Khawaja, Wade or however else they feel will be in the middle order will be more consistent over a long run like Cowan has received at the top then what Cowan brings to the table!

              • February 7th 2013 @ 10:29pm
                Rob Barrow said | February 7th 2013 @ 10:29pm | ! Report

                I like option 1 with Watto opening with Warner and Khawaja at 4, the key part of this would be who is batting at 6, i believe we need 6 specialist batsman to win the India series and Ashes.

            • February 7th 2013 @ 10:39pm
              Rob from Brumby Country said | February 7th 2013 @ 10:39pm | ! Report

              It’s actually 45 innings as an opener, David.

              But I agree with your summation, broadly speaking. His performances as an opener were much better than as a middle order batsman.

              But still – we have to find a correlation here. Was he performing better as an opener *because* he was opening? Or was there some other reason?

              While I am very keen on stats, I think it’s important to remember that they don’t give you the whole story. It doesn’t really make sense that an all-rounder would find it easier to open the batting than to come in later. If Watson is an exception, we need to find out why. I mean, it might well be that his best batting is behind him.

      • February 7th 2013 @ 1:15pm
        Bretto said | February 7th 2013 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

        As a general rule, listen to what David Lord thinks and then do exactly the opposite.

    • February 7th 2013 @ 7:24am
      Sailosi said | February 7th 2013 @ 7:24am | ! Report

      I totally agree, especially after last nights effort. There is no better indication than a hundred at Manuka.

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download it now [http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/the-roar/id327174726?mt=8].

      • February 7th 2013 @ 11:18am
        Pope Paul VII said | February 7th 2013 @ 11:18am | ! Report

        Just a hint of sarcasm?

    • February 7th 2013 @ 7:49am
      Timmuh said | February 7th 2013 @ 7:49am | ! Report

      Is he a better opener, or was he just playing better cricket? What happens to the middle order if he does open? I tend to agree with the comments that his place is in doubt if he isn’t bowling. (Cowan’s is also in doubt.) He hit a hundred opening in a one day game, what relevance is that to Test cricket.
      His Test form has been mediocre with the bat for a while now. Is that form because he has been batting down the order, or because he has not been batting well against the red ball. I think it is the latter, and opening will not fix that. To my mind, opening just happened to coincide with his best form, and was not a catalyst for it.
      If there was anybody performing at Shield level both he and Cowan would be out the door.

      Also, are you saying Starc should be picked ahead of Siddle and Pattinson?

      • Columnist

        February 7th 2013 @ 8:29am
        David Lord said | February 7th 2013 @ 8:29am | ! Report

        Timmuh, my fast bowling pecking order is Starc, Bird, Siddle, Pattinson, and Johnson which opens up a can of worms for the four-Test series against India. If the selectors stick to their wretched rotation policy, the five will be messed around Test by Test and stuff up the team balance. By the way, Smith, Henriques, Doherty, and Cowan, will be passengers on this tour – the ridiculous end result to selecting 17 for four Tests.

        • February 7th 2013 @ 11:03am
          Simba said | February 7th 2013 @ 11:03am | ! Report

          I roughly agree with your bowling order but I’d go Bird, Pattinson, Starc, Siddle, Johnson.

          The top three are true strike bowlers who, in their short careers, have shown an ability to rip through a top order. This is something that Peter Siddle has a rarely done in his long and excellent career.

          He doesn’t swing it and the younger guys do (not Bird, but he is just so accurate). When the pitch doesn’t offer much, good batting attacks have dined out on Siddle. He always keeps trying though, bless him.

          I still rate Peter Siddle. His dedication to the team is outstanding and his attitude should be a model to sports men and women all around the country. But we have a wealth of good fast bowlers at the moment and, in my estimation, he sits 4th.

          • February 7th 2013 @ 12:13pm
            jameswm said | February 7th 2013 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

            Yet Siddle is ranked the 4th best test bowler in the world. He is consistent and fit. Don’t underestimate the value of both.

          • February 7th 2013 @ 12:30pm
            matt h said | February 7th 2013 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

            Siddle’s experience when the chips are down is also a factor. Bird, Pattinson, Starc is very light on in test experience and Pattinson still has to prove he can get through three tests in a series. Sidd’s over Pattinson for mine until we are sure he’s fit, then he comes in for the third test for whoever is struggling.

          • February 7th 2013 @ 9:48pm
            Disco said | February 7th 2013 @ 9:48pm | ! Report

            Siddle is limited but durable. Unlike, say, Johnson, he’s also a reliable upper tailender.

          • February 7th 2013 @ 11:00pm
            DCO said | February 7th 2013 @ 11:00pm | ! Report

            Simba, where is the evidence to support Starc ripping through more top orders than Siddle? In test cricket not ODI. And how has Starc gone on flat decks?

            • February 8th 2013 @ 10:41am
              Simba said | February 8th 2013 @ 10:41am | ! Report

              Fair point DCO. Starc has only ripped through the top order at ODI level. He did rip through he lower order against Sri Lanka though and given that he has has only played 7 tests and I think he may be just finding his form and confidence. When he is on song, he is a bigger handful than Siddle.

              During the Geelong Football Club’s glory years, the change room mantra was ‘be difficult to play against’.

              I don’t feel that Siddle is as difficult to play against as Bird, Pattinson or Starc.

      • February 7th 2013 @ 11:38am
        TheSilentProgressor said | February 7th 2013 @ 11:38am | ! Report

        If opening happened to coincide with his best form why not move him back there in the hope that he finds his best form once again??? Cowan has done an okay job so far but i would much rather see Watson opening with Hughes, Khawaja and Clarke batting in the middle order. No 6 is the biggest problem in my mind, I don’t rate Maxwell as a test player, nor smith, nor Henriques.

        If only McDonald was fit.

        • February 7th 2013 @ 2:03pm
          Richard said | February 7th 2013 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

          Bailey for no 6, but he is not on the tour, yet

        • February 7th 2013 @ 2:42pm
          Timmuh said | February 7th 2013 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

          No Warner either. That does make #6 quite a problem, and #5 not much better.

          That would leave Watson, Hughes, Khawaja, Clarke, question1, question2. Watson will also probably be coming back home after the second Test, and this time not because of injury.

          Moving Watson to open simply moves the problem from being one opening spot and one middle order spot to being two middle order spots, and most likely does nothing to fix the opening spot either.
          I certainly agree that none of Henriques, Smith or Maxwell are Test material at this point (I would have had none of them on the tour, and smaller tour party of 14 of 15 but that call has been made).

        • February 7th 2013 @ 4:13pm
          Varun said | February 7th 2013 @ 4:13pm | ! Report

          Agree mate, watto, Warner, Hughes, khawaja and Clarke looks good, We will have to do with Moses at 6 given our choices

    • February 7th 2013 @ 8:11am
      Atawhai Drive said | February 7th 2013 @ 8:11am | ! Report

      Watto’s batting was a joy to behold yesterday, on a flat track against the also-rans of ODI cricket.

      Not sure if there are many or any parallels with Test cricket, in India or anywhere else.

      But yes, a Watson-Warner opening combination looks the best bet for India.

    • Columnist

      February 7th 2013 @ 8:14am
      Alec Swann said | February 7th 2013 @ 8:14am | ! Report

      The all-rounder argument carries too much weight in most cases.
      If you haven’t got one, you haven’t got one and it then comes down to whether Watson is in the country’s top six batsmen.
      If he is, and I can’t think of six better than him, then he should play and his record as an opener indicates that is where he should be placed.
      It might seem harsh on Cowan, but who is likely to succeed more often?

      • February 7th 2013 @ 9:18am
        Sanjay said | February 7th 2013 @ 9:18am | ! Report

        Yes i agree Alec, why push for an allrounder when we don’t have one good enough for test at present. Watson will bae back to bowling in the ashes so keep this lineup Watto, Warner, Hughes, Khawaja, Clarke, Ferguson, Wade, Siddle, Pattinson, Starc, Lyon.
        Key points here are Watto should be opening, Khawaja at 4 and Ferguson at 6.

        • February 7th 2013 @ 11:24am
          Simba said | February 7th 2013 @ 11:24am | ! Report

          Ferguson?

          First class average of 36? Really?

          I’d even take Maxwell ahead of him.

          • February 7th 2013 @ 11:47am
            Varun said | February 7th 2013 @ 11:47am | ! Report

            Fair point slim a, I wouldn’t pick ferguson or Maxwell at 6, how about Cossie at 6

          • Roar Guru

            February 7th 2013 @ 5:49pm
            The Bush said | February 7th 2013 @ 5:49pm | ! Report

            How is the Big Show not everyone’s first pick is beyond me…

            (Beats me why sarcasim is considered the lowest form of humour…)

            • February 8th 2013 @ 10:46am
              Simba said | February 8th 2013 @ 10:46am | ! Report

              I don’t rate Maxwell as a test player (yet) The Bush. I was just making the point that Ferguson is even less qualified than him.

    • February 7th 2013 @ 8:27am
      B.A Sports said | February 7th 2013 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      Can’t believe anyone thinks batting for an hour and a half on a flat track on a glorious Canberra afternoon is any indication of how one will fair against a new ball in India!?!

      How is it any more relevant than the duck he got three days earlier playing on a flat track in Sydney grade cricket?

      An openers job in test cricket isn’t about batting for 3/4 of the first session.

      He also made numerous attempts to run Phil Hughes out – again. We can’t afford to lose other top order batsman because of Watson’s inept running.

      • February 7th 2013 @ 8:59am
        Varun said | February 7th 2013 @ 8:59am | ! Report

        Mate I think Hughes is a great talent but think Hughes has more issues with running between wickets then watto has and we saw that in the summer tests

        • February 7th 2013 @ 9:06am
          Atawhai Drive said | February 7th 2013 @ 9:06am | ! Report

          Watto, Hughes and Cowan are all claimants to Graeme Wood’s crown as the king of dodgy running between wickets.

          • February 7th 2013 @ 9:23am
            Sanjay said | February 7th 2013 @ 9:23am | ! Report

            Agree 100%

          • February 7th 2013 @ 9:52pm
            Disco said | February 7th 2013 @ 9:52pm | ! Report

            Truly abysmal runners. Watson’s effort in the last Ashes series (Sydney, 2nd inns) was a complete farce.

        • February 7th 2013 @ 11:33am
          B.A Sports said | February 7th 2013 @ 11:33am | ! Report

          True though Katich and Ponting both fell victim to Watson’s running between wickets on more than one occaision and I even recall Huss getting runout in the 90’s in India in a test a few years back…

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