Apart from the obvious traits that both are Australian Test alrounders, there is another thing that Shane Watson and Greg Matthews have in common.
As we all know, Watson and Matthews are complete opposite personalities off the field.
Watson is a buffed-up individual with the looks, legally blonde hair, cute smile, speaks conventionally and has appeared in Brut ad.
Matthews on the other hand came across as scruffy,rebel without a cause, anti-establishment, no hair, and a bit of a loose cannon. Talks in unconventionally lingo and is/was a client of Advance Hair Studios, Who could forget “advanced hair…yeah yeah!”.
However, the common ground for both players is they have been utilised incorrectly by the Australian Test team past and present.
For many years now, there has always been conjecture surrounding Shane Watson’s place in the Test side.
The reasons for that conjecture comes down to been in and out of the Test side due to injury concerns. And when Watson does play, he has been criticised for making many starts and failing to go on with it. While his placing of the front foot has always made Watson prone to the LBW and bowled dismissals.
As for his bowling, he has been servicable at times, but never a match winner.
From an early age, Watson was viewed as a highly talented alrounder. Although, thus far to date, he has fallen short on that promise and at 33, time is running out.
Watson should have been a specialist batsman only, batting either as an opener or at number three, where he averages around the 40 mark, ahead of his overall average of 35.98.
Watson should’ve given up on the bowling five or six years ago, and therefore, avoid the injuries he has suffered throughout his career.
When you look at the careers of Steve Waugh and Steve Smith, both started off their Test careers as alrounders.
When Waugh and Smith were dropped from the Test side, both made the conscious effort to concentrate on their batting and less on their bowling. Both redefined their roles in the Australian side.
Waugh scored close to 11,000 Test runs at 51, while Smith has five centuries, averages 46 and is next in line to captain Australia after Michael Clarke retires.
As we rewind back the clock to the 80s and early 90s, Matthews batted at number seven for majority of his Test career and ended up with an impressive average of 41, which included four Test centuries.
Matthews batted at number seven in 33 of his 53 Tests innings. In that batting position, with the ball, he was deployed either as the only spinner, or a second spinner.
But his bowling overall in Test cricket didn’t make for any pleasant reading.He took 61 wickets at 48.22. With the ball, Matthews is best remembered for taking ten wickets in the Madras tied Test in 1986.
The one interesting thing when you look at the bowling stats of Matthews is in the third and fourth innings of a Test match, he did average 35 and 31 respectively. This is respectable compared to his Test bowling average of 48.
Matthews was a wily old spinner in the domestic scene where he took over 500 first class wickets. Matthews’ canny off spinners may have been handy come days four and five. But in the main, Matthews lacked the penetration and turn to prize out batsmen on a consistent basis.
Quite often, he’d be taken to the cleaners by Sir Vivian Richards.
If Matthews’ role was redefined, he should’ve batted at six, especially with a Test average of over 40. As a batsman, he was a fighter and a scapper. Once Matthews got in, he did take some moving from the crease.
The only dampener with his batting, was he only averaged 15 against the West Indies. But when your up against Messers Garner, Holding, Marshall, Walsh and Ambrose, it was never an easy task.
Sure, Matthews had eight not outs in his career. But to balance the ledger, he bizarrely opened the batting twice.
As a bowler, he could’ve been used as a fifth bowling option, either behind the four quicks, or as a second spinner, and be used primarily in the second innings of Test matches.
Matthews played his last Test in 1993. Yet, if he was a player today, there’s a fair chance he would walk straight into the current Test side.
For both Watson and Matthews, there careers haven’t been utilised in the right manner. If it did, both may have been champion players.
When you look at both players Test statistics, Watson is solid around, while Matthews has impressive batting figures.
Tests 53, runs 3,455, ave 35.98, 100s 4, 50s 22
Wickets 69, ave 32.14, S/R 70.1, 5w 3, 10wm 0
Tests 33, runs 1849, ave 41.08, 100s 4, 50s 12
Wickets 61, ave 48.22, S/R 102.8, 5w 2, 10wm 1.
The real lesson going forward for future Test players, is to identify what roles they could offer their first class teams and the Test team. This issue is mainly surrounded by players who believe can offer more then one role to the side, yet are only capable in performing one task.
Is Mitch Marsh an alrounder or a batsman? At Shield level, is NSW’s Ryan Carters a batsman or a wicketkeeper batsman? And the same question applies to Victoria’s Peter Handscombe.
The sooner we identify the key roles of a player, the better. We don’t need more unfilled careers like Watson and Matthews.