You may have already deduced from the title, that this article is about Watson. The title is obviously not reflective of what he is, but what he is not. Watson was dismissed lbw yesterday. Again. Let’s forget for a moment that it was for duck. How long will the selectors persist with the fantasy of Watson, “the opener”?
I had the impression that Watson is lbw or bowled too much. His dismissals in England seemed to blur into one action replay. So I thought I would check some stats to see if I was being mislead by my impressions. I was. He is bowled or lbw even more than I realised. Watson’s Test stats don’t provide much of a basis for exhaustive analysis but we shall work with what we have. In Watson’s meagre Test career, he has been dismissed 19 times – 10 times bowled and 4 times lbw. That is a rather staggering 74%.
For the purpose of this analysis, I’m including lbw and bowled together. Leg before wicket is being bowled in essence – the batsman has been beaten but has denied the bowler the satisfaction of seeing the furniture disturbed. You might wonder why I am focussed with the mode of dismissal. You might suggest that it doesn’t matter how a batsman is out. If he is out, he is out and let him be judged by his average. I’m not even going to get onto Watson’s average.
The reason that I am concerned with the mode of dismissal is because it reflects technique and mindset. Both of these things are critical in an opening batsmen and I feel that both of these things are lacking in Watson. It is often said that a man’s home is his Castle – it is his safe haven and something that he will guard with his life. I think they even made a good movie about it. I suggest that a batsman must regard his castle in much the same way.
I am saying that being dismissed lbw or bowled 74% of the time is outrageous and I feel that I should find something to support that. A benchmark, perhaps. The man they used to call “the unbowlable” immediately sprang to mind. Most of you would know that Bill Woodfull was an opening batsman in the 1920s and 1930s. He was bowled 32%, and lbw 4% of the times he was dismissed. While 36% is much better than 74% I was not sure if that was so flash. It certainly doesn’t sound “unbowlable”. Also note the low 4% lbw – I believe that this is reflective of the lbw law at the time, where the ball had to pitch and strike in line with the stumps (even on the off side). Perhaps Billy Bowden is using a copy of the laws of cricket from 1925.
I next checked the benchmark of all batsmen – DG Bradman. He was bowled 33% and lbw 9% of the time – 42% in total which does make Woodfull’s stat more impressive. But 42% also seems high. To put this into perspective, it is probably necessary to remember that cricket was played on uncovered pitches in that era. There were plenty of days when there was so much movement off the pitch that the batsmen could scarcely lay bat on ball (which makes it hard to be caught) and it was just a matter of time before the timber was felled.
I then turned my attention to the modern era. Why not start with “The Wall”? Dravid has been bowled or lbw 34.5% of the time. The percentage for some other leadings lights is as follows: Lara 32.3%, Boycott 33.5%, Chappell 27.2%. To focus on recent Australian openers (to truly compare Watson): Langer 30%, Hayden 28.9%, Katich 29% and Slater 29%. So there you have it – high twenties to low thirties is the bench mark.
For some fun, we can check the other end of the market. McGrath 39% and Danny Morrison 46%. Any way you look at it, 74% is pathetic. Please understand that I’m not saying Watson has no ability. The guy can bat and bowl a bit. He is a classic example of why we have specialist One Day Cricketers. I’m curious what you think about Watson. Am I being unfair? I invite you to log onto your dongles web site account and leave a comment about Watson?