Shane Watson made quite a splash with his return to international cricket. There was no easing in for Watson as he smashed 122 from just 111 balls, opening the innings for Australia against West Indies in the first ever full international cricket match at Manuka Oval, Canberra. This will have given the selectors some peace of mind. Now that they have booked his passage to India, the selectors will be glad that he appears fully fit. But Watson’s inclusion in the Test side might not be an open and shut case.
I recently saw an article on Cricinfo where Michael Clarke was asked about Watson and the Test team. While Clarke threw his full support behind the vice captain, he did add that now that Watson won’t be bowling, things have changed. Watson now finds himself in a bigger pool of players. There are many batsmen and not many all-rounders. You can read it here for yourself if you like http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/story/603425.html
My mind also goes back to the beginning of summer when Watson was injured. He announced that he would be available for the Tests as a batsman only, even though he was not fully fit. We heard at that time that if Watson was not bowling, he was not going to be in the team. That may have been for the commonsense reason that if he couldn’t bowl, he mustn’t be fully fit, in which case he must not be chosen. It may also have meant that Watson was not a good enough batsman to be in the Test team as a batsman alone.
It appears to me that we have a very similar situation. The difference being that Watson is apparently fully fit. But he still won’t be bowling. It raises a contentious issue – how good really is Watson? For those of you who have followed my blog for some time, you will know that I have never been a big Watson fan. My post called “Simply Irresistible” http://www.dongles.org/2009/07/Simply-Irresistible/ was written in mid-2009 and is a fair indication of my opinions, not to mention a very funny piece. I acknowledge that he is a good all round cricketer and a nice bloke but I still don’ t think he has proven himself as a top flight Test batsman.
During the recently awarded Allan Border medal, won by Michael Clarke, of course, I paused to reflect that Watson won it back-to-back for 2010 and 2011. Does that put Watson on an equal footing with Clarke? Michael Clarke is a giant of the cricket world. His deeds for 2012 were almost super human. Watson cannot measure up to that but he doesn’t need to in order to be a Test batsman.
But let’s have a quick look at the Watson’s numbers. After all of these years, and a career terribly frustrated by injuries, Watson has mustered 38 Tests. In those Tests, he has scored just two centuries and averages just over 37 runs. Those are not the numbers of a specialist batsman who is an automatic selection, especially as an opener. What is particularly irksome is that every time he is asked about his Test match prospects, Watson asserts that he is ready to come back as opener. I can see this one ending in tears.
Perhaps the tears will be those of Ed Cowan but perhaps not. Watson seems to think that Ed has used up his trial period and this may be a fair point. If it were not for that wonderful century in the first innings of the summer, Ed might be done for already. But perhaps not. I think Ed has a quality that the selectors are putting some store in. And if he can stop finding stupid ways to get out, his average of 32 will improve.
I became a believer in Watson when he almost took the role that best suits him – as a bowling all rounder. In 2010 and 2011 Watson started taking bags of wicket and also taking wickets when all others couldn’t. His bowling stats were far better than his batting and at that point he should have been moved down the order to number six. But he wasn’t. Now that aspect of his game is completely lost, and except to females under the age of 25, Watson has a lot less appeal.
I think it will be nervous times for Watson and Cowan in the lead up to the Indian series. I’m not yet prepared to back a winner because there is still heaps of time for Watson to get injured.
PS: If you didn’t see Kieron Pollard catch Glen Maxwell, look it up on Youtube. It must be one of the best catches ever taken. It was eye popping.