South Africa in Australia 2012-13 November 19, 2012

Watson, and everyone else, left wanting

Shane Watson and those around him are finding out that you can't always get what you want

Shane Watson wants to play in Adelaide as a batsman. He also wants to be an allrounder, a vice-captain, and a full-time participant in Test matches, ODIs and Twenty20s. He wants to "stay around the group", only to be rested from duty when he's played so much cricket that he feels mentally exhausted. Most of all, Watson wants to be fit to play.

Michael Clarke wants Watson to be an enforcer in the top three and a smart bowler of critical spells, some of them lengthy. Clarke also wants Watson to prepare himself as fastidiously as Australia's captain does for Test combat, perhaps even by indulging in week-long boot camps. Watson's coach Mickey Arthur wants Watson to be a consistent scorer of Test hundreds, declaring earlier this season that he will have failed as a coach if Watson's ratio of fifties to centuries does not improve significantly.

Cricket Australia's team performance manager Pat Howard and the national selectors want Watson to contribute more to the national side than he takes out, by batting, bowling, fielding and running between the wickets with skill and intelligence. They want him to be more durable, more reliable, less prone to mishap and injury. They want him to be fit and firing for the most important series Australia plays, even if it means keeping him rested from others in between.

The marketeers at CA want Watson as a Test match player but also a muscular billboard for T20, particularly its club competitions. They want Watson to take part in the first round of this summer's BBL between home Test series for the Brisbane Heat. The Sydney Sixers wanted Watson to be available for the entire Champions League, an ambition denied them by CA in an attempt to have him ready for the Test against South Africa.

Watson's management want Watson to be a superstar, commanding top dollar for his appearances for Australia, Brisbane Heat and the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League. They want him to be the face of innumerable brands in addition to contracts he already holds with Asics, Gunn and Moore, Brut, Body Science, MJ Bale and Tag Heuer. They also want him to become Australia's T20 captain.

Cricket New South Wales want to hear from Watson more regularly, communicating with their medical and team performance staff whenever he is recovering from injury to know how they can help. They want to see him playing club cricket occasionally, providing his skill and experience at the grassroots level of the game, and affording them another way of feeling that the hours that go into trying to keep Watson fit will not be wasted.

Former players want Watson to rouse himself from a pattern of injuries and absences they feel has been caused as much by an age of over-complication and micro-management as by any underlying physical flaws in his body. They want to see him emulating the feats of a proud line of Australian allrounders since the second world war including Keith Miller, Ray Lindwall, Richie Benaud, Alan Davidson, Gary Gilmour and even Steve Waugh. They perhaps also want him to ease off the hair gel.

Writers and pundits covering the game want to interview Watson regularly, because his frank comments and willingness to speak expansively make for entertaining stories in newspapers, on websites, in radio and television news bulletins and on cricket broadcasts. They want to write less of Watson's injuries and more of his on-field exploits, less of his brain fades with the bat or between the wickets and more of his capability for brilliant contributions with the ball and the bat, as he memorably showed in Test matches in Melbourne, Leeds, Chandigarh and Galle from 2009 to 2011.

Australian cricket fans want Watson to be playing for their team, scoring runs with his customary power or taking wickets with the craftiness he has developed over a decade in and around international cricket. They want him to show the raw power of his batting and bowling at the World T20, the brutality of his hitting in an ODI against Bangladesh in Dhaka in 2011. Overseas cricket watchers also want Watson to be playing, for the game is seldom dull when he is involved, even if it means his capacity to change a match inside a session is turned on the teams they follow.

You can't always get what you want.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Karl on November 21, 2012, 4:10 GMT

    What we need from Watson is just a year of no break downs... He is like a shiny second hand car that turns out to be a lemon... His lack of ability to turn 50's into 100's even when fit is a big worry for a test #3 - Jacques Kallis who some have been comparing Watson to is returning 44 hundreds & 55 fifities averaging 57. His bowling average is 32 - Watson has 2 hundreds and 18 fifties and averaging 37 with a slightly better bowling average of 29... Even in first class cricket Watson has a bad conversion rate of 17 hundreds 42 fifties... I like Shane Watson however he disrupts the team by always being in the press with injuries or failing to turn the 50's into 100's or if he should open the batting or not... He is not a young player anymore he has been riding on his talent potential for 11-12 years now he must turn it round soon.

  • Daison on November 20, 2012, 10:59 GMT

    And who cares? If he is fit and in the ground playing the game, lets talk about him. If not let the doctors talk about him.

  • khadeer on November 20, 2012, 6:18 GMT

    I hope the selectors will not bring him in if he is not fit to bowl. This guy has always had fitness problems for the tests and is always fit for the shorter form of the game. He missed last years complete home tests because of these fitness problem and once the tests are over he is fit for the ODI's and the rubbish twenty20's. It is time to look beyond him for the tests.

  • B on November 20, 2012, 5:52 GMT

    Brilliant! Vintage Brettig, with a hint of Haigh and Ryan dare I say.

  • Harvey on November 20, 2012, 3:58 GMT

    He should quit tests and play ODI and T20 only. He is a much better short game player anyway

  • John on November 20, 2012, 3:00 GMT

    Nice article, it is interesting how many people have a stake in his cricket. I think basically Watson has to make up his mind what his preferences are as it would seem to be impossible to achieve everything. I don't think I've really heard much about what he'd be willing to sacrifice, it seems he's trying to please a bunch of other parties rather than himself. The one thing I think he wanted was to open the batting and be and all-rounder at the same time but he was also aware of bowling late in an innings before going out to bat. Batting at 6 makes this a non-issue but I suspect his early Test match batting problems in the middle order are stopping him from dropping back down the order. In ODI/T20 he's good enough to have it all but in Tests he has to make a sacrifice or he might just be left behind. Kind of spooky but I think he is starting to look like a Flintoff type player which I maintain UN-balanced the England team (despite what they said).

  • Mathew on November 20, 2012, 2:56 GMT

    Watson is very fine one day player no arguments. But playing all 3 formats, IPL etc must have an effect on him. His test career is in danger of becoming bog average at best. Perhaps too much has been asked of him for too long who knows. At least other Aus bowlers are not being thrust into the mix too early and breaking down....

  • Dummy4 on November 20, 2012, 2:45 GMT

    Watson is a new ball facer, he is the most commanding presence of all the batsmen and needs to bat at 3. Absolutely ideal spot for him, Border, Waugh etc came in at 5 so stop thinking Clarke has to bat at 3 just because Ponting did. Clarke is a number 5, get over it! Watson is a top order batsmen, so stop trying to change things you don't understand!

  • Sanjay on November 20, 2012, 1:49 GMT

    The situation is unfortunately a poor show from all involved including Watson, Cricket Australia, Cricket NSW, the sixers etc. Any player who has miised 49 tests since the time of his debut and played only 35 has fitness issues and on top of that "has to or wants to" play in all 3 forms of the game. The mathematics just doesn't make sense. Cricket Australia have appointed a new player and selector management group and the number of players we are seeing injured and unavailable for selection is amazing. You can't move forward positively without some form of compromise from all sides.

  • Roo on November 20, 2012, 1:42 GMT

    @Daniel Brettig... You also mention Watson's mental exhaustion - then why not add that since becoming VC for Oz his Test batting average is @25 ?... By far the lowest in the top 6 during that period & surely a sign that there is a mental weakness in Tests which doesn't show up in the hit & giggle one dayers...

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