South Africa in Australia 2012-13

Watson, and everyone else, left wanting

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

Daniel Brettig

November 19, 2012

Comments: 25 | Text size: A | A

Shane Watson at Australia's training session, Adelaide, November 19, 2012
How many roles can Shane Watson really fill? © Getty Images
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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

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Posted by gogoldengreens 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.

Posted by DaisonGarvasis 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.

Posted by skkh 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.

Posted by unregisteredalien on (November 20, 2012, 5:52 GMT)

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

Posted by MinusZero 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

Posted by L4zybugg3r 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).

Posted by MattyP1979 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....

Posted by   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!

Posted by Sanj747 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.

Posted by zenboomerang 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...

Posted by BlightyTragic on (November 20, 2012, 0:01 GMT)

How about Cricket Australia just make him a Limited overs specialist? They did it to Michael Bevan for eons, why not Watson? Makes sense that way in both ODI and T20I formats that we have a matchwinner, in combination with Hussey (who'll retire in the non to distant future). Why do we not develop an allrounder to suit? CA needs to define what they want from an all-rounder - and to me, an all rounder is somebody who could be selected on either disipline (Strangely, Watson's bating should be enough, but isn't???) and lets face it, we desire a pace bowler. If we did, that would alleviate the yearly question of playing two spinners at the SCG. So question remains, who is playing shield that can suit that role? Mitchell Johnson perhaps, maybe a couple of others but Australia is fairly bare of fast bowling all rounders who can stand the rigours of test cricket. We envy the South Africans with Kallis as a genuine all rounder. Only option is to develop or machine an all rounder to suit.

Posted by bobagorof on (November 19, 2012, 23:47 GMT)

It's all very well to write about what all these parties want, but what the collective management of Clarke, Arthur, Howard and the rest of the 'NSP' need to decide is exactly what Watson can and can't deliver. Watson has shown that he can't bat in the top 3 and bowl regularly. If he is to play as an all-rounder then he needs to bat lower down the order - at his former position (at First Class level) at 4, or at 6 (where he played when he first came in to the Test side). Both of these positions will be available in the next few years, but Watson himself has only a few more years left. The alternative is to get him to bat in the top 3, give up bowling (on a regular basis) and play primarily as a batsman. He's be criticised for his lack of hundreds while doing this, so I know which option I'd rather.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2012, 18:57 GMT)

Loved how this piece built up before the last line delivered the subtle upper-cut ..

Posted by   on (November 19, 2012, 18:20 GMT)

As a Saffa who wholeheartedly supports Australian cricket, i sometimes wonder how much some Aussies know about there won players. I see comments like this almost every article written about Clarke or Watson. 'Clarke doesnt want it for himself.' Absolute rubbish! Clarke has shown himself to be a team man over and over. Have you seen what he averages batting at 4? Have you seen what Hussey averages anywhere other than 6? Have you seen Watsons average in those positions? I doubt it, because then youd know that Clarke and Hussey bat in those slots for the best of the team, not themselves - and youd know that Watson is rubbish in those slots. Its a lose lose situation for Aus cricket, because his bowling is invaluable. Hopefully a solution presents itself soon.

Posted by Great_Nate on (November 19, 2012, 16:55 GMT)

@vivGilchrist - what about kallis? he has done a lot of batting three for SA, now he is four. No probs for him.

Posted by mike.iz on (November 19, 2012, 15:57 GMT)

@ Green_and_Gold. Totally agree mate.he should just focus on being a top order batsman that's the best forward for him with bit of fill in overs in the shorter formats of the game. To@ Daniel Brettig - This article is awesome.never seen anything like this before.Top notch!!!!

Posted by Witty_Cricketer on (November 19, 2012, 15:54 GMT)

I believe Watson should inform CA that he is available for selection only as a batsman and he will bowl when he is fit to do so. I can't believe that he cannot be accomodated as a batsman alone in this Aussie line up, he may have struggled to get in Steve Waugh's side, but the current one, he surely can get in.

Posted by   on (November 19, 2012, 15:38 GMT)

Kinda like Sobers, Miller, Kallis and Imran all rolled into one. I'd like to see him work on some legbreaks too, but he'd probably just injure his shoulder! Seriously, i'm just happy when he is playing because he balances out the team perfectly and does turn matches. I think the Heirachy needs to pull their heads in a bit though as they are clearly overreaching with their demands. He can only do what he can do and is old enough to know what he's capable of by now, time to quit the mothering and let him be.

Posted by cricket-india on (November 19, 2012, 15:25 GMT)

talk about making a mountain out of a molehill; u have an opener (warner) who's not doing so well, and u want to replace him. look around for options, including former openers who've been out due to form, fitness, etc. watson is one of them. he's good to bat now.he's got a good record. he can open. he sees off the new ball and makes a good 40-60 runs. so play him. end of story.

what's the fuss about watson's bowling? it's only a bonus if he's picked as an opener. why punish watson for being an allrounder in his previous life? ok so don't pick warner, pick another guy. will that offer an extra bowling option? no, right? so what's the problem with picking watson? whoever u pick as an opener (watosn or anyone else) does not offer an extra bowling option; so just pick the best guy u find. if it's watson, so be it!!!

Posted by steve_mcking1 on (November 19, 2012, 13:35 GMT)

He should try leg spin. It worked for the last Shane.

Posted by ScottStevo on (November 19, 2012, 12:55 GMT)

The guys bolwing isn't really good enough to be anything other than a canny part timer who can break a partnership. He's useful for rolling out a few overs when others aren't getting the job done. As is Clarkey himself. He doesn't bowl when he's injured! People should stop rabbiting on about all-rounders. We don't have one at the moment and there's never been any point choosing a batsman because he bowls a bit, or vice versa - bits and pieces cricketers who never cut it tests.

His batting since his return to the team merits his place purely as a batsman. His only issue being his conversion to tons. If he sorts that out and manages to not only convert those starts into tons but maintain his current average, Aus will be great.

Posted by hmmmmm... on (November 19, 2012, 12:54 GMT)

Great article! I want a match winning spinner in the team - does he bowl spin? Maybe that will be less strain on his body than medium pace...

Posted by Green_and_Gold on (November 19, 2012, 11:33 GMT)

@SurlyCynic - How about he cuts out his bowling and becomes a propper top order batsman.

Posted by VivGilchrist on (November 19, 2012, 10:19 GMT)

He's expected to be the matchwinning allrounder and bat at the all important number 3 position. The two don't go. An allrounder should bat 5, 6, or 7. Watto is thrust into no 3 because Ponting in on the wane, and Clarke doesn't want it for himself. Watto is sacrificing his own game for the team and coping flak for it.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (November 19, 2012, 9:50 GMT)

He's not that young any more though, is he? I think he should give up the medium pace and stick to slogging.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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