South Africa in Australia 2012-13 November 6, 2012

Australia reluctant for Watson to stop bowling


Michael Clarke has not yet considered the possibility of cutting down Shane Watson's bowling workload when he returns to the Test side. Watson will miss the first Test against South Africa, starting at the Gabba on Friday, after injuring his calf while bowling for New South Wales in a Sheffield Shield match on Saturday, and it is far from the first time Watson has hurt himself while bowling.

He missed all of Australia's home Tests last summer after suffering a hamstring injury while bowling in the Johannesburg Test in November - a calf complaint also arose during the summer - and often struggled with his dual batting and bowling roles earlier in his career. Watson, 31, has always declared himself an allrounder and insisted that he wants to keep bowling. Australia will need to consider how best to use him over the coming years.

They could look to the example of Steve Waugh, who began his career as an allrounder and often bowled more than 20 overs in a Test innings, but once he reached his thirties his body struggled to handle the workload and he scaled back his bowling significantly. Notably, around the time Waugh cut back on his bowling his Test batting average was 43; by the end of his career it had risen to 51.

"We'll worry about that if we have to. Shane sees himself as an allrounder. I haven't heard any different at this stage," Clarke said in Brisbane ahead of the first Test. "I'm pretty sure he wants to come back as an allrounder and we've selected him through his career as an allrounder.

"There have been games where he hasn't been selected because he hasn't been able to bowl. If he's fit to do both, then he'll do both. If he's not, the selectors will sit down and work out if we're going to select him just as a batsman."

For the time being, Australia are not willing to choose Watson for his batting alone. Although Watson consistently makes starts and has passed 50 on 20 occasions in Test cricket, only twice has he gone on to turn those into hundreds. Australia's coach, Mickey Arthur, is also keen for Watson to return as an allrounder, rather than confining himself to a batting role.

"Shane's got a massive amount to offer in two disciplines," Arthur said on Inside Cricket on Monday. "It's a blow not to have him because he's two cricketers in one. Shane's still got a long career ahead of him, batting and bowling."

Whether that career includes this series against South Africa remains to be seen, although he has more than two weeks to prove his fitness before the second Test in Adelaide. Australia called Rob Quiney in for this Test and Arthur said the selection panel had been keen to replace Watson with the man they considered the next best batsman, rather than another allrounder such as Andrew McDonald.

"There was [consideration of another allrounder], we had a look at all the scenarios," Arthur said. "As a panel we were very keen on picking what we thought was our best top-six batters. I think that's really important, especially against a good bowling attack, we wanted to pick our best top six. Then we look down the line at what our best four bowlers are to get us 20 wickets. We've gone down the old fashioned route of picking six batters, four bowlers and a keeper."

That balance could present some on-field challenges for Clarke, who might need to rely on his part-timers more heavily than he would have liked. It was notable that at training on Tuesday, Quiney and Michael Hussey were both sending down medium-pacers in the nets. Quiney's outswingers have earned him three first-class wickets - he took 2 for 22 the first time he bowled in a first-class match - and Clarke will consider using him if required at the Gabba.

"We've seen in the past that I've got some overs out of Michael Hussey. Rob Quiney will be no different," Clarke said. "And if there's a bit of spin, I can bowl as well. We've still got the options there. Whether you've got an allrounder in your team or not, you always rely on your main four bowlers and then you use your part-timers as you see fit. Hopefully our frontline bowlers can do the job. But if there's a role for a part-timer to play, they'll certainly get that opportunity."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Paul on November 8, 2012, 1:56 GMT

    "...struggled with his dual batting and bowling roles earlier in his career." What basis do you have for that assertion? Even early in his career, he made a habit of performing with bat or ball in almost every game - a failure with one was balanced by success with the other.

  • Jeremy on November 8, 2012, 1:09 GMT

    What CA want and what Watto's body can deliver may be two very different things. If he bowls at all, they need to limit him to 4 or 5 over bursts. Personally, I wouldn't mind him concentrating on his batting alone, securing the top-order (which has been relatively weak since the sacking of Katich) and notching up a lot more hundreds. He's a quality fielder as well. CA should be concentrating on getting their young quicks consistently on the field - not meandering on the sidelines with yet another early diagnosed stress fracture or similar type of injury - Cummins' potential will never be realised because his body won't allow it.

  • Mashuq on November 7, 2012, 21:19 GMT

    The #3 position becomes a big problem if your openers are dicey and ours are that, so it's a no-brainer that a good 3 is needed. Although Watto likes batting up the order, it's obvious that he needs to bat lower for many of the reasons given, like providing experience alongside Clarke for those replacing Punter and Huss in the quite near future. Taking such factors into consideration leads inevitably to Clarke needing to condition himself for that role asap, say for the tour to India when Watto's bowling will be needed. The two big tours next year may be prompting the concern for him to continue as an all rounder. However, because he lacks the constitution of the natural athletes like Symonds and Siddle, he'll always run the risk of breaking down. I can't see either him or Clarke being around beyond 2016. You can't blame them for trying to prolong their test careers but sometimes you need to take decisions in the best interest of the team. Punter + Pup started at 6 so give others a go

  • matt on November 7, 2012, 13:14 GMT

    His body keeps braking down when he bowls. They should go back to letting the guy bat my god he was amazing when he was 100% Batsman he doesn't need to bowl just Open the batting

  • Brady on November 7, 2012, 10:42 GMT

    There is too much expected of Watson and he clearly can't handle it. Batting at 3 & scoring centuries/fielding at slips/vice captaincy/bowling first change & taking a few wickets - most players would only be expected to do TWO of these things. In order to lengthen his career, I would recommend batting him at 6, fielding him at mid-on, removing the duties of vice captain and having him trundle out 4-5 over spells 2nd change.

  • Andrew on November 7, 2012, 10:32 GMT

    @HatsforBats on (November 07 2012, 08:52 AM GMT) - less than 48hrs to go!

  • Dru on November 7, 2012, 9:02 GMT

    I see Aus desperately want Watto to be an alrounder but surely he must be on the park first. After missing the whole of last summer and now the vital first test against SA, its time to make the hard calls. The guy is 31 and injuries have plagued him all along and still has 5 solid years of service ahead of him. The injuries are not going to get any better and Aus batting stocks are shallow if Watto's replacement is anything to go by, its time for Watto to take the step of playing as a specialist batter. This should atleast guarantee some experienced quality batting in the top order when Aus search for replacements for Ponting and Hussey. Further, what is the point of having a quality alrounder who is unable to play consistently?

  • kieran on November 7, 2012, 8:52 GMT

    @Meety, sorry I was a little over the top with the Hilditch comment, the giddiness of the approaching test made me think silly thoughts!

  • kieran on November 7, 2012, 8:50 GMT

    @zenboomerang, I'm sure we'll have the usual gabba test pitch and Lyon will actually get some assistance with some bounce. I'm loathe to see Hilf bowling himself into the ground after showing such good form and pace last year, another reason I'd like to have the all-rounder. If Kallis bowls a lot of overs I'll be suprised and happy, he's averaging about 50 odd these last few years.

  • kieran on November 7, 2012, 8:43 GMT

    @Moppa, in that case I'll take DHussey with the 50+ average, hussey a few years older with some mediocre bowling and excellent fielding ;) He should have been playing for several years now anyway.

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