Australia v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Hobart

I am number four, says Watson

Daniel Brettig in Hobart

December 12, 2012

Comments: 48 | Text size: A | A

Shane Watson chats with Australian selector Rod Marsh, Hobart, December 12, 2012
Shane Watson hopes No.4 will be his position for the long term © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Shane Watson
Series/Tournaments: Sri Lanka tour of Australia
Teams: Australia

Shuffled almost as often as a deck of cards in a poker den, Shane Watson's itinerant Test match batting career may finally have found a permanent home at No. 4. Since his debut in 2005, Watson has been tried everywhere from No. 7 to opening (including ODIs), but has only now settled into the batting position with which he first became familiar when playing for Tasmania and Queensland before his international career began.

Following Australia's training session at Bellerive Oval on Wednesday, Watson confirmed that he would move down to No.4 to accommodate the recalled Phillip Hughes at No.3, and expressed hope that this would be the post where he would finally settle down as an international allrounder. It is no coincidence that No.4 is also the spot occupied by Jacques Kallis, as the coach Mickey Arthur has made no secret of his desire to have Watson scoring runs with something like the South African's formidable consistency, while also offering substance with the ball.

"I think this is more a permanent move. I hope so anyway," Watson said. "It has certainly tested out what my skills are. I certainly enjoyed opening but it meant I wasn't really able to bowl that much really, considering I was going to have to go in and take the first ball. Four hopefully will suit me really well. I know how important the No.4 spot is.

"To be able to hopefully set up an innings when the platform has already been set for me, or come in and hopefully build a big total if we've lost a few early wickets. It's where I actually started batting when I was playing first-class cricket when I was younger. It's the position I probably know the best from a few years back anyway."

For an Australian side desperate to have Watson graduate from the handy scores he delivered consistently when opening the batting, and the mediocre ones he has turned out when tried elsewhere in the order, there is some useful history to his occupation of the position. No.4 was the site of Watson's highest first-class score, a double-century for Queensland in a Sheffield Shield final, and the position from which he first pushed for international selection with Tasmania.

"That's where I batted for Queensland, and it is where I batted for a bit of my time in Tasmania as well," Watson said. It just gives me that opportunity to be able to bowl the overs that my body allows me to and the captain wants [and] to then be able to freshen up and hopefully be able to bat for a long period of time as well. It'd be nice to be able to get into a position and make it my own by scoring the runs so that hopefully they don't really want to move me anywhere else."

Critical to all this will be Watson's attitude, which has been at its most poised and confident when opening the batting. Regardless of where Watson bats, many of his innings have followed a familiar pattern of early free scoring followed by a gradual slowing in momentum and eventual dismissal for a less than satisfying score. Well aware of the flaw, Watson said he was determined to fight his way through it at No.4.

"It has been my biggest downfall, in Test cricket especially, once I've done all the hard work to be able to sustain my intensity at the crease to be able to get through those periods," Watson said. "I know where I've been falling down and I'm certainly doing everything I can to hope that doesn't occur.

The shuffling of Shane Watson

  • Opener: 24 Tests, 1878 runs at 43.67, 2 centuries
  • No.3: 4 Tests, 228 runs at 28.5, no centuries
  • No.4: yet to bat
  • No.5: yet to bat
  • No.6: 5 Tests, 170 runs at 24.28, no centuries
  • No.7: 4 Tests, 87 runs at 14.5, no centuries

"Batting in the top four I know how important it is to be consistent, then the team can rely on you, its not as hit-and-miss, on your day you have to go on and get a big score and that is something I need to continue on and improve on and get better at. I am certainly working hard mentally because I know it's more mental than technical, because I get through the times when the bowlers are bowling their best and its about being able to hold that intensity in my mind over a long period of time."

By shifting Watson again to accommodate Hughes, Australia's captain Michael Clarke is placing plenty of onus on his deputy to contribute significantly to the team as it learns to deal with life after Ricky Ponting. Both leaders followed Ponting in ways during the session, Clarke taking Hughes, David Warner and Ed Cowan aside for an earnest chat about batting, while Watson took the former captain's mantle as the last to conclude training by requesting an extra catching session.

"I have to step up and everyone has to, just around the group he really has been the heart beat of the group for such a long period of time," Watson said of Ponting. "I never took it for granted the impact that he had on the group, but when he's not there we know a number of us have to step up to do the things Ricky used to do so naturally. So its certainly a big time for the senior players who have to fill that void, but I am not sure if that is ever going to be possible.

"Even at training his energy in the nets, out on the field throwing the stumps down, catching in the slips, whatever he was doing was at the highest intensity and that's the reason he was so good. He helped everyone around him too, he does know the game so intimately, all the technical aspects of batting and fielding, he always helped you out and that is going to be sorely missed, he significantly helped me in aspects of my game. I am certainly staying in contact, he had a huge impact on my career and if it wasn't for Ricky I wouldn't be in the place I am today."

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

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Posted by AKS286 on (December 13, 2012, 15:17 GMT)

watson is no more an all-rounder yes its true. allrounders like Cairns, kallis, macmillan, symonds,etc were contributed with bat and ball too. middle order is the vertebrate of a team. watson should bat on wade's position or at no 3. klinger or voges is the perfect man to bat on no.4. IMO watson is better than warner in tests. cowan, watson, klinger, clarke, voges, hussey, haddin, siddle, pattinson, starc/MJ/Hilfy, beer.

Posted by sony_sr on (December 13, 2012, 4:59 GMT)

world's no 1 batsman coming in at 5 and a batsman of hussey's ability at 6 doesn't make sense. watson is only good enough to play at 6.

Posted by hycIass on (December 13, 2012, 2:40 GMT)

Agree with Wozza-cy, Khawaja should be bought in to the team sooner rather then later. My only issue with Watto too far back in the order is that he is a better player of pace then spin. Clarke is our best batsman and I guess i will trust his judgement on where he should bat, don't you think he wasnts Australia to do the best it can so if he is staying at 5 then that's best.

Posted by Mary_786 on (December 13, 2012, 2:38 GMT)

@Wozza_cy agree with you mate, Khawaja will hopefully come in soon. He is fantastic in bowler friendly conditions, as must be given a chance to really settle into the side b4 the ashes start. He will be a long term number 3 like amla, just needs a good go at it. Really performed well this season, as has played on difficult pitches.

Posted by Marcio on (December 13, 2012, 2:33 GMT)

@ crh8971, thanks for the inside word about Watson being on the verge of being dropped (which was, of course, the real reason why he was rushed home from the Champions League). It must be great being on those selection meetings. But I'll tell you what, at the next meeting tell the other dufases at that table that Watson has only played one test at home in the 2 year period you refer to, and nobody scored runs on those dust bowls in the WI either. But of course they are really not that stupid. They already know all this.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (December 13, 2012, 1:56 GMT)

@Trapper439 on (December 12 2012, 10:03 AM GMT), but the point is that it is broke. Clarke at #5 is obviously not an issue but anyone else at #3 seems to be at the moment, and that's what needs to be fixed. One cannot assume that Clarke's form will or won't be affected by a move to #3. If it was demanded of him that he make the move and you asked him whether he thought his form would dip I bet he'd say "no" though. If Clarke could move to #3 and retain his form then that could well ease the pressure on others and lead to better overall scores for the team. That's the point.

Posted by JimmyDean on (December 13, 2012, 1:24 GMT)

@ Dangertroy, you are absolutely correct there buddy. I would also however would open with Cowan & Hughes and have Warner coming at three playing a similar role to Booney as he is build for number 3 - like a rock.

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (December 13, 2012, 1:11 GMT)

It should be noted that Shane Watson is easily Australia's greatest ever all-rounder, comfortably surpassing the next best, Richie Benaud. He is undergoing a fair bit more criticism than he should, considering that we haven't even had a test quality all-rounder for some 30 years.

Posted by LeggieLefty on (December 13, 2012, 1:00 GMT)

I thought #4 was supposed to be the star batsman of the side..... Watson's average is not even 37! And comparing him to Kallis is a cruel joke....The Aussies have lost it. Cowan scored 1 century and was immediately hailed as "belonging in Test cricket". Warner is a slam-bang batsman - I'd wait and see how far he get.

And resting your frontline bowlers with the series on the line? Really boggles the mind. I know Clarke has done well at #5, but he really needs to move up, if not 3 (and Hughes again?!) then at least to #4. Watson is best used at #6.

Posted by whizzer801 on (December 13, 2012, 0:15 GMT)

Watson averages 36.9. He has scored only 2 100s and one of those he was dropped a sitter in the gully on 99. When will Aust cricket supporters realise he is NOT the answer. He adds value to the team as a batsman only because of what he adds as a bowler. He bowled 9 overs in an innings where SAFFA got to 5-538 at one point. He looked like a beached whale waddling around the field. He clearly was not fit. He is not good enough to make the team as a batsman alone, so if he is not fit enough to bowl he should not be in the team. You would be upset with a club cricketer who passed 50 twenty times and yet only went on to 100 twice. He is not a top order batsmen at all. Haddin has a similar average to Watson and has scored more 100s, and yet they replaced haddin with Wade stating Wade is a better bat. That is not to say Haddin should be in Watsons place, but it is to show how bad Watson's record is. He is NOT the answer.

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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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