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.

Posted by Wefinishthis on (December 12, 2012, 23:25 GMT)

The difference is that Kallis is TWICE the batsman that Watson is whilst being a comparable bowler. If you're in the top 6, you're there to average above 40-45. If you can't do that, you're not good enough and someone else should get a go. Unless Watson can average above 45 in his next 6 tests, I think he needs to be dropped from the team altogether until he can prove that he can bat, because otherwise he's really just an average bowler and taking up a batsman's place. Wozza-CY I agree, although you could consider putting Hussey at 4 and leave Clarke at 5 like where Waugh and Border used to bat if that's what he wants to do. I still like the look of Burns, Nevill and Patterson though, but I agree that Khawaja might be the next guy in. Would be great for the new guys like Khawaja to come in at 6 until they gain more confidence at test level, like where Ponting and Du Plessis started.

Posted by Becks23 on (December 12, 2012, 23:20 GMT)

I still do not understand Australia's pre occupation with trying to fit an allrounder into the team. Watson shouldnt be batting anywhere in the top 6 ( too unreliable), is he a batting allrounder or a bowling allrounder? I dont know the answer as his performance with either has been well below par. The Australian Top Order is way to fragile to include Watson - when you have the likes of Warner, Hughes and the developing Cowan - in the top 3 - Promote Clarke to 4, he is in the form of his life ( if he is getting runs at 5 he can get them at 4, usually its only a couple of extra deliveries anyway and then he is in).

Posted by L4zybugg3r on (December 12, 2012, 22:49 GMT)

@crh8971 - totally agree about Watson. Even though I think he is suited for #6 if he wants #4 fine, either way he needs big runs and probably to be bowling a bit more. Taking a quick look at the position stats 2 centuries from 37 tests is pretty damn awful. I'd give him a few tests but for me this is his last chance, it's like Johnson at some point you have to stop thinking about potential and start seeing some performances to back it up.

Posted by MinusZero on (December 12, 2012, 22:33 GMT)

Watson should be at 6 at least. Look at the other Number 4 batsmen around the world. Kallis, Tendulkar, Chanderpaul....Watson? Something not right there.

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (December 12, 2012, 21:06 GMT)

Watson is not a 4. Should be batting 5/6 if he want to maximize the allrounder role. Clarke is delighted with Watson batting 4 which means he can continue to hide from the new ball by batting 5..

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 20:47 GMT)

Lets face it .... The Australian Selectors are hopeless.

Since the Pakistan Tour of 2010 the Australian Team is -

- On 25% of Innings Australia <25 runs for 3 - On 50% of Innings Australia <50 runs for 3 - On 66% of Innings Australia <75 runs for 3 - On 82% of Innings Australia <100 runs for 3

I think that over this period Australia has been better than 200 for 3 on one occasion before the 10 wickets fell for around 150 runs.

My batting line up -

Hughes Cowan Khawaja Clarke Hussey Watson

I don't rate Warner as a Test Batsman. He is not committed to seeing off the new ball. Having this top three has the potential to see off the new ball and score a lot more than 100-runs. I am sure that Clarke wants Watson out of the team, but I wouldn't have him in the team until he proved his fitness in Shield Games. They did the same to Marsh last year

Hughes and Warner are Clarke-men, so it wouldn't surprise me if this is the Ashes line up so let's see if Hughes can vindicate his 2nd recall

Posted by killbillgbu on (December 12, 2012, 18:54 GMT)

It's good to see that a player comes out and declares himself, rather than be politically correct and just say "Oh, I'll do anything that the team needs me to do". We need players who know themselves and and assert themselves. Way to go!

Posted by Herath-UK on (December 12, 2012, 18:48 GMT)

Watson made a mark only as an opener and moving down and down the order though may improve his longevity in the team,will it make him less effective? A good time for Sri Lanka to make the first win. Ranil Herath - Kent

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 18:48 GMT)

I always thought he was a pretty good opener, and his record is excellent there. I guess the team is bending over backwards to accommodate him because he wants to bowl? Or does it highlight a lack of batting depth in Aus at the moment after being spoiled for so long?

Posted by PACERONE on (December 12, 2012, 16:35 GMT)

watson will never be a great batsman or all-rounder.If you check the start of his career you will find that if he was given out or caught at the start of his innings he would of been dropped.Batsmen are not to be blamed for this happening.Watson will ride his luck.This luck will run out sooner than later.He is a wicket taker and will help the team.

Posted by crktcrzy on (December 12, 2012, 15:54 GMT)

Watson is one of the most overrated players in international cricket, especially as a Test batsman. No.4 in tests for Australia, replacing the legendary Ricky Ponting? You've gotta be kidding me. He should feel lucky that his useful bowling and current brittleness of the Aussie test team does prabably qualify him as a player, but still batting at No.4 should be out of question. He should face the fact that he is a rabbit as compared to Clarke and Hussey whom he wants to precede in the batting order.

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 12:59 GMT)

I'm not sure why Clarke isn't moving up to #4. Personally I believe your best batsman should bat at 4. If you look at the established players in this position worldwide, you have Kevin Pietersen, Jacques Kallis, Mahela Jayawardene, Younis Khan, and Ross Taylor. Shane Watson is not a player in this class, but Clarke is. In my opinion Watson should bat 6 with Hussey at 5, as Watson's strength is making quick, game-changing 50s and not big centuries (his record proves this). It would also take pressure off his batting and allow him to contribute more as a bowler, which is Watson's more underrated suit. But right now I suppose Australia are willing to try anything.

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 12:17 GMT)

I don't think this is the worst spot for Watto. Though i'm not sure whats going to happen when Aus find themselves two wickets down early with Watto having just bowled 15 overs on the first evening? May just be a walking wicket. Agree with @Wozza that his abences will continue to create problems with him at no.4, though possibly lesser so than they did when he batted in the more specialised 1-3 slots. At least in Khawaja and Burns there is a couple of likely no.4's getting about in shield cricket, but then neither of them are allrounders, which again creates problems with team balance. But do you really dare disrupt Clarke and Hussey at 5 and 6. It does seem as others have already said to be what works best in an otherwise disfunctional batting line-up. In any case i'd have him in the team and his role is perhaps always destined to be 'wherever he fits' rather than 'where he fits best', which may just be why we've never seen the best of Watto at test level.

Posted by o-bomb on (December 12, 2012, 11:22 GMT)

I don't see how he can be said to have settled at number when he hasn't batted there yet. I don't see why Clarke can't step up to bat at 4, but as has been pointed out his record there isn't very good so I can see why he doesn't necessarily want to. If not him though; there is surely no reason Hussey can't go back to number 4. It seems odd that Australia's best batsmen are batting at 5 and 6 at the moment. The danger is that a small collapse will see either of them batting with the tail.

Posted by shwet14 on (December 12, 2012, 11:08 GMT)

Clarke should bat at either 3 or 4. That's the position where the best batsman of the team bats. He can control the game in a better way from higher up rather than playing catch up from 5. The top order of Cowan, Warner, Hughes and Watson doesn't command the respect of the opposition what with a combined test tally of less than 75 among them. Batting at 6, Watson will get the requisite rest he requires to bowl 25 overs in an innings, all the more important considering his injury record.

Posted by PFEL on (December 12, 2012, 11:06 GMT)

All the media attention over Watson's test batting position has been strangely off place lately. It shouldn't be about whether he bats 3 or 4 or opens, it should be about where he is GOOD ENOUGH to bat. No way in any sense should he be batting in the top 4, he is nowhere near good enough. His position should be 6 or 7, that way he is not batting embarrassingly high and he will be able to bowl more, which he needs to do to keep his spot. He is simply not a good enough batsman to get by only bowling 10 overs a Test

Posted by DaveFish on (December 12, 2012, 10:54 GMT)

Clarke is their batsmen by county mile....keep it simple and give him no. 3 or 4 so he can have the most time at the wicket.....more time = more runs, more runs gives Watto and others more comfort and less pressure. What wisdom from Saffer supporter!!!

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 10:41 GMT)

Watson is an impact player. He can bat at any position from 1 to 6 and take the game away from you. Best all rounder after kallis and no way near him.....

Posted by Trapper439 on (December 12, 2012, 10:03 GMT)

@Vinay Kolhatkar: Clarke should stay at 5 because he's in amazing form batting at that position. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", as the saying goes.

I do agree with you that Warner should be at 3 instead of Hughes. That way he'd know if the team is in early trouble and he should reign in his attacking instincts. Warner coming in at 1/100 would be an entirely different prospect to Warner coming in at 1/0 or as an opener.

Watson at 4 sounds about right to me, as he'd get a rest after bowling in a previous innings, and he's more likely to get a rest before bowling in a subsequent innings than he would at 6.

Posted by Aravind_always on (December 12, 2012, 10:00 GMT)

Watson is best suited to No.6..

Posted by Biggus on (December 12, 2012, 9:54 GMT)

Are we talking batting position or Numerology now?

Posted by HatsforBats on (December 12, 2012, 9:48 GMT)

No Watson, you're a number 6. Unfortunately neither yourself or the NSP have figured it out yet.

Posted by Dangertroy on (December 12, 2012, 8:48 GMT)

@meety - if he could bowl 15-20 overs a day, I'd bat him at 8, and pick an extra batsman. @vinay Kolhatcar - Clarke played 17 matches at 4 and averages just under 21. He tried it, but he seems to bat best at 5. Plus he and Hussey are the part of the lineup that works, so lets not change that. 4 double centuries this year means he is not being wasted there. Would be nice if he wasn't walking out with three down for less than 100 often, but if he is coming out at 3 for 300, then that not a bad spot to be in.

Posted by Wozza-CY on (December 12, 2012, 8:47 GMT)

The problem with Watto batting anywhere in the top 4 is that he is in & out so much, it really disrupts an already unsettled line up. The impact isn't as great if he bats at six, like we saw with SA and Duminy/Du Plessis/Elgar etc. That's why I would like to see Clarke at 4, Mussey at 5 and Watson at six. If Watto continues his poor run of scores or failsl against spin early, then bring Khawaja in at six to hopefully re-ignite his test career. We need to lock in the top order.

Posted by drnaveed on (December 12, 2012, 8:07 GMT)

watson had injury problems through out his career so far.he has been in and out of the team so many times, only because of his fitness issues.. number 4 is a very important position ,to bat on. i don't think, he will be able to play for a longer period of time at number 4 position.yes, if he is fit enough than he can take the responsibility for a longer duration of time,otherwise clarke should come in at 4.

Posted by crh8971 on (December 12, 2012, 7:46 GMT)

At the moment Watson is on the verge of being dropped whilst "something great" seems far off in the distance. A test batting average of 25 over a two year period just doesn't stack up and his bowling isn't that great. It is possible you would generate similar batting stats and get better bowling from a player like Cutting. If he is batting in the top six he needs to generate top 6 batting stats and to me that is a score of 50 or better at least one in every four innings. Why is everybody so keen to drop Eddie Cowan? He has 5 scores above 50 from 17 innings and just needs to convert one more of those into a big score and he will soon average over 40. I think he looks to have a solid technique and a good temperament to open. Warner on the other hand looks like he could be great at 6 to me.

Posted by satish619chandar on (December 12, 2012, 7:38 GMT)

Open with Warner and Hughes and move Cowan to 3. Watto can play at his preferred 4 if they dont want to promote Clarke and Hussey as they are doing the damage control perfectly. If they need Watto more as a bowler, then make him no.6 promoting the others. Bring back Haddin to keep though he wont be there for long time. Bowling will have Siddle, Starc, Lyon and the other pacer.

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 7:18 GMT)

Excellent position for Watson to come in at. I've loved watching him play, he is a man with fiery passion in what he does, beating the leather out of the ball when the occassion calls for it, and crunching the ball into dirt on others. Wish him the best!

Posted by SICHO on (December 12, 2012, 7:12 GMT)

We all know Watson, a quick 28 or 35 then gone. Oz better hope that Clarke and Hussey fire, again. Looking at the Oz top four, Clarke and Hussey have a lot of job to do here.

Posted by Caino94 on (December 12, 2012, 7:00 GMT)

watson is long over due for a great score, i remember the 2009/10 summer against pakistan and the windies he was on fire and near impossible to get out, even in the ashes the next year he and hussey were our only shining lights and last summer he was unfortunate to be on the sidelines again. Really hope watson does settle in at no.4 and can have a huge impact with both bat and ball like kaillis has done for so many years and also it wont put so much strain on his body. best of luck watto!

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 6:46 GMT)

Needs to bat at 6 with wade at 7. He is not a test level batsman.

Posted by   on (December 12, 2012, 6:44 GMT)

It is hard to fathom why Clark refuses to go to 4. Mike Hussey then should have been made 4 and Watson 6. 6 is often an allrounder who can bowl a fair bit. 6 or 1 are his best spots, Warner can always make a great no 3.

Posted by landl47 on (December 12, 2012, 6:28 GMT)

I was going to say something similar, Meety, so thanks for saving me the trouble.

Posted by mcsdl on (December 12, 2012, 6:23 GMT)

Watson is a player with limited ability with bat and bowl who's self belief has led him to over-acheive in his career. So he will do okay in no4 spot as he has done in other spots, but problem for Oz will be not having a talented middle order batsman to go with Clarke & Hussey. & Watson is not the answer they are looking for...!

Posted by vj_gooner on (December 12, 2012, 6:16 GMT)

I really wish Watto has no injuries till the 2015 WC. He is a player capable of absolute mayhem.

All said & done, I wish Andrew "Roy" Symonds hadn't done any sort of nonsense in Aug 2008. I can very confidently say that till date, Australia haven't replaced Symonds at all. The aura he carries on to the field combined with ruthless & aggression was so damn special.

Posted by DylanBrah on (December 12, 2012, 6:11 GMT)

Watson is best as an opener when the opposing team sets attacking fields, but fails when he bats down the order and it is necessary to rotate the strike.

Posted by Meety on (December 12, 2012, 5:43 GMT)

I like Watto, & think there is a great cricketer somewhere inside him, but I really wish he'd stop the "gunna-do" interviews. Watto always seems like he is gunna do this or that. I s'pose it makes for a bit of reading, but there is a difference between what Oz cricketers are wanting to do & actually doing in the interviews. It is interesting that the ones that LEAST talk themselves up is Clarke & Hussey & they are pretty much the best performing players we have at the moment. I would consider Watto as an opener in the India Test series next year in place of Cowan, but slot Watto back down the order for England (although there is a good arguement for him to remain as an opener). Not ideal moving him up & down the batting line up. IF, Watto was capable of bowling 15 to 20 overs a day say, I would consider a direct swapin the batting order with Wade as plausible, though whether that places undue demand on a bloke trying to find his way is another matter.

Posted by kensohatter on (December 12, 2012, 5:28 GMT)

Watson is a player always on the verge of something great... I hope we see that greatness soon because we need this guy firing for the ashes

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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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