'It's a big ask on him' September 2, 2007

Taylor advises against using Watson as opener

Cricinfo staff

Mark Taylor feels the added pressure of opening in Tests, on top of taking wickets, will be too much for Shane Watson © Getty Images

Mark Taylor, the former Australia captain, has warned against picking the allrounder Shane Watson as Matthew Hayden's opening partner in Tests this season. With Watson also expected to pick up wickets, Taylor said it would be too much to pile on to one player.

"With no Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne in the Australian side, they may look to play two quicks and two spinners at some stage," Taylor told the Sunday Age. "If they do that, having Watson in the top six allows them still to have five bowlers. I think it's a big ask on someone like him who is trying to make his way, to say, 'righto, you can open the batting as well'."

After Justin Langer's retirement last season there is now a vacancy for Australia's opening position and Watson is among four contenders hoping to be selected for the first Test against Sri Lanka in November. The others are the specialist openers Phil Jaques and Chris Rogers, and the Victoria No. 3 Brad Hodge.

Michael Hussey had asked to be moved up the order but will remain at No. 4 as Ricky Ponting decided to avoid unnecessary disruptions to a side redeveloping after the retirements of Langer, Warne and McGrath. Taylor said he preferred to have a specialist opener but added that due to his top-order experience, Hodge would be a better choice than Watson.

"Brad Hodge certainly wouldn't let Australia down if he was given the opportunity," Taylor said. "I'm not so sure about Shane Watson, mainly because he has batted further down the order than most of them."

Taylor said Jaques and Rogers each had their strengths despite not being what he would call "classical left-handed openers". The two are opening for Australia A in their tour of Pakistan this month and will be competing for a Test spot.

"Rogers, in particular, is a very good concentrator, and he has the ability of making very big innings," Taylor said. "I'm sure there is a weakness there somewhere, but he's a good player and he can muscle through it. Phil Jaques is also a guy who makes big scores but can give a chance early on."