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Watson next in line

Daniel Brettig

March 30, 2011

Comments: 19 | Text size: A | A

Shane Watson celebrates Virender Sehwag's dismissal, India v Australia, 2nd quarter-final, Ahmedabad, World Cup 2011, March 24, 2011
Shane Watson has been elevated to vice-captain to help develop his leadership skills © AFP
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Shane Watson still considers it a miracle that his body no longer falls apart at the merest hint of stress. So it is understandable that his ascension to the vice-captaincy of Australia, in all three forms of the game, was a little difficult for him to comprehend. Only a handful of years have passed since Watson was roundly dismissed due to his many injuries, and in 2006 he was lampooned for a phantom heart-attack in India. Now, Watson is a heartbeat away from the Australian captaincy.

"It really has been an amazing couple of years, and something I never really thought would be coming my way after my previous part of my career when I really struggled to get on the field," Watson said in Sydney after he was unveiled alongside new Test and limited overs skipper Michael Clarke. "For things to come together now to mean I'm vice-captain of the Australian cricket team, it's still hard for me to get my head around. It is hard for me to get my head around that I've been able to play for a number of years with the Australian team and be able to contribute the way that I have, it is something I never thought would come about.

"I feel like my game's in a really good place now and my mind's in a great place to be able to really have the mental space to be able to contribute as much as I possibly can."

The changeable nature of the vice-captaincy is a source of curiosity. Some, such as Clarke or a young Mark Taylor, are chosen with a view towards the future, while others like Ian Healy and Geoff Marsh serve as loyal lieutenants without ever really inching towards the top job. Healy was replaced by Steve Waugh before the 1997 Ashes tour in order to smooth the line of succession if Taylor did not pull out of his form dive.

Watson's role seems likely to marry both, for chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch is aware that Clarke's Test batting has been decidedly poor for some time. Far more successful with the bat in the past year, Watson, however, is lacking in formal leadership credentials, something Ponting seemed acutely aware of as his reign stuttered towards a sad conclusion.

"He hasn't had a lot of leadership experience," Hilditch said of Watson. "One of the big reasons we've made this appointment now was the reality is that Shane's such a good player he's not going to play much domestic cricket. So if he's going to get his leadership skills up to another level it has to be now and it has to be as vice-captain. So it'll be a learning curve for Shane but his first role is to support Michael."

Ever honest, Watson baulked at the PR-friendly line that leadership will add vitality to his batting. Instead he reminded all in attendance that his chief task when Australia resumes Test match duty in Sri Lanka later this year will be to turn his promising starts into match-shaping hundreds.

"That's my bigger task, even more than the vice-captaincy is actually turning my 50s into some bigger scores," he said. "No doubt there's something I need to continue my development as a player. I think just even over the last year or so being around the group and trying to be a leader in some way or help the younger guys … I feel like it's something I've always wanted to do, to help people out more than anything.

"That's something I'm really excited about, really trying to help the young guys out coming through, because I have been very lucky to come through an era of Australian cricket as great as it really ever has been. I know how lucky I am to have those experiences from a very young age, and I'll be trying to get the best out of everyone within the team."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by JobeWatson on (April 1, 2011, 23:04 GMT)

What about Cam White as vice in ODI. He is still captain of T20 with Watto under him and White was next in line for Clarke in ODI this summer???

Posted by Meety on (April 1, 2011, 0:41 GMT)

@ smudgeon - liked your "captaincy" analysis - but WTF re: Peter Taylor????? Didn't get it & I have been spending WAY TOO much time trying to figure it out! LOL!!!!! @ VivGilchrist - agreed with everything except Marsh. I still have big question marks over him. He did have probably his best Shield summer this season, but I'd like to see another one from him, same with Ferguson, I'm a fan of his, but I'd like to see him put in a big summer next year.

To everyone re: Watto. Proof will be in the pudding but I just don't think that Watto has the temprement for the job! He doesn't have the right body language either.

Posted by   on (March 31, 2011, 22:39 GMT)

nathan hauritz for captain!!

Posted by   on (March 31, 2011, 8:59 GMT)

Why is his name being brought up as captain when he has spent more time out due to injuries than in? The only way he can stay fit is to stop bowling, we need him as an extra quick when Johnson & co. are spraying them around like C graders.

Posted by taniap on (March 31, 2011, 8:25 GMT)

I say give Watson the captaincy instead of Clarke. Clarke is too fragile (both in form and his personality) to head a great team like the Aussies.

Posted by smudgeon on (March 31, 2011, 5:17 GMT)

There's two main kinds of vice captain - the "Captain in Waiting" and the "Relief Captain/Consultative Committee". Watto is definitely the latter. Unless, of course, Clarke tanks completely and is dropped, in which case Watto may become the lesser-known third kind of captain: "Reluctant Clayton's Captain".

Posted by VivGilchrist on (March 31, 2011, 2:30 GMT)

I think the best thing they could do for Watto is move him down to no4 in the Test lineup as he is our best batsmen. He will sure up the middle order, be able to concentrate a bit more on being an all-rounder without the added pressure of opening. A man of his all-round ability is rare so the Aussies should be using him to there advantage as much as possible (aka Kallis). Clarke back to no5 where he plays his best and Ponting at 6. This allows Marsh to begin his career as a test opener with the Kat and Usman to bat at 3. Please, no talk of Paine or white as vc as they aren't even in the team. OKeefe has to play next Test (short but excellent FC record). And if Harris gets his knees right he plays too ( best and most consistent quick in Aus). Oh, and Hilditch and Teflon Tim can go join the English set-up so we can win back the Ashes.

Posted by smudgeon on (March 31, 2011, 1:27 GMT)

...and again, Peter Taylor is overlooked.

Posted by MinusZero on (March 30, 2011, 23:52 GMT)

Not sure about Watson being next in line as the headline says. Aren't he and Clarke more or less the same age? I would have thought a younger player for VC would be a better option. When Paine inevitably joins the team, he should become VC.

Posted by Boba_Fett on (March 30, 2011, 23:02 GMT)

Clarke's appointment I fully support. He's had leadership experience for some time now, he's had plenty of preparation and he's displayed a good ability to captain imaginatively whenever he's had the opportunity.

Watson's appointment however - that's a laughable decision. I assume it's been made because he's the only player guarranteed of a selection over the next year or so. But picking someone as a leader simply because they're in good form is appalling and short-sighted. As such it is entirely in keeping with recent decisions by the Australian selectors. If you want a short-term option, pick someone like Haddin, Katich or Hussey. If you want to start grooming lon-term successors, they start picking players like Paine and Khawaja and start prepping them for leadership roles. Watson as vice-captain - what a copout!

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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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