July 25, 2013

What connects Watson and Broad?

Both are blond, have appeared naked in magazines, and wouldn't know a valid use of a DRS review if it came up and said hello. What's not to hate?

Stuart Broad and Shane Watson have much in common. Blond cricketers who can bat and bowl, both seem to draw hatred from opposition fans and even from many of their own team's supporters. Why is this?

Physical appearance
Shane Watson is basically a big sack of pectorals, biceps and triceps peppered with emotional fragility and bound up with a faint air of melancholy. He looks like he cares what he looks like. Or, more accurately, he looks like he cares what he looks like to the detriment of his cricket. Surely all that time spent waxing his chest would be better spent learning how to keep his left leg out of the path of the ball.

Stuart Broad has a different physique. His body is that of a grossly oversized puppet made out of staircase spindles. However, he has the genetic misfortune of having the kind of head that everyone other than those with particularly unsavoury political inclinations takes against. Blond and boyish, he somehow manages to look clean-shaven even when he has stubble. It's hard to avoid the feeling that his petulance is overcompensation for this innocent appearance.

Also, both Broad and Watson have appeared naked in magazines with middle stump concealed by a cricket bat. No matter what the motivation, cricket fans don't generally take to that kind of thing. They prefer filling in scorecards and eating sandwiches.

On-field temperament
In the field, Watson looks like a child who has been told by his parents that he has to leave his computer game and go outside for a bit. He rarely looks like he wants to be there. He wants to be out there with his bat, though. No one can slope off after being dismissed quite like Watson.

The hangdog sulkiness only ever really lifts when he switches to plain childishness. Witness his infamous celebration upon dismissing Chris Gayle. Body language has rarely said more about a person. In the aftermath, Gayle bluntly and accurately described Watson as "soft".

Broad favours petulance over sulkiness - although the latter is certainly in his repertoire as well. Many believe he has only escaped greater censure through being the son of an ICC match referee. True or not, that fact doesn't help his cause. Nor did his previous habit of flouncing down the pitch celebrating wickets without bothering to turn round and appeal.

Relationships with team-mates
Selflessness is hard to measure, but cricket fans can sniff it out a mile off and they keep some form of internal tally for every single player. Matt Prior has earned more affection for his willingness to embrace the borderline irresponsible single when looking to move the score along than he will ever earn for hitting boundaries. Peter Siddle's death-or-glory charge towards what at times appears more likely to be the former has achieved something similar.

Watson? His relationship with Simon Katich probably still hasn't recovered from when he was run out for 93 at the MCG in 2009. By all accounts they still hadn't spoken hours later, and the eventual ice-breaking words have sadly gone unrecorded. More recently Watson's antipathy towards Michael Clarke has been more than hinted at, and Watson also allegedly felt the need to have a whinge at Mickey Arthur because he didn't think David Warner had been treated severely enough after taking a swing at Joe Root. This is not the way to win affection.

Following parody Twitter accounts of team-mates aside, Broad at least appears to maintain working relationships with most of his colleagues. This is despite the fact that on the field his tetchiness is more likely to be directed towards members of his own team than opponents or umpires. Some detect the acrid whiff of hypocrisy in Broad's hands-on-hips stares and open haranguing of those who misfield. Isn't this the man who once managed to tot up three missed run-outs and a dropped catch in a single over against Netherlands?

This deserves a section of its own. Watson and Broad are incorrigible reviewers. With the bat, they're never out. With the ball, it's always out. England's review policy has an unofficial clause, which is to just ignore anything Broad ever says, on the grounds that he has no critical faculties. Australia should implement something similar for Watson so that one of the other batsmen can showcase their poor judgement instead.

There are many, many factors that add to the unpopularity of these two players with their own fans, but perhaps the ill feeling is to some degree built on the shortfall between what was promised and what has actually been delivered. Both claim to be allrounders but neither has ever lived up to early forecasts of greatness. Perhaps we feel short-changed and suspect that our lost investment is being spent primarily on hair gel.

Alex Bowden blogs at King Cricket

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Richard on July 26, 2013, 4:50 GMT

    Not sure this belongs on page 2. Neither of these cricketers are ones I have a lot of respect for.

  • Nina on July 25, 2013, 20:17 GMT

    Disappointing and strange article. Though published under Page 2, I fail to spot any kind of humour or sarcasm, just a summary of rumours, received opinions, outdated or wrong conclusions, and sometimes pure hatred. A few weeks ago I went to a live match involving one of the two players and was very surprised at how he was cheered on and celebrated by the supporters, much in contrast with what I read in the comments on this site and elsewhere. Luckily the people posting derogative or abusive things on the internet do not represent the majority of fans out there, let's not forget that. I can only shake my head at the way two top professional sports men are portrayed. But maybe I just don't get the joke.

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2013, 18:52 GMT

    Articles like these do not belong on cricinfo. This is pretty stupid and classless.

  • sabarinath on July 25, 2013, 17:41 GMT

    Genius and witty as always! You had rightly chosen the 2 cry baby and analyzed their personalities. Even if this article is posted in the Main section instead of Page 2, the thesis still holds good!!!

  • Peter on July 25, 2013, 16:36 GMT

    I think you're wrong, Broad is well liked by the English fans, they like his bowling and when he gets going with the bat he can be quite good. I have never seen him as an all rounder he's a typical number 8 a bowler that bats not quite as bad as bowlers usually do. A brett Lee, Shane Warne, Tim Southee type player.

    I actually like the fact he annoys the Aussies.

    So while the Aussies might not be happy with Shane Watson and feel he has not achieved all he could have, I would argue most English fans think Broad is a good bowler who bats a bit and on the whole, gives his all for the cause

  • Jurie on July 25, 2013, 16:07 GMT

    Great article, especially the selfishness as shown by use of the reviews!

  • Douglas on July 25, 2013, 15:03 GMT

    Sums them both up perfectly. Like two immature kids playing a game with adults and not knowing what is expected and what is outside the limits. Neither is letting whatever potential they have come through.

  • Gopalakrishna on July 25, 2013, 14:37 GMT

    Well said , good article on both these extra ordinary but ordinary players.The talent is extra-ordinary in them but their chaildish behavior is making them look ordinary players.No mater how much ever competitiveness has come into cricket, still it is one gentlemen's game and cricket fans don't like childish ways on cricket field. Again well said.

  • Richard on July 25, 2013, 11:25 GMT

    Yes Mr. Bowden. I think you just about nailed it with this article. My feelings exactly. They are both players who cause that very strange symptom.... to enjoy it when a particular member of the team we support fails. Hate to admit that, but there we are.

  • Ian on July 25, 2013, 9:49 GMT

    My favourite Shane Watson humiliation story is from the ODI at Chester-Le-Street in 2005, just before those historic Ashes. The Aussie team had stayed at Lumley Castle and word on the street was that Shane Watson had been unnerved by tales of the castle haunted. Darren Gough made spooky gestures and faces at Shane Watson at every possible opportunity during Watson's brief appearance at the crease towards the end of the Aussie innings.

    My favourite Stuart Broad humiliation story is already covered - the shower against the Netherlands in the 2009 T20 World Cup. Having said that, reports of the boy/man Broad's inappropriate tweets about Andy Murray's girlfriend run that story a close second.

    Nice article.

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