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?

Reviews
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.

Conclusion
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

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