ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News

Australia v Zimbabwe, World Cup 2011, Ahmedabad

Watson looking forward to challenge of opening

Brydon Coverdale in Ahmedabad

February 19, 2011

Comments: 15 | Text size: A | A

When he wasn't hobbling around with a nagging calf strain, Shane Watson spent much of the 2007 World Cup padded up, waiting, and watching Matthew Hayden crush opponents with help from his opening partner Adam Gilchrist. Hayden dominated that tournament more than any other batsman, with three centuries against top teams, and it's a role Watson wants to play this time around.

So dominant were Hayden, Gilchrist and the rest of the top order that Watson, who was batting at No. 7 during that period, had to face only 85 balls through the entire seven-week event. Fast forward four years and Watson is an established, in-form opener, and Australia will be desperate for him to have a massive series, with less depth and experience in the middle order than in years gone by.

"It's a different challenge compared to batting at No. 7 in the team that we had," Watson said. "It's a much bigger responsibility opening the batting and trying to lay a great platform for the team like Matt Hayden and Adam Gilchrist did so beautifully throughout their careers. I know it's a big responsibility and I'm really looking forward to it.

"It's a great challenge over here and I've been lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time here over the past two years to get used to the conditions. They're big shoes to fill because [Hayden and Gilchrist] have performed unbelievably well throughout their careers, especially in World Cups."

Watson enters the 2011 tournament with some formidable figures behind him. He's scored 832 one-day runs in the past year, comfortably Australia's best, and earlier this month he won his second consecutive Allan Border Medal. He didn't just win it, he annihilated all his colleagues by earning 295 votes, a full hundred in front of the second-placed Michael Hussey.

It's a form-line that will leave opponents scratching their heads as to how to control him. The first team that has to find the solution is Zimbabwe, whose batting coach Grant Flower has been searching for some inside tips from his brother Andy, who as coach of England recently saw Watson plunder 161 at the MCG, after he was one of the few Australians who also had a solid Ashes series.

"He has been playing brilliantly," Grant Flower said in the lead-up to Monday's game. "I spoke to my brother last night and asked him the same thing, and he didn't have many answers. But there are a lot of class players and there are no obvious weaknesses, otherwise they wouldn't be playing at international level. But our main strength is spin, so hopefully we can get it in the right areas and he might succumb to the same pressures that everyone else is under."

One thing in Zimbabwe's favour is that it was spin that troubled Australia during their two warm-up losses, against India and South Africa over the past week, although Watson fell to pace both times in making 33 and 0. Australia know they must improve from those two opening encounters, although Watson was confident that the defeats were not an indication of how the rest of their campaign would unfold.

"We played some good cricket throughout the summer in Australia but we also knew that there was a little bit of improvement to go in just about all aspects of our one-day cricket," Watson said. "The past couple of days have been excellent for getting used to the Indian conditions and getting our game-plans and our roles in the team exactly where they should be."

Australia enter Monday's match Against Zimbabwe, in Ahmedabad, hoping to keep their unbeaten run in World Cups going - they have not lost a World Cup game since 1999 - but knowing they should not compare themselves to the teams headed by Ricky Ponting at the past two tournaments.

"I don't really see the pressure to defend the World Cup because we are a very different team to what the team was in 2007," Watson said. "In the end there's pressure on every team to win the World Cup, no matter what."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 15 
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Posted by Rajaram on (February 21, 2011, 3:36 GMT)

Shae watson has proven - time and again - in Test Cricket, ODI cricket and T20 that the opening role is best for him. he is a formidable stroke -maker, and can take the game away from tthe oppostion.

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 20, 2011, 10:40 GMT)

Well atleast he's miles better than Sehwag x)

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 20, 2011, 10:00 GMT)

Watson will always relish opening against zim, because he does not stand a chance against the better teams.

Posted by Wipul on (February 20, 2011, 7:43 GMT)

I don't understand why Australia and Zimbabwe match (scheduled to play tomorrow) has given more publicityy than today's match been Sri Lanka and Canada; unfair guys.

Posted by Rishikesh on (February 20, 2011, 5:58 GMT)

Haddin should play at no.7. They can use Jonshon or any other as a opening partner for Watson who can hit big shorts in the powerplays in the south-Asian plat pitches

Posted by sidhant on (February 20, 2011, 3:32 GMT)

i think ferguson should open & haddin to bat at 6.

Posted by Andrew on (February 20, 2011, 2:21 GMT)

@candyfloss - spot on there. Whilst I think on paper most of the top sides shouldn't have too many problems with Zim, their spinners are good & can contain. I don't expect their batting to fire too often - but anyone of Taylor, Coventry, Taibu & Chigumbra can go balistic. Oz SHOULD win to start their 2011 campaign & win well.

Posted by Mark on (February 20, 2011, 0:05 GMT)

Watson's a good player but c'mon 100s?? He's the curse of the century. He CANNOT get 100. Probably 90s and stuf.

Posted by Dummy4 on (February 19, 2011, 23:42 GMT)

Cameron Whit"s strength is his eyes. He should be having problem with his eyes at the moment. He is best suited for the 59 over Game please do not be harsh on him. People were critical of Watson at the beginning of his career but the selectors stuck to him fortunately.

Posted by S.rao on (February 19, 2011, 19:32 GMT)

Dont be too surprised if zimbabwean spinners spin a web around them and possibly pull of an upset.I have seen their spinners and some of them can be really handful.

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Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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