Australia in India 2012-13

Watson open to middle-order role

Brydon Coverdale

February 9, 2013

Comments: 78 | Text size: A | A

Shane Watson delivered a quick start for Australia in the second innings, India v Australia, 1st Test, Mohali, 4th day, October 4, 2010
When Shane Watson last toured India in 2010, he opened, averaged 67.75 and scored his second - and still most recent - Test century © AFP

Shane Watson is confident he has the technique to handle a middle-order position on spinning Indian pitches if he is not restored to his preferred opening position on the upcoming Test tour. Watson's new role as a non-bowling specialist batsman will provide the Australian brains trust with its biggest conundrum in the lead-up to the first Test in Chennai as they decide not only where to bat Watson, but also how to balance the team's make-up without him as a fifth bowling option.

Since his decision to temporarily give up bowling in an attempt to avoid injury, Watson has spoken of his desire to return to the top of the Test order instead of filling the No.4 role he occupied against Sri Lanka. One of the reasons Watson was moved down the order last year was to allow him to juggle his batting and bowling responsibilities more easily; now that is not a consideration, although looking ahead to the Ashes tour when he wants to bowl again, it will be relevant once more.

However, Watson's impressive form against the new ball in the past two one-day internationals against West Indies has been a timely reminder of what he can do against fast men and a hard ball, even if it is in the 50-over game. Over the next week, Michael Clarke and his fellow selectors must decide whether to reinstall Watson at the top of the order in India, which would mean splitting up one of the most successful Test opening partnerships of the past couple of years.

Since Ed Cowan and David Warner came together in the Boxing Day Test against India in 2011, they have scored more runs as an opening pair than any other combination in the world, and their partnership average of 44.59 is the best of any pairing who have opened in at least 10 innings together. By comparison, in the same time Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen have averaged partnerships of 38.28 and Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir's figure is 32.82.

"It certainly is different batting at No.4, 5 or 6 compared to opening," Watson said. "You do know that batting through the middle order you're going to be coming in against spin the majority of the time and also reverse swing, which provides big challenges. I know that's part of what it would be to bat in the middle order but I also know that I've got the game to be able to negate that.

"If that's what the selectors and the captain and coach see as the best opportunity for me to score runs then I'm certainly willing to take that on. I've played a lot of cricket in India now in all forms of the game so I suppose I am one of the more experienced guys to be able to take on the conditions and take on the Indian bowlers. I've played a lot of cricket against the majority of their bowlers so I know them very well and I know the conditions."

Watson is one of only four members of Australia's squad who has played Test cricket in India, along with Clarke, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson. In his first Test series there in 2008, Watson was a No.6 whose bowling, and especially his ability to reverse-swing the ball, was important. He averaged 24.48 with the bat on that trip. When he returned for a two-Test tour in 2010 he opened, averaged 67.75 and scored his second - and still most recent - Test century.

"That is where I feel most comfortable, there's no doubt about that," Watson said of opening. "Even opening the batting over the last couple of nights ... I love taking on the quick bowlers with the brand new ball and challenging myself against the best bowlers in the world. That's what really gets me up and going. That certainly is the exciting thing about opening the batting.

"I'm not here to put extra pressure on Ed at all, because I know he wants to be doing as good a job as he possibly can. All I've said is the reasons why I got moved down the order was mainly to do with my bowling, to be able to get the balance exactly right. But moving forward I really don't want my bowling to get in the way of my batting."

Cowan scored his first Test century during the home summer against South Africa but despite reaching fifty two more times, he wasn't able to post another big score. But he has consistently shown that he can take the shine off the new ball and occupy time at the crease, an important role for a Test opener, and the Cowan-Warner partnership was solid during the summer.

Cowan was part of the advance group that has already arrived in India and will take part in a two-day tour match in Chennai, before the rest of the squad lands in time for a second warm-up game, a three-day contest. Watson said it was disappointing that the squad was unable to travel as one group due to the crossover with the one-day series against West Indies, but he said a jam-packed schedule meant it could be no other way.

"To think that there are different stages of the group going over, it's not a whole team going across to make our mark straight up, makes it very disappointing," Watson said. "But that's just the way the schedules have worked. You've just got to make the most of the situation. It's not ideal but it is part and parcel now of trying to fit all the amount of cricket in that there is at the moment.

"For me, I just want to play. There's no doubt you want to represent your country and I've missed quite a bit of the summer. The most exciting thing about representing your country is playing in front of your home fans, so for me I certainly would prefer to be playing here because that's what really excites me ... I'm going to be lucky enough to have a three-day tour match [in India] and I think that will be a perfect lead-in."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (February 12, 2013, 22:30 GMT)

Maroon5: So would you say with Hussey Australia has a far better batting line up than England and thats why the results were different? I'm just saying going into those series you still would have said England has a far better chance of winning than Australia. Also you would have said the same vs South Africa but Australia certainly went a lot closer than England.

Posted by 30-30-150 on (February 12, 2013, 13:36 GMT)

In fact Hussey was not only the Man of the Series but also the MoM in all 3 Tests.

Posted by 30-30-150 on (February 12, 2013, 13:32 GMT)

@Shaggy076... Well, back then, Australia had Ponting and Hussey, didn't they? Hussey was the top-performer while the rest of the Australian batting folded up against the Lankan bowlers (who are just as good/bad as the Indian bowlers).

Posted by Meety on (February 12, 2013, 1:28 GMT)

@HatsforBats - agree with most of what you said - just disagree with the bit about being a liability in the field. I think he is a pretty good slipper, & it wasn't that long ago he ran a batsmen out from a direct hit from deep square leg. == == == For the tour of India, I would consider Watto/Warner as the opening duo. This won't happen though. I am more than happy for Cowan to open against England, he is suited to English conditions. I just can't seeing consistantly countering spin in spinning conditions in India. Hope he proves me wrong as he will almost certainly open.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (February 11, 2013, 22:39 GMT)

Maroon5 - You could use exactly the same argument against Sri Lanka. Yet Australia won and England didn't. Perioid.

Posted by 30-30-150 on (February 11, 2013, 12:03 GMT)

Cook = Clarke. Pietersen = Watson. Swann = ? Panesar = ?

Aussies have a lesser chance of winning this series than what England had two months ago. Period.

Posted by Mary_786 on (February 11, 2013, 10:23 GMT)

Khawaja and Cowan have two matches to prove his worth. The conditions are ideal for both but they must score big like Hughes did to get a spot. My gut feel is that Khawaja will outscore Cowan but i would prefer both in our lineup. Playing Wade at No 6 is a big mistake unless the only all rounder with creditable batting averages , Steve Smith, is there. But I think he's third in line in the all rounders so I see our 's batting line up significantly weakened. Even when we had Gilchrist as wicket keeper, he almost always batted No 7, and that was with a far stronger batting line up. Wade is a good batsman but he's no Gilchrist, so bringing him back to 6 when Australia has a weaker batting line up makes absolutely no sense. This is especially the case if Maxwell or to a lesser extent Henriques is selected. Both are fragile with the bat and I doubt that their bowling will have much impact against the Indians. Go with Warner, Cowan, Hugh, Khawaj, Clarke, Cowan, Wade, Siddle, Pattin, Star,Lyo

Posted by hycIass on (February 11, 2013, 10:03 GMT)

You know I watched a bit of the Poms playing a T20 agaist the Kiwis on the weekend. Finn and Broad were playing for the Poms. For all the talk about swing bowling, they both seem more hit the deck type bowlers. And why all the fanfare about Finn? He was good - pretty tall, decent pace, but not in the class of Starc and Pattinson. And I can certainly see Pattinson< Siddle, Bird, Starc and even Johnson being the equal of anything the Poms can throw at us. Top order and spinners is where we could struggle. Watson must open with Warner by the ashes and hopefully the India series will sort that out as they are. Hughes and Khawaja must be our 3 and 4 as they can form a formidable alliance if bought together as Watson is a better opener then Cowan. If Clarke bats 5, Watson 6 and Wade 7, our middle order is better. . No one mentioning SOK yet as a spinning option? He's a good bowler.

Posted by satishchandar on (February 11, 2013, 9:46 GMT)

I strongly feel Watson can be Australia's no.5 in tests no matter he bowls of not. Gives him more time as he is not a natural opener in domestic circuit. Can think of bigger role as bowler. And he can be the Gilchrist to counterattack in full cry in the middle of the innings. As he was a opener, he can also build innings of in crisis. I am always rooting for Sehwag to be in middle order too for the same reason. Look at ABD. He was a decent opener but his style of batting went to a different level when he moved to no.5. With Australia having Warner and Cowan who can open, it just makes Watson's move to 6 easier. Warner, Cowan, Hughes, Clarke, Watson, Khawaja/Maxwell(Maxi in if Australia don't opt for 2 frontline spinners), Wade and 4 bowlers. Let us leave alone the averages and all the stuffs. Had stats as opener been used as yardstick to pick opener, not many would have opened in international cricket. Likes of Sehwag, Sachin, Sanath, Gilchrist were never openers in their domestic team

Posted by pat_one_back on (February 11, 2013, 8:59 GMT)

@Ritesh, a very descriptively made point, thanks for the memories, Watto will be a lucky man if he gets to share the middle order with the great Michael Clarke. A man who lead by example as you've demonstrated. He took a still settling top order (that contributed important 100's) some unhelpful selections (Quiney, Hastings) nursed an injured attack and yet Amazingly still took SA to the brink of handing over their No 1 ranking. If Eng ever produce a batsmen of Clarke's class the poster in question recognise his lunacy.

Posted by pat_one_back on (February 11, 2013, 8:35 GMT)

What I find courageous is posters talking up Swan and attempting to discredit Nathan Lyon's impressive start to Test cricket. A quick comparison of their performances against SA has Lyon in front by some distance, factor in that Eng conditions are more helpful to spinners and it's a wonder these guys aren't too embarrassed to mention Swan's name, let alone talk him up, now that's courageous.

Posted by   on (February 11, 2013, 7:21 GMT)

@Front-Foot-Lunge When did Clarke not lead by example? When he was batting so well on 329 and still had plenty of time left to get a 400+ score, also when the Indian bowlers were tottering, he said "I've got enough personal runs, let's bowl them out now." In the first Test against South Africa in 2011, when everyone but Shaun Marsh was finding it hard to stay at the crease, Clarke showed them how the game of bat and ball is played and scored 150 odd runs, taking the team's 1st innings total to a respectable 280 or something. When South Africa posted a total of 450 at the Gabba in 2012 in the 1st innings, Clarke was the man to lead from the front, batted well first with Cowan and then with Hussey, eventually getting a mammoth 259 not out. He then continued his form to the 2nd Test in Adelaide, batted at 5 and still made 224 not out before the end of 1st day's play. Not many people have done this at the Test level.

Michael Clarke is an impact player. So, what you said is ridiculous.

Posted by SirViv1973 on (February 11, 2013, 6:51 GMT)

@Swauzzie, Not that I agree with all that much of what @Front-Foot-Lunge says I do think though particularly if Watson is to open that Clarke will need to consider moving up the order, maybe not as high as 3 but certainly to 4. The situation with Steve Waugh was completely different as Oz had a number of world class middle order batsman during his ten yer & a settled line up so there was never any need for him to bat higher than 5. Whichever way you look at it the same cannot be said of the current Oz line up.

Posted by   on (February 11, 2013, 4:26 GMT)

Open with Warner and Watson and just bat Cowan at 4, why should Watson be out of position when he is the better player then Cowan?

Posted by RightArmEverything on (February 11, 2013, 3:10 GMT)

@Potatis, I agree wholeheartedly with your last point. What i like about Cowan (and what some people seem not to like) is that his primary goal is getting through the first session. He's not concerned with scoring quickly at that stage. I think Watson is a good batsmen but often he'll score a 30-50 in half the time Cowan would, then get out, exposing a new batsmen to a ball that is still quite new. With Warner opening and scoring quickly, Cowan is a better partner for him, and the stats suggest they are doing well together. Watson was never a true opener in my opinion. He started out as a middle order batsman and that is where I think he's more suited. People keep saying how his batting average is better as an opener - surely that could have something to do with the fact he had become a better batsmen by the time the shoved him up the order, than previously, rather than him being suited to opening. I think Watson should just keep his mouth shut and bat where the captain wants him to.

Posted by pat_one_back on (February 11, 2013, 2:35 GMT)

Clearly there are serious Eng nerves over the mounting strength of the Aust top order. There should be, it's still being shaped and yet in combination with Clarke's near impenetrable middle order form has made Eng's failure against SA pace all the more evident, as with the bluntness of the Eng attack. The juvenile rants of defiant yet cowardly keyboard agitators blind or in denial of their teams shortcomings only serves to reinforce the well formrd international view of Eng as a spent force in all 3 forms.

Posted by oz_uk_2011 on (February 11, 2013, 2:08 GMT)

@ Ozcricketwriter, who on earth is suggesting Watson should be batting down at 8 or 9? He should be opening with Warner in the 1st Test. If he is not, I will be slightly surprised and very disappointed (yet again) with the Australian selectors.

Posted by bringbackthebiff on (February 11, 2013, 1:46 GMT)

@Lewis Cowan not as capable of scoring 50's? In 22 test innings Cowan gets a hundred 4.5% of the time, a 50 23% of the time, a SR of 43 and an average of 32.81. remarkably similar to Watson, who in 69 test innings has a hundred 3% of the time, a 50 27% of the time, a SR of 50 and an average of 37.02. At least Cowan isnt a petulant man child. Leave top 5 as is with Watson instead of Hussey. Granted though, Cowan needs runs in India

Posted by Kolpak1989 on (February 10, 2013, 23:58 GMT)

Watson has to open with Warner because Watson is clearly more at home in that position than he is in the middle order and Cowan seems to be struggling. Phil Hughes looks good at 3 and if given time I think he will mature into a very solid batsman for Australia. Usman Khawaja should fill the vacancy left at 4 by Watson opening and Alex Doolan should be rewarded for his good domestic form with a debut at 6 to replace Michael Hussey. Clarke obviously keeps his spot at 5 and Wade deserves another go at 7. Bowlers should be Bird, Siddle, Doherty and Lyon assuming turning tracks.

1. Warner 2. Watson 3. Hughes 4. Khawaja 5. Clarke 6. Doolan 7. Wade 8. Siddle 9. Doherty 10. Lyon 11. Bird

Posted by Freak7820 on (February 10, 2013, 21:59 GMT)

The Australian batting lineup should be: Cowan, Warner, Watson, Hughes, Clarke, Khawaja/Henriques, Wade, Johnson, Pattinson, Siddle, Lyon.

Posted by swauzzie on (February 10, 2013, 14:51 GMT)

@ Front-Foot-Lunge - I suppose you thing the Steve Waugh was a big coward for the majority of his career too "hiding" down there ready to rescue the Aussies whenever needed? Mate, not everyone is a top order batsman. If you'd like to think about that for a minute. (though it'll probably hurt a great deal for you to do so) do it anyway & you'll actually find that there are things called LOWER ORDER BATSMEN & they are a required part of every team. (yes even those useless poms you barrack for dude) Without them, there would be 4 "top order batsmen" & then a wicky & 6 bowlers. That'd be just silly mate.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (February 10, 2013, 13:26 GMT)

It's high time all Australian fans made a call for Clarke to move up the order. Not to open, he doesn't have the courage for that, but at least to 3, so that the brittle and out-of-their-depth aussie top order could have a semblemnce of stability with the best, some say the only, bat in the team. A real captain leads by example. Clarke has never been that type of captain.

Posted by stormy16 on (February 10, 2013, 13:14 GMT)

With both Poting and Hussey gone this summer, Aus desperately need some steel in those positions and Watto is best suited. I would leave the opening combo of Warner and Cowan alone - they havent really failed and have done enough to be left alone. I reckon Watto should forget about bowling again - everytime he has bowled it's resulted in injuries. Watto needs to cement his spot as a top batter alonside Clark and see Aus through to life after Potning and Hussy - he cannot do that if he permanantly injured.

Posted by Edwards_Anderson on (February 10, 2013, 10:34 GMT)

@pat_one_back agree with your suggestions. Cowan knows Watto is a better opener but he can get runs and shut everyone up. It won't be easy for him. Sooner rather than later, he will get the tap on the shoulder. Watson and Warner will make an intimidating opening combination for the Ashes battles, if they can handle the swinging ball. Cowan is measured, but he is no better at playing swing than the other two, and not as capable of scoring 50's as Watson. And there is always the chance of giving Watson the ball for a couple of overs when a breakthrough is needed. I know Hughes is not naturally good against spin but i predict both him and Khawaja to have big series as they get used to the turning pitches, the key is to stick with them and keep them at 3 and 4. Its a shame Hughes isn't playing the first warm up game, i think we got that one wrong by keeping him for the ODI dead rubber.

Posted by Mary_786 on (February 10, 2013, 10:28 GMT)

In 22 innings Ed Cowan has scored 722 runs at an average of 32.82 with 5 50s and one ton. Not exactly a Haydenesque performance. Conversely Watto in 45 innings where he has opened has scored 1878 runs at 43.67 with 15 50s and 2 tons. Neither are quite setting the world on fire but I reckon Watto has the edge and Cowan should be a bit nervous. It's not "his spot" yet by any means.. I thiink you will find by the end of the Indian series Watto will be opening with Warner followed by Hughes, Khawaja, Clarke, Wade and Henriques.

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (February 10, 2013, 10:01 GMT)

Through most of his FC career Shane Watson has batted at number 4. Much like David Boon batting at 3 in FC, but forced to open in tests, once Boon returned to 3 in tests he did a lot better and I expect the same result for Watson. It would be foolish to put Watson down at 8 or 9, as some suggest, but 4 looks hopeful. I think that this is a happy problem to have.

Posted by DylanBrah on (February 10, 2013, 8:42 GMT)

Steve Smith is a better batsmen and bowler than Glenn Maxwell. I will cry if Maxwell is handed a baggy green.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (February 10, 2013, 8:38 GMT)

Swaroop - Clarke and the Australian selectors arent destroying Watson but in Australia a test average below 40 as a batsman is just not good enough. He will always open in the T20 and one-day internationals because he is dominant in those versions. Sum it up its not an issue with Clarke and Watson popularity but Watsons inability to get runs in test cricket.

Posted by whofriggincares on (February 10, 2013, 7:47 GMT)

@rednwhite Al Cook has to open, he bats so slowly that if he was down the order he wouldn't have time to make scores. IF you knew anything about cricket you would know that Clarke has to face a new ball often , and when you specialize in double and triple tons you see off many new balls! Stop embarrassing yourself with these stupid comments that have no basis in fact.I will just mention a interesting fact that I posted recently , did you know that The Oval is the only ground in England or Australia where you guys have won more tests than us. I love that fact. Oh and how many ODI world cups have the mighty English won? LOL

Posted by   on (February 10, 2013, 7:15 GMT)

aus management n captain r just destroying aus future by destroing their greatest assest watson. watson is far better than sehwag n comes close to chris gayle. u dont mess with gayle or sehwag batting position. clarke talking about country comes first is just rubbish. he doesnt care abt that. he's only concerned abt his position n captaincy place. watson is a hero n his ability n popularity cleary challanges clarkes captaincy. so, he's just abusing his power to destroy watson by getting him injured by bowling him too much n gets out of the team. he also started messing with watson batting place. now clarke wants watto to be a allrounder so that he can make him bowl too much n injure him again.watto attitude is much better than others in the team. but still he should develop his attitude like gayle n just make a statement that "this is what i want to do n my body can do. i cant bowl too much. i'll bowl only as a part time bowler. only this way i'll enjoy my cricket n can give my best"

Posted by Shaggy076 on (February 10, 2013, 5:43 GMT)

RedWHiteArmy - Clarke has averaged over 100 in this last year in test cricket, there is no player in the game who can match those stats, he obviously faces a good number of balls to make those 100 runs so not sure how he can be hiding. I cant believe your so deluded to think Australia should change something that is obviously an area where they are dominant. He has regularly been early, faced up to the second new ball.

Posted by PeteB on (February 10, 2013, 4:41 GMT)

Even if Australia opened with Watson, what's the bet India open with at least one spinner. Which they probably will anyhow.

Posted by   on (February 10, 2013, 3:51 GMT)

@Integrity1 Who exactly has been saying anything bad about Kallis? Last I heard he was one of the greatest players to ever play the game and even being mentioned in the same breath as Kallis is credit to how good a player Watto is

Posted by Eight8 on (February 10, 2013, 3:30 GMT)

@Front-Foot_lunge. Try some new material, mate. Clarke as the only spinner is getting a bit tired. BTW, I think you will find Lyon's stats for his first 50 wickets compare very favourably with any spinner in the game, and he'd only played a handful of first class matches before being thrust into test matches. He's still learning his craft and has done pretty well. We'll see how he stacks up after 40-50 matches or so.

And for all your England chest beating, and talking down of the Aussies as a mediocre and weak side, you only sit 1 point above us on the test rankings! And this from your "golden generation." I love how one of your best squads of all time is basically on par with one of our weakest sides in a rebuilding phase.

I think you will also see that we have outperfomed you over the last couple of years. How long did you hold onto the No. 1 ranking? Not long from memory... Oh, and how many international tournaments have the POMS won over the years compared to the Aussies...?

Posted by Andrew202 on (February 10, 2013, 2:44 GMT)

It's not a conundrum or a dilemma. Watson should open. Drop Cowan. Cowan is a good domestic player. That's it.

Posted by I-Like-Cricket on (February 10, 2013, 1:32 GMT)

@FFL, not sure if drunk or just terrible troll. Come on man the English haven't whitewashed Australia in tests (who cares about shorter forms of the game, you guys have never won a real World Cup anyway) since 1886, and since one of the matches were washed out we never were whitewashed last year. Also since 2000 there have been a total of 19 series whitewashes, Australia were the dominant team on 11 of those occasions including the 06-07 Ashes, which still happens to be my most favourite series of all time, even though we've managed 3 more whitewashes since (compared to England's one). I watched the India v England and England v South Africa series on TV over here, there is no way that the English are better in the field than the Aussies, I mean you guys might just sneak past India with your out-fielding but that's just about it.

Posted by   on (February 10, 2013, 0:54 GMT)

I'm a staunch Cowan fan, but he might have to go. Really hope not though obviously

Posted by   on (February 10, 2013, 0:44 GMT)

Watson to open with Cowan followed by Warner, Khawaja, and Clark. Hughes just does not have the technique or certainly the reliability required for test cricket level - he is just a 20/20 big bash player. With Watson's proven success as an opener and in India he deserves to be given that role.

Posted by RednWhiteArmy on (February 10, 2013, 0:40 GMT)

He's obviously noticed Clarke hiding from the new ball & thought "yes, thats for me".

Posted by Mitty2 on (February 10, 2013, 0:22 GMT)

FFL, the usual 'comic relief' is back. 5 long years of English domination? You said that all of last year and that series had only been three years prior.. It hasnt even been four years to the start of the ashes.. And the whole crocheting world knows exactly just how much you deserved that series. And if you can honestly take something out of the odi tour in which we barely prepared for and had less than five test players in each team.. Then you are seriously deluded. Let us not forget that it was an ODI tour.. Not a test.

Id be more worried about england's pathetic team performances of 2012. An absolute annihilation from south Africa, in whom we outplayed for 90% of the completed series and a whitewash at the hands of the "49ers" which is just beyond hilarious. Losses to the minnows of Sri Lanka; in whom we whitewashed in both series and to the team with the worst bowling attack and a constantly dreadful collective batting line up. We have lost three tests since the ashes, you seven.

Posted by Potatis on (February 10, 2013, 0:14 GMT)

Cowan is a great opener, and should open the batting. You can't just look at his average, it doesn't tell the whole story. In the early games in his career he was batting on pitches that heavily favoured the bowlers, in the West Indies and in the series prior to that in Australia. He didn't make big scores, but he was getting Aus through the first hour and beyond. I felt sympathy for him and hoped he'd get some good batting pitches to play on before he got dropped. When he has played on good batting tracks, he's got hundreds and 50s against the best in the world - He can bat. Cowan needs to score more runs, he really needs to, but he hasn't been a failure yet either. Given a choice, I'd choose a slow opener who consistently survives the first hour or two over a batting collapse and another 3-30 odd score.

Posted by pat_one_back on (February 10, 2013, 0:01 GMT)

It'll be spin from ball 1 so Watson's new ball runs won't flow so naturally but sorry Ed, Watto & Warner setting a platform is too compelling! Hughes, Khawaja then Clarke & Wade with 5 bowlers is the go (inc Maxwell or Moises dependent on the make-up of the 4 front line bowlers) we have strong stump to stumpers in Starc, Siddle & Bird (though MJ may get the nod for his handy runs, Pattinson needs to watch, learn and get fit practicing with Dukes). Don't worry about Lyon, he'll do the job, let's face it Swan is no magician, stock offie with a straight one, don't read into the Eng mud slinging, Swan has v.little over Lyon stats wise for all the hype.

Posted by bobagorof on (February 9, 2013, 23:15 GMT)

I'm not really sure why Watson's non-bowling is a big deal. The team has to find a decent attack regardless, and the side has just lost a non-bowling (or very occasionally) batsman in Hussey. A few matches prior, they lost another non-bowling batsman in Ponting. Surely one of these two slots could be filled by a non-bowling batsman in Watson? No doubt a bowling Watson adds another element to the side, but an allrounder is always a luxury rather than a necessity. Most successful sides have a 4-pronged bowling attack with occasional overs from the rest of the side.

Posted by Mourinho7 on (February 9, 2013, 23:08 GMT)

Watson has done well in two ODI's, however as stated elsewhere, that does not mean he's up to test standard at the moment. The idea that he should displace Ed Cowan is pretty silly - firstly, Watson's track record shows that he's in and out of the team regularly. Obviously the selectors don't want that to happen, but they have to be awake to that possibility. As such, disrupting a promising opening combination in Cowan and Warner for Watson's inclusion runs the risk of backfiring if Watson gets injured. I also agree that inserting an allrounder should only be an option when you have one that is to standard - having an allrounder for the sake of it serves little purpose. As such, Watson should slot into the middle order (where him going missing due to injury won't disrupt team balance so much), and keep out Maxwell and Smith, whose records and skills are nowhere near Test standard.

Posted by landl47 on (February 9, 2013, 22:47 GMT)

With regard to the Watson/Cowan controversy, it really comes down to this. Watson, although he prefers opening, can bat in the middle order. He has the ability to play aggressively or to grind if he has to. Cowan's ability is more limited; he specializes in seeing the shine off the new ball. He had a decent series against South Africa, but that was on Australian pitches and SA only had the hapless Tahir to bowl spin. In India the ball comes through slowly and turns. If he comes in lower down, Cowan might survive for a while, but he won't get the ball off the square. He's an opener or nothing.

Therefore, if Watson opens, either Smith plays (he's as likely to get runs as Cowan at 5 or 6 and is a much better fielder) or Aus goes with 5 batsmen and either Mad Max or Moises bats at #7. The advantage of that is that Aus will have an extra bowler. The disadvantage is that neither allrounder really looks test class yet with either bat or ball.

I still think Cowan will open.

Posted by Edwards_Anderson on (February 9, 2013, 22:27 GMT)

Thanks Bertjie yes i think with my suggested lineup we can win. @land47 and @SunilBatra I like your test lineup as its similar to mien in the first test with Watto at opener and Khawaja at 4 but reading some comments i would add one extra spinner instead of the pace bowler. @SSirviv1973 i think we will find that Wade bats at 6 but when our batting is exposed he will move to 7 with another 6 specialist batsman ahead of him especially in the ashes. @Zhovaan surely Cowan has had a long enough run at the top, time to give Khawaja half that time to see what he is capable off. My fast bowling pecking order is Starc, Bird, Siddle, Pattinson, and Johnson which opens up a can of worms for the four-Test series against India. If the selectors stick to their wretched rotation policy, the five will be messed around Test by Test and stuff up the team balance. By the way, Smith, Doherty, and Cowan, will be passengers on this tour - the ridiculous end result to selecting 17 for four Tests.

Posted by Mary_786 on (February 9, 2013, 22:19 GMT)

@Beertjie agree with you mate and yes i think Lewis has got it right. No doubt that Watto should open based on what we have seen in the last 2 games and if this is the case Khawaja has to come in the middle order as he is much better suited to Cowan in that position. The only way i can see Cowan making it in the team is if we go with 6 batsman or if he has some really good warm up games. At present watson body can't handle to rigors of bowling! He continually breaks down whenever his bowling workload looks at increasing!I certainly don't mind him being used in the Hussey mould, comes on bowls 3 overs and then he's off again, but hopefully he is bowling in the ashes. I am of belief there is enough options in the middle order for Australia to use Watson at his preferred spot at number 1 or at the very least guys like Khawaja, Wade in the middle order will be more consistent over a long run like Cowan has received at the top then what Cowan brings to the table

Posted by   on (February 9, 2013, 21:31 GMT)

As much as I think Watto may just be the best man to open in India, at this point I don't think it would be a good idea to move him back up there. The Aussie line-up needs continuity, they are never going to have that with Watson opening, he is simply injured too often. He is also looking at bowling again at some point and he has said himself that he can't combine opening and bowling. The opening partnership is too big a part of the game for this continual disruption. Yes, by all means play Watto, he is scoring runs and holds his catches..... And after all of that, who would have thought at the start of the summer that Hughes batting at 3 was the one thing we'd all be agreeing on! Cowan, Warner, Hughes, Watson, Clarke, Maxwell, Wade, Starc, Siddle, Lyon, Bird will be the starting xi for the first test, I reckon.

Posted by Integrity1 on (February 9, 2013, 19:35 GMT)

People relax! Watto will be just fine. For all of you naysayers and pessimists out there, here are a few things to consider. Watson is an genuine all-rounder and the dual role has a taxing effect on his body. Just take a look at Jacques Kallis's career to find the similarities between he and Shane Watson. Remember that time period when Jacques Kallis was often injured from bowling and had to temporarily quit being a bowler? Remember when he was open to become a specialist batsman instead of an all-rounder? Remember when Kallis's pace was cut down to prevent future injuries? I SURE DONT! I hope Watson is a case study for those of you who constantly belittle the feats of King Kallis!

Posted by   on (February 9, 2013, 19:28 GMT)

watto should open. put cowan down the middle order at no. 5. the right/left combination at the top is good (with warner that is).

Posted by   on (February 9, 2013, 18:03 GMT)

I think that Watson should open, his stats at opener are too strong to ignore, especially when you consider his experience in India.

When he is fit and firing he is a far better batsman than Cowan in every way, his problem has been fitness and his average has suffered from being rushed back from injury with little to no match fitness behind him. Now he is back, playing well and with matches under the belt, he will blow the socks off the Indians if played as opener, if he is played in the middle order he will suffer against the spinners

In regards to the bowlers, I feel as though Starc and Pattinson have both earned a place alongside Lyon and Siddle but I reckon they will go for Johnson who has experience in these conditions and seems to be regaining some form. I also think Maxwell should be given a shot, Smith has never been impressive at this level with either bat or ball while Maxwell has put in commanding performances many times in the short form of the game.

Posted by swauzzie on (February 9, 2013, 17:34 GMT)

@Front-Foot-Lunge -"Cricket lovers will enjoy watching a masterclass from Sehwag/Tendulkar/Dhoni" lol you do know how to entertain dude - if they want to see that , they're gonna have to look through cricketing archives from a long way back mate. lol Tendulkars expiry date went out 5 years ago. Don't know what Shewag is doing still in the test side either. Dhoni looks like he's gonna find himself without a job - in a few months after another series defeat to the Aussies. I know that you love to rubbish the Aussie & you think your side the Poms are "All that". But you need to wake up & smell reality. The Aussies nearly beat the no 1 test side - the Saffers. They were lucky to get home with their tails between their legs. What makes you think an Indian team at home is going to do what they couldn't do down under? (i.e. win) They comprehensively beat the Lankans down under & even beat them at home. In horribly one sided conditions. You're a bit short of reality mate! Go the Aussies :) !!

Posted by Beertjie on (February 9, 2013, 16:36 GMT)

Great post @Lewis_Edwards on (February 9, 2013, 12:03 GMT) many valid points. When he says "I really don't want my bowling to get in the way of my batting" you've got to take him seriously. He'll be a reluctant bowler who'll give 10 overs per day - that's max. No more 48 overs like at Hobart. Let's see if he can score runs otherwise he becomes expendable - no more VC, Watto, but get the runs wherever you bat. Good post @Michael_Sheridon on (February 9, 2013, 11:57 GMT), but Wade in India is a disaster-in-waiting. Paine hasn't scored enough runs but if he gets a few he'd get my vote. With so much uncertainty going into an Ashes series you'd want some security. My heart would love Cowan to succeed but if he doesn't I pray they give Rogers the Ashes place. Methinks Watto should get used to the middle order. Sound ideas as usual @landl47 on (February 9, 2013, 15:25 GMT). To win the first test is crucial so go in with 5 bowlers but Henriques on debut won't do well and Smith is not a bowler.

Posted by SirViv1973 on (February 9, 2013, 16:20 GMT)

@Micheal_Sheridan, Surely if Henriques makes it in to the team at 7 then oz has to play Doherty & Lyon? I doubt Aus can win this series with 3 seamers let alone 4! I see his potential inclusion being more of a plan B for later in the series if the 3 quicks don't work & oz feel they need both spinners. As I said on other posts I think CA are obsessed with having an allrounder so I wouldn't be surprised to see him play as a 4th seamer come the ashes.

Posted by SirViv1973 on (February 9, 2013, 16:09 GMT)

@Dunger.bob, I will be very surprised if Kwawaja bats at 6. All the signs point to Wade at 6 & Maxwell at 7. Oz selectors are obsessed with having an allrounder & although they seem certain to play 3 quicks they feel they also need a second spinner. Wade got a ton at SCG batting at 6 which I think would have convinced them he can do that role going forward particularly if Watson can't bowl. I think Maxwell gets in as he seems to be the man of the moment, he's been talked up by CA & was the highest priced signing in ipl auction. It can also be argued that his inclusion in the squad was more responsible for fans favorite O'keefe's omission that the selection of Doherty.With Clarke's reluctance to move up the order & no other experienced batsman in the squad I see watson at 4, as I don't think oz can trust a Hughes/Kawaja axis at 3 & 4. However if Warner dosen't make it I could see SW opening with Cowan which would force Clarke to move to 4 to split the inexperienced PH & UK

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (February 9, 2013, 16:07 GMT)

With the Aussies having lost teir only spinner, Clarke, to injury, and having to fill the spinner's role with a seamer, it doesn't look good for Australia. What will they do when they're ripped apart by the spin of Ojha? Or having to field for 7 sessions whilst an Indian batsman puts 150 + past them? Australia lack fitness, skill and competency to play this form of the game, all of this the same as it's been for over five long years. England have grown too used to thrashing them every time they meet, whether it be the Whitewash of 2012, or Ashes thrashings in the aussies' own back yard. Cricket lovers will enjoy watching a masterclass from Sehwag/Tendulkar/Dhoni, so it should be a good series.

Posted by landl47 on (February 9, 2013, 15:25 GMT)

Sunil_Batra in the featured comment says: 'then my batting order for the first Test against India is Watson, Warner, Hughes, Clarke, Khawaja, Smith, Wade, Starc, Siddle, Lyon, and Bird'. That would be my preferred order, too, but I don't think it will happen. I agree that the selectors will play 6 batsmen, but I believe Cowan will play, Watson will be at #4 and Smith will be, as Inverarity has said, the reserve batsman. As for the bowlers, Siddle and Lyon will play, but the other two could be any two out of the seamers that are there. My suspicion is they will play Johnson and Pattinson and Starc and Bird will be carrying the drinks.

Of course, they could confound us all and play Mad Max, but that would be a very high risk option. I don't think playing two specialist spinners and only two seamers or playing a 5-man bowling attack is on the radar, but Clarke has the courage to do it if he thinks it will work.

Posted by Dangertroy on (February 9, 2013, 15:17 GMT)

@Michael_Sheridon - Watson hasn't scored a century batting at number three, I think your figures here are scores based on the innings of the match. @Sunil - Cowan isn't that much slower than Watson, his strike rate is 43 to watsons 50, roughly 15% slower. Cowans strike rate only seems slow as he is opposite David Warner, who strikes at 75. Watsons batting average isn't that much better either, Cowan is 32.8, Watson is 37. And yes, watsons average is higher as an opener, at 43.6 it's still lower than Warner. I think Cowan is a good partner for Warner, where are Watson and Warner together is potentially risky.

Posted by azzaman333 on (February 9, 2013, 14:19 GMT)

ODI form is not Test form.

Posted by Mary_786 on (February 9, 2013, 13:37 GMT)

@Sunil i agree with you but have you considered Moses to do the number 7 role, he is the most complete allrounder from the optins in the tour. My X1 would be Watson, Warner, Hughes, Khawaja, Clarke, Henriques, Wade, Starc, Siddle, Pattinson, Lyon. Sunil's point on scoring fast early on is important and Watson and Warner are very much suited to that and it would be exciting to see Hughe sand Khawaja at 3 or 4. But without a doubt the key to our batting lies with Clarke, perhaps the best player of spin in the world.

Posted by sephotrig on (February 9, 2013, 12:44 GMT)

the likes of Warner, Cowan, Hughes and Watson against spin, this should be fun, reminds me a little of Daryll Cullinan when facing Warne. The other thing that should be fun is the use of the second spinner, if Australia have such a player there.

Posted by   on (February 9, 2013, 12:41 GMT)

Whats going on ,where will he bat opening slot or middle order ? there confused really !!!!!

Posted by KhanMitch on (February 9, 2013, 12:34 GMT)

Lewis makes a great point in that Warner may not be available. However if he is available and i hope he is then we should have Watto opening with Warner. Lewis i agree with you that the all-rounder argument carries too much weight in most cases.In our case with Mcdonald and Mitch Marsh injured we haven't got one ready for test cricket and it then comes down to whether Watson is in the country's top six batsmen.And no one is denying he isn't, then he should play and his record as an opener indicates that is where he should be placed.It might seem harsh on Cowan, but who is likely to succeed more often, i know the answer to that is Watson. so keep this lineup for the first test Watto, Warner, Hughes, Khawaja, Clarke, Wade, Henriques Siddle, Pattinson, Starc, Lyon.Key points here are Watto should be opening, Khawaja at 4 and Henriquest at 7 as he is a better proposition then Maxwell whose bowling won't stand up against the Indians.

Posted by Edwards_Anderson on (February 9, 2013, 12:03 GMT)

I prefer Watson and Warner opening. But what alot of folks are forgetting that Warner is no certainty to play due to his thumb injury. That does make #6 quite a problem, and #5 not much better.That would leave Cowan, Watson, Hughes, Khawaja, Clarke, question1. Watson will also probably be coming back home after the second Test, and this time not because of injury.Moving Watson to open simply moves the problem from being one opening spot and one middle order spot to being two middle order spots, and most likely does nothing to fix the opening spot either.I certainly agree that none of Smith or Maxwell are Test material at this point (I would have had none of them on the tour, and smaller tour party of 14 of 15). What i do know is that Khawaja is all class and deserves a proper crack at cementing his spot and not be moved after 1 game. The all-rounder argument carries too much weight in most cases.If you haven't got one, you haven't got one and then don't force one in.

Posted by Mary_786 on (February 9, 2013, 11:57 GMT)

I have no doubt that Watson is a far better proposition as a Test opener than batting down the list and perhaps another big knock at the MCG where he loves to bat will ensure that. I posted this earlier on another article but have a look at his scores in the different positions.

Opening - 126, 96, 93, 89, 88, 62, 57, 57, 56, 54, 53, 51, and 51.

Batting 3 - 120*, 97, 95, 65, 56, and 52.

Batting 4 - 83.

And batting 6 - 78.

This would be my lineup in India - Watson, Warner, Hughes, Clarke, Khawaja, Wade, Henriques, Lyon, Doherty, Pattison, Siddle, Starc(12th). Ultimately for the ashes i think Watto will open with Warner with Hughes and Khawaja to follow and Clarke at 5. Our batting lineup looks alot stronger with Watto and Warner at the top. Who gets the the number 6 spot will be determined after the India series.

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (February 9, 2013, 11:44 GMT)

Watson is actually a good opening batsman in tests. In the last Ashes series in Oz the entire top order stuggled time after time, Watson was the only one who looked comfortable against new ball swing and seam movement.

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (February 9, 2013, 11:41 GMT)

Ponting managed Watson much better. Even though Punter saw Watson's role in the middle order he didn't overwork him, 5-10 overs per innings was maximum. Watson was able to string together a couple of years injury free. Clarke has bowled him too much. 45 overs an innings for an injury prone all rounder? What did he expect?

Posted by heathrf1974 on (February 9, 2013, 11:22 GMT)

I don't think it will be an issue in India as we won't see a lot of pace bowling from them, unless Yadav is fit.

Posted by Baundele on (February 9, 2013, 11:18 GMT)

Seems the Aus management and captain do not want Watson to perform. He is doing great as an opener. Now they have to destroy him.

Posted by maddy20 on (February 9, 2013, 11:01 GMT)

If ain't broke. don't fix it. Why the Aussies want to tinker with a working combination(of Warner and Cowan) is beyond me.

Posted by HatsforBats on (February 9, 2013, 10:40 GMT)

Watto is as good a striker of the ball as I have ever seen (only a few geniuses spring to mind as better). But his test career has revealed he is almost incapable of successfully rotating strike or capitalising on starts, and he is a liability in the field. If he isn't bowling his only position is opener or six with a license to hit out. We have a serious weakness against spin (with Cowan & Hughes being particularly poor), a batsman unable to rotate or knuckle down is not something we need going to India or coming up against Swann/Panesar.

Posted by   on (February 9, 2013, 10:28 GMT)

The opening spot is a bit of a dilemma though long term I prefer Cowan in that role for the simple fact that he seems to have the technique to cope with the most difficult of bowling conditions. He is the best leaver of the cricket ball Australia has which could prove vital in England with the ball seaming and swinging everywhere. In India however Cowan needs to improve his dodgy sweep shot to do well against the spinners.

Posted by righthandbat on (February 9, 2013, 10:26 GMT)

To me, there needs to be some finality about the decision to use Watson. My personal feeling is that he is best suited to opening in T20/ODIs and bowling in those, maybe not his full allocation in ODIs, depending on how well he is managed, but still. I would have him give up Tests as he is extremely valuable in those formats as an all-rounder, possibly the best player in those formats in the world when in form.

If Watson insists on playing Test match cricket, he must give up bowling for good, in all forms. He should then open with Warner in all forms. With some sensible order rearrangement, Cowan can slot in down the order.

I'd have as my team: Warner, Watson, Clarke (c), Hughes, Cowan, Bailey, WK, bowlers.

Posted by dunger.bob on (February 9, 2013, 10:09 GMT)

If Watson bats at 4 Kwawaja will bat at 6. .. I think I could live with that. I hope they don't get tempted to go for 5 bowlers by playing Wade at 6. Even though most of the bowlers can bat a bit it's uncomfortably long tail. .. I guess it goes without saying that we need all our batters contributing if we are to beat India but what I mean is we can't expect Clarke to bail us out time after time. Some of these other guys have got to start pulling their weight so it isn't always necessary for pup to do a rescue job. If the batsmen can share the load and collectively put a decent number of runs on the board it will give the bowlers a chance. .. I'm hoping for some bonus runs from Cowan. His technique might work pretty well in India with any luck.

Posted by KingofRedLions on (February 9, 2013, 10:03 GMT)

What opening form? In ODIs? I'm sorry, does that mean Tendulkar should've been opening in Tests because he did well opening in ODIs?

Posted by HawK89 on (February 9, 2013, 9:26 GMT)

Watson is a proper batsmen who is inform, you have to be mad to not have him in a fragile AU batting line up.

Posted by mike.iz on (February 9, 2013, 9:10 GMT)

Interesting...but I think in the long run no.4 is a perfect fit for Watson he can come in dominate in test like a Petersen.Again he has said he does not want want to let his batting be compromised by his bowling.Its a good decision a batsman who bowls occasionally.Finally he is listening to his body.Its the way to move forward. He seems like a solid bloke and team man willing to bat in the middle if the team wants him to even though he has has success as an opener.I think he will do well against the Indian bowlers he has seen most of the in the IPL. Good on you Watto middle order maestro in tests!Runs are gonna flow....

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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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