India v Australia, 1st Test, Chennai February 19, 2013

Watson to be Australia's No. 4

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Shane Watson has confirmed that he will bat at No.4 in the first Test against India in Chennai if, as expected, David Warner is fit to play. Watson opened in the warm-up match against India A and scored 84 and 60, but his presence at the top was only due to Warner's ongoing recovery from a fractured thumb, and he will move down the order to allow Warner and Ed Cowan to resume their opening combination.

It would have been a big call to split the successful Warner-Cowan partnership, especially given that Watson is hoping to be able to bowl during the Ashes later this year. Part of the reason for shifting him down the order was to allow him to balance his batting and bowling workloads and while that is not an issue on this trip, where Watson will play only as a batsman, if all goes well it will again be a factor during the Ashes.

"If everyone is fit, it's looking like that's most probably going to be the way the selectors and Michael [Clarke] and Mickey [Arthur] go," Watson said in Chennai on Tuesday. "With the continuity of what's happened over the last 12 months especially, I can definitely see why they want to go that way.

"I've got as much experience as anyone, whether batting in the middle order or at the top of the order. Myself and Michael are going to be very important parts in this series for us as a batting unit in that middle order because it can be very difficult to start. But we're as well equipped as anyone to be able to get through it."

It means that with Warner, Cowan and Phillip Hughes occupying the top three spots, Australia's two most experienced batsmen will come in at Nos.4 and 5, likely to be followed by Matthew Wade at No.6 and an allrounder, either Moises Henriques or Glenn Maxwell. The middle-order role means Watson will have plenty of work to do against India's spin attack, which could feature three men on a turning pitch in Chennai.

But England's success against Pragyan Ojha, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Harbhajan Singh late last year has highlighted that the spinners are not infallible in their home conditions. Coming in against spin on a turning pitch is one of the toughest challenges for a Test batsman, but Watson said it was important to take note of the way England's batsmen made use of their starts in the recent series.

"England certainly showed that. The guys who got runs got very big runs as well to make it easier for the guys coming in," Watson said. "In India it's a very hard place to start your innings, so if you do get a start, it's very important to be able to go on and get those very big scores like England did, so you've got plenty of runs to play with throughout the rest of the Test match.

"India's spinners are very highly skilled, especially in these conditions. We certainly can have success over here. There's no reason why we can't. But we are going to have to be at our best because they certainly know how to make the most of the turning conditions."

Success in India would not only show that Watson can handle a variety of roles, he also hopes it can prove to his doubters that he deserves to be part of Australia's top six even if he is not bowling. Clarke has noted on several occasions that Watson is competing with a much greater pool of players as a pure batsman rather than an allrounder, and this series will give some indication as to where he sits in that group.

"There has been a lot that's been mentioned over the last six months on whether I warrant a position in the side as a batsman, if I'm not bowling," Watson said. "I'm playing as a batsman [in India]. [I want] to be able to prove to the selectors and to the people who at times maybe don't think that I'm one of the top six batsman in Australia, to prove that I am that, that I can get picked as a batsman. And then my bowling is just a bonus thing to be able to add to the team."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Lewis2303 on February 20, 2013, 21:37 GMT

    The inclusion of Watson in the Aussie test side proves how poor their batting line up is, in 40 games he averages mid 30s scoring only 2 hundreds,

  • Front-Foot-Lunge on February 20, 2013, 21:30 GMT

    @RandyOZ: "After dealing with England and South Africa, Watto is ready for India."

    Thinking logically now, how does getting Whitewashed and Ashes bested by England get classed as success? Are these modern Australian cricketing standards? Nothing to see here, move along... ;)

  • dummy4fb on February 20, 2013, 13:42 GMT

    Watson is good enough - he has spent enough time opening against class test attacks. His recent opening innings on international return (regardless of being a ODI) was awesome. That coupled with expert catching and senior leadership skills Watson is an X factor player I would want in my international 2013 XI. He can bat anywhere..

  • satishchandar on February 20, 2013, 10:10 GMT

    I dont have much reservations in moving Watson from opening position but have some when he is at 4. Watson is at his best at 6 as of me. He can either bat at 6 or open the innings. No.4 looks a bit odd for him. I would have preferred Khawaja at 4 and Watson at 6 followed by Wade and bowlers. Clarke's back injury probably played a big role in picking of Henriques as all rounder. Though the conditions would have tempted them to include Maxwell at 7 as spinning all rounder, form and performance in the warmups gave Henriques the chance to don the whites. Good luck Australia. With the number of lefties in the lineup, the offie of Indian team(Whether it is Bhajji or Ashwin) need to be tight in line and look to attack with sliders.

  • QingdaoXI on February 20, 2013, 7:58 GMT

    Sorry but Australia made a mistake by slecting a four pace attack and only one spinner, they have already given this match to India. Didnt they saw the India-England series, if you want to beat India in India you have to play with the same team composition as India does.

  • joseyesu on February 20, 2013, 6:01 GMT

    I would have prefered Watson to play, what Cook has done it for Eng. Maybe after the first match Aus may place him again to the opener slot.

  • Jayzuz on February 20, 2013, 3:06 GMT

    Great cherry picking, SirViv1973. Australia has also played SA and SL away in tests in the last 18 months, as well as the WI. 8 tests away, 13 tests at home. They only lost one of the away tests, won 4,; lost two of the home tests, won 8. So the away winning ratio is much higher than at home. Why don't you mention that? The fact is Australia have always played well away from Australia in recent decades, with few exceptions. Wouldn't be surprised in Australia was ranked higher than England by the time of the Ashes, for that would reflect the reality that Australia's test record in the last 2+ years has clearly been better than England's.

  • Jayzuz on February 20, 2013, 2:58 GMT

    Can't see Watson prospering at number 4 in India, when he has never prospered there anywhere else. He has a superb technique for playing the new ball. He's an opener, and his 43 average there shows that clearly. He is superb player of fast bowling, not a such a great player of spin. I predict a lean series for him. He'd be better at 3, with Hughes at 4. Hughes might struggle against spin too. But he is very unpredictable. Might also flourish - though I have my doubts.

  • Sadhanand on February 20, 2013, 1:44 GMT

    My team for first test provided everybody is fit is 1. Ed Cowan 2. David Warner 3. Phillip Hughes 4. Shane Watson 5. Michael Clarke 6. Matthew Wade 7. Moises Henriques 8. James Pattinson 9. Peter Siddle 10. Mitchell Starc 11. Xavier Doherty