Brydon Coverdale
Assistant editor, ESPNcricinfo

Australia in South Africa 2011-12

What to do with Watson?

While his bowling remains important to Australia, consideration must be given to him moving down the batting order

Brydon Coverdale

November 12, 2011

Comments: 81 | Text size: A | A

Shane Watson is pumped up after his five-for, South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Cape Town, 2nd day, November 10, 2011
Shane Watson: "After getting five wickets, you don't have any time to soak it in and re-approach your batting" © Getty Images

Shane Watson is unfailingly honest. On Australia's disastrous second day in Cape Town, he took five wickets and then was dismissed in the first over of Australia's innings. When asked after the game if his bowling work affects his mindset when he walks out to open the batting, he was frank.

"After getting five wickets, you don't have any time to soak it in and re-approach your batting," he said. "Before I knew it I was back in the pavilion. It's a balancing act to mentally switch off my bowling and wait to enjoy it until after the day's play. That's something I need to do better because when I have got wickets or bowled quite a bit, I haven't scored any runs."

Watson does not want to give up opening, but Australia's problem is that he has taken too many wickets in recent times. Or rather, Watson has had to take too many wickets, because the rest of the bowlers haven't. In suitable conditions, he swings the ball more than any of his colleagues. He bowls full enough and curves the ball late enough to trouble top-class batsmen. At times he looks like he is running in treacle as he approaches his delivery stride. But he gets the job done.

Over the past 18 months, only Mitchell Johnson has collected more victims for Australia than Watson, who during that period has taken more five-wicket hauls - three - than any other Australia bowler.

He has just entered the top 10 on the ICC's Test bowling rankings, a career high. He has become, whether Australia realises it or not, a bowling allrounder. It is illogical for a bowling allrounder to open the batting. Of course, his place in the team is inextricably linked to the success or failure of the other bowlers, notably Johnson.

Johnson may have more taken wickets than Watson over the last 18 months, but his average is nearly twice as high. His place in the team must be questioned, and if he makes way for another fast man who more consistently threatens the opposition batsmen, Watson's bowling workload might decrease.

His work ethic is not in question. On Saturday, on what should have been the fourth day of the Test, the Australians scheduled an optional training session back at Newlands. Watson was one of five players who turned up, along with Phillip Hughes, Ricky Ponting, Trent Copeland and Nathan Lyon. Watson was the last man remaining in the nets, facing throwdowns after the others had left.

But besides his bowling work, and despite his desire to open, there are other arguments for him to move down the order. He has not scored a Test century since October last year, and has made only two in 43 innings as a Test opener. There have been plenty of fifties, but openers must bat long more often.

By pairing Watson and Hughes, Australia are trusting two aggressive stroke-makers to see off the new ball. It is a fraught approach. The most successful opening partnerships have been based on a balance between defence and attack. Matthew Hayden's power was offset by Justin Langer's fight; Mark Taylor's stubbornness at the crease allowed Michael Slater to flourish. Sometimes two accumulators can form a fine partnership - Jack Fingleton and Bill Brown, for example, or Taylor and Geoff Marsh - but rarely do two dashers thrive at the top of a Test order.

The journalist Ray Robinson once wrote of Bill Lawry that if not actually wedded to his wicket, they were at least going steady. It is not clear that either Watson or Hughes are quite as attached to theirs.

Even if Hughes is eventually dropped, perhaps for David Warner, the imbalance will remain. The man in Australia's side who is temperamentally most suited to partnering a strokeplaying opener is Shaun Marsh. There is no reason that Marsh could not be promoted to open. He has the skill and the composure to succeed against the new ball. Watson could complete his bowling duties, rest, and then bat anywhere from No. 4 to No. 6.

The change might not be made for the second Test in Johannesburg. Other factors - Marsh's back injury and Ricky Ponting's poor form key among them - will come into play. But for the long-term good of Australia's Test side, consideration must be given to Watson moving down the order.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by lugujaga on (November 15, 2011, 14:36 GMT)

the aussies should admit they made a and bring simon kattich as the opener who can bring a great sense of balance to the side .come on australia let common sense and reason prevail.

Posted by Kikkidu on (November 15, 2011, 11:24 GMT)

Dont give my Watson much workload even though he accept it with pleasure. Suchan hard working and committed sportsman

Posted by RandyOZ on (November 15, 2011, 10:05 GMT)

@Jeremy, you are right I must've been looking at Cooper or someone, whoops! Anyway I am a redback supporter and have watched Dan a lot and think he's got the stuff!

Posted by   on (November 15, 2011, 0:04 GMT)

RandyOZ, Dan Christian averages a tick over 28 in first class cricket, which is a lot lower than the 53 you claimed.

Meanwhile, I'm still struggling to get my head around the number of people who think Watson doesn't make sense as an opener. He batted most of his shield career at number 3, without anyone worrying about his bowling workload, because he was never relied on as a chief wickettaker for QLD, TAS or NSW.

What's changed is that his bowling has really developed, while much of the rest of the AUS bowling attack has generally been poor. Fix the bowling attack, let Watson bowl shorter stints and generally not to the tail, and then let him bat where he's naturally suited - the top order.

Posted by RandyOZ on (November 14, 2011, 22:34 GMT)

@Steve Gregory, one of the few, along with myself, actually noticing Dan Christian as a gun. This bloke averages 53 but because he plays for SA gets ignored.

Posted by   on (November 14, 2011, 15:06 GMT)

I agree with Beertije i believe Warner should open the batting with Marshy and watto should come before Haddin,Punter should bat where he is at his best at number 3 and i personally believe tht Dougy should come back into the test side as he has proven good form in place of Johnson.Haddins days are over so he should pack his bags and leave,on the other hand if Punter doesn't perform till the end of the India series he should also retire

Posted by choo_for_twenty_choo on (November 14, 2011, 13:36 GMT)

Watson with his aggression, beefy strength and need for post-bowling rest would be better suited to middle order batting, where he could develop into a destroyer a-la Bevan or Symonds. Watson as a Test opener never made any sense except in his own mind and the deluded minds of the Aussie selectors. I can't fault his hope and training application. But the figures do the necessary talking; it can't work. Won't work. Don't work.

Posted by   on (November 14, 2011, 13:17 GMT)

I think they need to bring katich as a opener and make watson bat at the middle

Posted by Beertjie on (November 14, 2011, 9:50 GMT)

Players get comfortable in their roles and a re reluctant to change, e.g., Hussey started as an opener in 2005, but soon moved down the order. Pup probably won't want to bat at three. However Watto would welcome dropping to 4, so that leaves Pup and Huss where they currently are. As Brydon says, one needs a stolid Alfie type to complement a dasher, so Marsh and Warner seem like a logical combination, even if a right-left combo would have helped. That just leaves Khawaja and Punter. Give the latter what he deserves: forced retirement in the form of a final home game (Hobart vs Kiwis) and then bring in Usman. All of the above are logical and sensible, so the sooner they get implemented the better for our future. The bowling options are a lot less clear, and specific conditions will play a part. Cummins can be given a try at Wanderers, but MJ's time is rapidly coming to an end (we all hope!). It's not short-term success but proper planning with people being given a fair go that's required

Posted by wix99 on (November 14, 2011, 9:02 GMT)

I think there are two ways the selectors might handle the move. One is a direct swap with M. Hussey to open and Watson to bat at No. 6. The other is for S Marsh to move up to open and Watson down to No. 5 or 6.

Posted by Micgyver on (November 14, 2011, 9:00 GMT)

Even if Johnson is dropped and a 3rd seamer lightens Watsons bowling load,he still should move down the order to 5/6.Australia has more batting options at the top of the order rather then Khawaja,Marsh or Warner batting there.Personally i think Khawaja should be opening with warner or Hughes with Marsh to stay at no.3,especially with Ponting out of form.

Posted by   on (November 14, 2011, 7:33 GMT)

timmyw, Chris Rogers is 34. He's been terribly unlucky not to play a lot of test cricket, but I really don't see how bringing 34 year olds into the side is the answer.

Posted by diteras on (November 14, 2011, 7:01 GMT)

Surely, if my memory serves me, the whole point of Watson becoming a batsman who bowls rather that the other option was his injury record? Strikes me that at the moment he's the best Australia have at the top of the order - despite his poor conversion rate - If he re-converts to a bowling a/r then the the physio's room and he will reacquaint themselves pdq. It isn't really for me to say, because I am enjoying the Aussies discomfort, but the blindingly obvious thing to do here its to get the luxury man Johnson out of the team and keep him there - at least until he can present a straight seam. Pick whomever in his place - Mitch is presently making the attack a three man one and that isn't good for anyone's fitness - something will give.

Posted by satish619chandar on (November 14, 2011, 5:06 GMT)

Playing new ball requires lots of skills.. Watto does have it but not in these conditions.. He is just a bit lesser than Sehwag in terms of opening the batting.. His bowling is a dream.. Better they can move him to no.6 and then continue to use his bowling more purposefully...

Posted by 9-Monkeys on (November 14, 2011, 4:09 GMT)

Assuming all were fit I'd like to see the following top six: Marsh / Katich / Ponting (to be replaced by Khawaja if his form doesn't rapidly improve) / Clarke / Hussey / Watson.

Posted by timmyw on (November 14, 2011, 0:19 GMT)

I would like to see Watson at 6. He just said it himself, he finds it hard to concentrate on batting if he has just been bowling. I think it's stupid keeping him in the opening position, reprehensible even. Concentration is the prime weapon of the opening Batsman, it's what separates them from every other type of batsman. Here is Watson admitting that he can't concentrate on opening after he has been bowling properly. Seems obvious to me, put him down to 6 and bring in Chris Rogers who is the best opening batsman in the country right now. He has a brilliant technique and powerful concentration. I think it's really the only way to stabilize the Aus line up. Also drop Ponting. He just doesn't want to be there any more, you can tell by the way he throws his wicket away . Every time he goes out he wishes he starts at 100 and not 0. He has lost the desire.

Posted by   on (November 14, 2011, 0:11 GMT)

People seem to have quickly forgotten that Australia persisted with Watson in the all rounder position of 6 and sometimes 7, and not only did Watson fail while he was there, he didn't look like he'd ever do much better. Watson has a clean technique, he meets the ball with the full face of the bat and doesn't use his wrists much at all. This gives him a technique well suited to when the ball is hard and coming on to the bat, and poorly suited to coming out to face a softer ball, with the spinners set and in operation. It's why Watson averages more than 40 as an opener, and less than 20 batting at either 6 or 7.

I agree that we can't rely on Watson as an opening batsman and as our best swing bowler, but the answer to that lies in reducing Watson's workload as a bowler, which would be solved by picking a more reliable bowling attack that can swing the ball effectively. Drop Johnson and pick Pattinson, Cummins, or even Bollinger and the problem of Watson's worlkload solves itself.

Posted by   on (November 13, 2011, 23:26 GMT)

Watson should bat down the order and here's why. 1. You need big hundreds from your openers. Watson only has 2 and a top score of 126. 2. He is bad at running between wickets an important skill for an opener. 3. The middle order would be much stronger with him in it. 4. We have a ton of people that could open (Hughes, Hussey, Warner, Katich, Marsh, etc.) 5. Watson never opened before. The experiment hasn't worked. Let's move on.

Posted by hilditchmustgo on (November 13, 2011, 22:48 GMT)

Its not rocket science. Warner, Marsh, Khawaja, Hussey, Clarke, Watson, Paine/Wade, Harris, Copeland, Cummins/Pattinson, Lyon. * If Harris gets injured you still have George, Cutting, Starc.

Posted by Matt12 on (November 13, 2011, 21:44 GMT)

It amazes me that Australia continue to play players out of position. Hussey has been a specialist opener all his career in WA and England. Just swapping his position with Watson would make Australia a better team.

Posted by   on (November 13, 2011, 21:07 GMT)

Finally some common sense! A very good article Brydon! I've been saying for ages that Watson is NOT an opening batsmen....he may be a good one day opener, but test matches call for a traditional approach and anything outside of that will not work. I think if he came in at 6 it would give much more confidence to the top you say, at the moment with two aggressive stroke makers (albeit inconsistent) the top order are already padded up when they walk onto the field to open!

Posted by ab_cricket on (November 13, 2011, 18:26 GMT)

I fail to understand why did they get rid of Katich. Both Katich and Watson were playing well together, were in good form, their batting styles complemented each other and Katich was a seasoned cricketer. The other thing is they have replaced him with Phil hughes who is no better than katich technically. I think Marsh will be my first choice for opener with Warner as his partner on a trial basis, if he fails then have someone with a good technique. Also I think Australia are sacrificing Watson's longevity per innings by opening with him.

Posted by trueindian on (November 13, 2011, 17:33 GMT)

SO Marsh is out...hmmmm.... Khawaja is IN... They had to have him in the first place itself when they were facing opener-crunch... Hughes was not even expected to be taken. Real bad selection was that. Instead it was the Watson-Khawaja combination that would have brought stability to the team. Aus need Marsh at 3. But now he is out. SO Ponting should continue. If he fails, then have Warner at his place. Imagine Warner staying around for just 30 overs! It is expected to be a faster wicket than Cape Town. Dont feel that a spinner should be in the team, who has bowled just 3 overs in Newlands!

MY team for next Test: 1) Shane Watson 2) Usman Khawaja 3) Ricky Ponting 4) Michael Clarke 5) Michael Hussey 6) David Warner 7) Brad Haddin (for now) 8) Mitchell Johnson 9) Ryan Harris 10) Peter Siddle 11) Patrick Cummins

Posted by L.P.Grace on (November 13, 2011, 15:24 GMT)

Watson likes to drive the ball(especially early in his innings), that's his specialty. It also gets him in trouble against the new ball attacks of; Anderson/Tremlett, Steyn/Morkel etc. If moved into the middle-order Watson would be able to play more confidently on the front foot, I also think that if he's out in the middle with his best-mate (michael clarke) would do a world of good for his confidence.

Obligatory line-up: 1. P Hughes 2. S Marsh 3.R Ponting 4. S Watson 5. M Clarke 6.M Hussey 7.T Paine 8. R Harris 9. P Siddle 10.N Lyon 11. D Bollinger

12. U Khawaja 13. M Wade 14. S O'Keefe 15. T Copeland

Posted by   on (November 13, 2011, 14:15 GMT)

What has Dan Christian wrong not to be recognized as a quality player he's getting runs getting wickets safe field better than that guy Johnson but everybody does not see him they talk of J Faulkner,L Butterworth or others who i have nothing against but Christian deserves a mention as well if someone out there knows why he is not considered please let me know

Posted by   on (November 13, 2011, 13:42 GMT)

Watson hardly plays a long innings, so as an opener thats not good. But his bowling is good where he gets wickets when the team requires him. he should come down the order, he can score quickly and also handle the taillenders. But he is one of the most complete all-rounder in present day cricket.

Posted by   on (November 13, 2011, 13:05 GMT)

Yes, Watson must come down the order. That gives confidence to the top order players and also leaves some fear in opposition team. My sincere suggestion to Australia is that do not pick Khwaja in 2nd test ahead of Warner and but pick him for India series, Khwaja can play well against Indian attack but not as good as Warner on bouncy Johannesburg attack.

I never want to see Punter, Haddin and Johnson in this team again. Warner and Khwaja have improved a lot as batsman during last 2 years so replacing Ponting shall not be a problem..

Posted by Caino94 on (November 13, 2011, 12:49 GMT)

I believe Watson should go to No.4, he reminds me alot of a kallis, so perhaps it gives him more time to prepare after bowling and being at the top of the order where he belongs, hes a good batsmen but against the swinging new ball he doesnt have the right game. He flowed better when Katich was at the the other end, solid as a rock. I believe at the moment hes too worried about getting runs quickly because he needs to lead by example to Hughes. So for me this would be my best australian test team: (no injuries)

1. Khawaja 2. Ponting 3. Marsh 4. Watson 5. Clarke (c) 6. Hussey 7. Paine (wk) 8. O'Keefe/Hauritz 9. Harris 10. Cummins/Copeland 11. Bollinger

Posted by Mickey_Ho on (November 13, 2011, 11:52 GMT)

@Govenor..Sorry to be a stickler, but how can Mitchell Marsh be around 18-21 years of age? He is either one of 18, 19, 20 or 21 years old. It is absolutely ridiculous that Katich is not in this team. Coming from NZ, where opening has been one of our main weaknesses in the last 5 years, if you have a world-class player in his specific role you do not cast him aside.

Posted by Juiceoftheapple on (November 13, 2011, 10:42 GMT)

I think I recall Watson was promoted to open due to a bit of a crisis of openers in the 2009 ashes, with a fledgling Hughes getting bounced out the series. The fact he is still there suggests the crisis pervades. If rebuilding is being undertaken, and in the ultimate testing format, then surely it should start with your best players playing in their natural positions. Watson and Hussey at 5 and 6 is a superb middle order. England are pretty lucky to have the blunting tools of Cook and Trott, and it is no surprise our success has correlated with Trott's rise. What with Ponting hanging on so long, a space to blood a young test batsman is lost, but hopefully Marsh (seen none of him at all) sounds like a good prospect.

Posted by alexlt on (November 13, 2011, 8:58 GMT)

What do you think about Watson batting at 3? I think he is probably the only player currently in Australia who can do it, I don't see Shaun MArsh as a long term option. And Australia has a lot of good quality, young openers going around shield cricket, Warner, Madinson, Khawaja, Marcus Harris, not to mention Hughes.

Posted by balajik1968 on (November 13, 2011, 8:17 GMT)

There is a strong case to move Watson down the order. With the experience he has gained up the order, he should be in a position to bat with the lower order and get a good total. Watson got the job by default because Hughes did not live up to his early promise. It was a stopgap arrangement which has run its course, it is time Australia looked for at least one genuine opener.

Posted by   on (November 13, 2011, 7:26 GMT)

Yes good article... problem is, despite recent games, Watto has been our most consistent opener. With Katich out of the equation, breading a new opener like Hughes, Watto has to open unless Marsh is promoted. If so, Hughes really has no place - he is certainly not as technically equipped as Marsh. Yep, I agree, after this series, Ponting's spot must be seriously questioned. We can't have Hussey and Ponting unless they are both performing consistently well. Haddin unfortunately has made bad stroke choices at the crease in recent times that when they don't come off - look terrible. Last innings a good example. Perhaps it's time for Pain, the more classical batter keeper to be our No.7. We all obviously get disappointed in Johnson erratic form both with bat and ball. I was really impressed with Stark - he needs a go when fit. Lyon has done a fair job and tosses the ball higher than most finger spinners so worth giving an extended run. Siddle is a must, always giving 110%, even when battin

Posted by crickprof on (November 13, 2011, 6:51 GMT)

Ponting must be replaced by Usman Khawaja, usman has much better temperament than ponting, also ponting has already done big things now it is time to take rest for him......

Posted by ultimatewarrior on (November 13, 2011, 6:40 GMT)

I don't think Australia want to Win again in any form of cricket....not only they first sidelined SR Clark / Damien Martin / Symonds / Katich before they deserved but they are continuously ignoring DE Bollinger in favor of MG Johnson or PM Siddle or BW Hilfenhaus in last 3 yrs.......;spanmax2=13+Nov+2011;spanmin2=13+Nov+2008;spanval2=span;team=2;template=results;type=bowling

Posted by   on (November 13, 2011, 6:33 GMT)

i agree with coverdale in many aspects of this article, and agree that watson should move down. in my humble opinion the lineup should look something like this

1.Hughes 2.Marsh 3.Clarke 4.Ponting 5.Watson 6.Hussey 7.Paine

As many of you saw by the way clarke scored at that 151 he is more then well equiped to have that no.3 spot, and maybe move down when ponting retires and let khawaja make the no.3 spot his own. Those of you wanting to get rid of ponting, look at rahul dravid, for 2 yrs aged 36-38 he was going horrible and he would be the first to admit it, but currently he is by far the most inform batsmen in that lineup. The australian people owe it to ponting to give him time and find himself away out of this rut, and let him feel when is the time to retire. The same happened with steve waugh, he struggled 2 yrs before he retired before ending his career inform and leaving many of us wandering why he is retiring yet when only 6 months before the press were calling for his head.

Posted by Pablo23 on (November 13, 2011, 6:29 GMT)

I think there is alot of over reacting going on. The media is a funny thing as everything has to be 'sensationalised' to make people read it, and as a result readers jump on the bandwagon. Everyone is on ponting's back but most people seem to assume someone is done once they get to a certain age or lose the captaincy. Ponting's 'trot' isnt as bad as people think it is and should be given a good chance to show what he still has. He's better at 3, Marsh is perfect to open with Watson, 4 -Clarke 5, Kawaja 6, Hussey 7 - Haddin. .The thing about Watson is - just dont bowl him towards the end of innings if it can be forseen, the other day the end of the innings happened all of a sudden, but they are rare occasions. Hughes really HAS to go. He's never proven much at this level and looks very 'loose' in technique. He just always looks like getting out. If we have a solid opener with Watson it changes everything and Marsh is definitely the man.

Posted by VivGilchrist on (November 13, 2011, 6:05 GMT)

@Blake Houston, Totally agree with everything you have written. As for some others, Clarke has not ruined Watto's batting - he is a genuine all-rounder, he is our best bowler of swing, and he breaks partnerships...Why wouldn't he bowl him? You have to use players to there full. I just think Watto opening compromises both his talents. Love to see Warner and Marsh open. Haddin is passed it and it's not like there not queuing up behind him. I think the bowling is fine - we just have to pick the right ones in the right conditions. Harris is our best bowler, OKeefe our best spinner, Watson the all-rounder, Copeland builds pressure, leaving the finals spot for Cummings, Johnson, Bollinger, George, whoever. As for M.Marsh, it may be better if he got his batting average above 18 before we should consider him in the Test top 6. Potential though.

Posted by   on (November 13, 2011, 6:04 GMT)

Why is Hussey being forever pushed down the order as we strive for a win? He is without a doubt our most talented,most consistent and most in form batsman. Unfortunetly i dont think there is enough room for Clarke and Ponting in the same team. I believe Ponting still has runs in him, But if it means that Hussey is constantly forced to bat with Haddin (who should of retired test instead of T20) and the tail he is being dramatically wasted. Sorry Punta, The balance has shifted:(

Posted by palkiadialgaarceus on (November 13, 2011, 3:39 GMT)

I agree with Craig. Ponting is a liability in the team. He is just ruining the line up. In my opinion- 1.Hughes 2.Marsh 3.Khawaja 4.Clarke 5.Watson 6.Hussey 7.Haddin I personally think Watson is still a batting all rounder and classifying him as a bowling all rounder is exaggerating things. Katich should be left out since he is too old and Australia is in transition.

Posted by   on (November 13, 2011, 3:22 GMT)

Please bat Watson at 7.Drop Haddin,Get in Paine and have Paine-Hughes or Marsh-Hughes as the opening pair.Since Australia don't have a Warne clone as a spinner,Watson has to bowl a lot of overs.In the first place he is a bowling allrounder who can be picked as a batsman in the side,not a batsman who bowls a bit.His FC averages are pretty high because he played a season or two of Shield Cricket as a batsman when he suffered a hamstring injury.

Posted by RightArmEverything on (November 13, 2011, 3:22 GMT)

Gov, Mitchell Marsh is getting wickets lately but not many FC runs, I don't think he's ready yet for Test cricket.

Posted by RightArmEverything on (November 13, 2011, 3:19 GMT)

And just a sec, Wade avg is 39 in FC, so how would he be better in top 6 than Watson?

Posted by RightArmEverything on (November 13, 2011, 3:15 GMT)

OhMatty, Test batting Avg of 36 was good enough for Keith Miller to bat in the top 6, Australia's best ever all-rounder (given that he was also a brilliant opening bowler). Also was good enough for Steve Waugh to bat at 6 for some time before he really made his mark. I think Geoff Marsh averaged less than 36 and opened for Australia for a number of years doing a very good job in Australia's rebuilding days. Ian Botham averaged 33 I think and batted in top 6. If Watson was to bat as a counter-attacking no.6 averaging 38 and taking wickets like he is now that would fine with me.

Posted by   on (November 13, 2011, 3:00 GMT)

Bring back Katich, Symonds,Hauritz and Bolinger

Posted by RandyOZ on (November 13, 2011, 2:59 GMT)

Clarke is killing Watson's batting. But I spose when you're carrying the likes of Siddle and Jono you have to bowl him. God help us.

Posted by RandyOZ on (November 13, 2011, 2:58 GMT)

Good article, it's these sorts of articles that highlights how poor bowlers like Siddle are. How can we keep carrying this deadweight while the likes of Coulter Nile, George, Butterworth, Pattinson, Starc, Hazlewood, etc are waiting in the wings?

Posted by mrwaka on (November 13, 2011, 2:30 GMT)

@OhhhhMattyMatty: You sir, are a goose! get your facts straight please. since he started opening in 2009 he is averaging almost 44 runs in 23 games. these games have been played against some of the toughest teams in world cricket and he has been the rock of the Australian batting line up. During this time he has also taken 41 wickets at 25. Mate, that bloke is good enough to open for just about any country playing right now bar England. Please do not come onto these forums and spout rubbish.

Posted by   on (November 13, 2011, 1:47 GMT)

@asgowtham u just listed 8 batsman for your top 6, thats not picking anything!! Also Brydon Coverdale, how is watson a bowling allrounder?? look at his batting in ODI's and first class cricket, even test cricket, it shows he is a very good batsman, the average in test of 38 is because he hasnt kicked on to get hundreds, like he has done in the ODI's. He should definetely be in the top 6, and he is ONE OF THE BEST 6 BATSMAN IN AUSTRALIA, without question in my mind. Phil hughes is a specialist batsman and he has the SAME test average of 38 as watson does, so no one can say watson isnt a batsman. The thing with watson is he isnt necessarily a bowling or batting allrounder, he is just a genuine performer in both roles. He's a Batting and Bowling allrounder. Hughes should be dropped, Shuan Marsh and David Warner should open batting, Ponting 3 (for now, tho he's not far from being dropped) Watson at 4 then Clarke 5, Hussey 6, Mathew Wade keeping and batting 7. In ODI watto shud open

Posted by Farhan15904 on (November 13, 2011, 1:41 GMT)

No Need to decrease Watson Work load, He is good opner player as well as good handy bowler. I think captain need to manage if he think he can not bat after taking wicket sent him down the order for that dat you have marsh in the team who is natural opner. Manage thing according to situation. Although i not the great aussies fan but i am a crazy fan of cricket and like to see good competative cricket always.

Posted by couchpundit on (November 13, 2011, 1:10 GMT)

Throw Ricky Out...I am surprised Aussies or not being objective here. Honestly Katich and hughes should be opening. all boils down to the choice of Captain who lacks team spirit and keeps his fued above national duty and worst case scenario..selectors are playing along.

Anyways welcome to subcontinental mentality and if this mentality persists australia will definitely go down the pipe much faster than what we are seeing.

Posted by   on (November 13, 2011, 0:42 GMT)

If a batsman failed as frequently as Johnson has recently he'd be axed, no ifs no buts. The captain needs to limit Watson's workload, Kallis is very effective with bat and ball but he still needs other bowlers to do most of the overs, same for Watson.

Posted by alexbraae on (November 12, 2011, 23:01 GMT)

Move Watson down to 6, drop Ponting, Clarke at 4, Hussey at 5, Marsh at 3, Kwaj and Hughes to open. Sorted.

Posted by xylo on (November 12, 2011, 22:57 GMT)

"if Hughes is eventually dropped, perhaps for David Warner,"?? seriously, David Warner?

Posted by Governor on (November 12, 2011, 22:41 GMT)

Since 2009, Shane Watson has made a name for himself as an opener whilst chipping in with 10 to 15 overs of bowling per innings. Ever since Michael Clarke has taken on the captaincy, his bowling workload has increased because Siddle and Johnson are too inconsistent. The new selectors should sit back and look at Mitchell Marsh as our no 6 allrounder to allow Shane Watson to focus on his batting. People forget that Shane Watson is 30 and Mitchell Marsh is around 18 to 21 years of age. The selectors have to make a hard decision to bring in Mitchell Marsh. Marsh can bat at 6; bowl at a good pace and he is a damn good batsman.

Posted by Cricordia on (November 12, 2011, 22:32 GMT)

Watson is to Australia as Watson is to Jeopardy (think IBM supercomputer).He will eventually get it right and occasionally wrong !

Posted by   on (November 12, 2011, 22:18 GMT)

As an Indian, it feels nice to see lots of Aussies wanting Ponting out! But from the way Sachin came back after the 2007WC, I'd say never write a great batsman like Ponting off....

Posted by Happy_AusBang on (November 12, 2011, 21:59 GMT)

All this reminds us that there was a certain batsman called Katich who was dropped when he was at his peak. Selectors should admit their mistake and bring him back, let Watson go down the order and 4 or 5, consider dropping Ponting for Khwaja and Johnson for Bollinger. Regardless of all this though, I think there are a few teams better than Australia at the moment most notably South Africa and Pakistan.

Posted by OhhhhMattyMatty on (November 12, 2011, 21:46 GMT)

Watson averages under 38 as a Test "batsman". That is not good enough to bat in the top 6. He should bat at 7, with the keeper (Wade) at 6.

Posted by   on (November 12, 2011, 20:52 GMT)

Why on earth do the selectors keep sticking with Ponting? Surely he has past his best, everyone saw that last year. Yes he was a champion, but even champions have a used by date. Does he himself not see that he is damaging his own reputation. Sad to see.....

Posted by asgowtham on (November 12, 2011, 20:24 GMT)

This is my batting line up for Australia: 1) Katich 2) Warner/Hughes 3) Marsh/Khwaja 4) Clarke 5) Hussey 6) Watson

Posted by 5wombats on (November 12, 2011, 20:23 GMT)

@jonesy2 - Watson - "even more lethal".. ha ha ha.... than what - your pet Merino? ha ha ha.

Posted by Tigg on (November 12, 2011, 20:14 GMT)

Gambhir scores quickly but is hardly a dasher.

Aussies should go (fitness permitting):

Hughes/Warner, Marsh, Hussey, Clarke, Khawaja, Watson, Paine, Siddle/Johnson/Cummins/Pattinson/Hilfenhaus, Harris, Copeland, Lyon

Posted by sifter132 on (November 12, 2011, 19:52 GMT)

The theory of Watson's bowling affecting his batting is fine IN THEORY, but it is not supported by his record. If the theory were true, then his 1st innings average would be higher than the rest because in the 1st innings of a match he would be the freshest, and least distracted by other tasks. Yet his 1st innings average is the LOWEST of the 4 (30.59 compared to 44.44, 43.89 and 35.00 for the other 3). I really think pundits and fans are overthinking this 'disaster'. We just played bad - it's that simple, it doesn't mean there's too much T20, or Clarke's a bad captain, or Watson's in the wrong position, or Ponting is finished. We just played bad...see what happens this next Test before doing anything too rash.

Posted by   on (November 12, 2011, 19:48 GMT)

What's happened to Phil Jaques - who did he upset?

Posted by Onewin on (November 12, 2011, 19:37 GMT)

In your other article Brydon, you quote Watto as saying Australia have moved on since Katich... Pity, but that's that, then, and I should think you are right that under the circumstances Shaun Marsh is probably their best man up to go in up the order if Watto is to come lower down. But that said, I seriously, seriously believe that the other day in Cape Town was just a freak, a once-in-a-century madness that took hold of everyone, and it is futile to search for answers as to why it happened and blame this guy or that or the wicket for it all. True, Australia are in decline, and true the rebuilding process is going to be long and arduous, but let's not panic, Australia may lose again as can every other side playing the game, but that day ain't gonna happen again. No way. To Wanderers, then!

Posted by prashanthbm88 on (November 12, 2011, 19:35 GMT)

wel guys even smith n gibbs made an explosive opening combination. coming to watson he is given too many roles. oz r adamant to drop ponting n johnson. if ponting is dropped either kawaja or marsh can open n other @ 3. cummins/ copeland shud come in place of johnson. if watson shud open then oz shud have good 4 bowlers n watson shud have someone wit a tight technique to partner him. i believe khawaja is the man,

Posted by   on (November 12, 2011, 19:32 GMT)

I think Aus can never really replaced Justin Langer and Matt Hayden. But modern day cricket needs at least one dasher to open n see off the new ball, though it is not mandatory. I think Aus has been so much used to Matt Hayden n Langer, mentally they can't settle for anything else. So they need a dasher n a grafter to open the innings. If Warner can be tried n he is a hit, Watto should move down the order. If he is not Watto shud be opening. Don't thin Hughes is gonna be around for too long. Forget about S.Marsh/Khawaja opening. So much about void 'wud be' left by ponting that people have forgotten that M.Hussey will not be around for long (Hes 37?). I think Marsh n Khawaja have big boots to fill. Aus selectors need to scout in their local circuit for a grafting opener n no thoughts of a 'makeshift' openers. I'm sure Aus has lots of talent in their circuit to bring a 'test' oriented opener than settling for a makeshift. 'Makeshift' is a temp solution not a permanent one.

Posted by jonesy2 on (November 12, 2011, 19:01 GMT)

him and hussey need to swap places. hussey loves opening. watson would be even more lethal at 6.

Posted by cheguramana on (November 12, 2011, 19:00 GMT)

Watson is a fine player and anybody who takes 5 wickets like that needs to be rewarded - only downside being he inspired Philander :-) But surely shud be moved down the order. Only successful opening pair who are 'dashers' rite now are Sehwag and Gambhir. Cant believe Bollinger is not playing !! After watching him in IPL and Champions League, feel that hes streets ahead of both Siddle and Johnson, purely on consistency. and a real fighter with a big heart!!

Posted by degiant on (November 12, 2011, 18:47 GMT)

I love Watto style of play and yes he should drop down the order. The author said that 'rarely do two dashers thrive at the top' and some people are talking about Sehwag-Gambir, he did not say never but rarely and that means that sometimes it can happen and you guys can only present one case, so it is rare. I wonder why at every topic even about other teams and players some people have to bring in Indian players

Posted by kingcobra85 on (November 12, 2011, 18:31 GMT)

@gorky they are pathetic if the ball moves around!

Posted by   on (November 12, 2011, 18:27 GMT)

mmm Sewag has not thrived anywhere where the ball moves an inch. dropped twice when playing in SA. Conveniently injured in England. Guatam can grind when he needs to.

Posted by   on (November 12, 2011, 18:09 GMT)

This man talks sense, with Marsh replacing Watson to partner Warner at the top of the order and Watson down at 6 and bowling well, all that leaves is for Ponting to be replaced by Khawaja, and Cummins and Paine to come into the die then they have a side that has a (not oversized) core of players with test match experience, a group of young, talented batsmen, varying bowlers of genuine pace, a much better keeper, they only need a good attacking spinner (Simon Katich anyone?) and they have the potential to be a genuinely strong test side again

Marsh Warner Khawaja Clarke Hussey Watson Paine (wk) Johnson Harris Lyon Cummins

Posted by   on (November 12, 2011, 17:45 GMT)

"but rarely do two dashers thrive at the top of a Test order" - what about Sehwag-Gambhir?

Posted by MartinC on (November 12, 2011, 17:44 GMT)

Watson is a very fine player but not a top quality Test opener, he should be playing at 6. I would push Marsh up to open and shuffle everyone up one spot. Phil Hughes and Ponting must be under pressure for their places as well though along with Johnson for a bowling spot.

Posted by shashankkrishnan on (November 12, 2011, 17:10 GMT)

"...but rarely do two dashers thrive at the top of a Test order." One example I can give of a aggressive and successful combination is Sehwag and Gambhir, although Gambhir has shown the temperament to buckle down and bat dourly if the situation arose.

Posted by Mary_786 on (November 12, 2011, 16:19 GMT)

Bring in Khawaja to the side, drop hughes.

Posted by   on (November 12, 2011, 16:18 GMT)

lower watson down the order, use him for his bowling

Posted by agupta429 on (November 12, 2011, 16:14 GMT)

I still say bring back Andrew Symonds

Posted by   on (November 12, 2011, 16:03 GMT)

Bring back Simon Katich, drop Ricky Ponting, move watson to no 6.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
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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