Ian Chappell
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Former Australia captain, now a cricket commentator and columnist

Watson should remain at the top of the order

His batting skills are too good for him to be saddled with a frontline bowler's job too

Ian Chappell

February 12, 2012

Comments: 61 | Text size: A | A

Shane Watson pulls one for six, South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Johannesburg, 2nd day, November 18, 2011
Shane Watson: don't bat him any lower than No. 3 © AFP
Related Links
Players/Officials: Shane Watson | Brad Haddin | Matthew Wade
Series/Tournaments: Australia tour of West Indies
Teams: Australia

The Australian Test team's resurgence has been swift and convincing, but that shouldn't lead to overconfidence.

Two of Australia's more experienced players, who are now performing in Sydney grade ranks, Brad Haddin and Shane Watson, are required in the Caribbean tour party in order to continue the side's improved performance.

Any discussion about Watson revolves around his fitness and a likely move to the middle order. Watson is injury-prone and it's a problem. It's hard to believe he has missed the whole summer with a calf injury. After an injury-free period his return to fitness uncertainty makes the case for him reverting to a part-time bowler even stronger.

Watson is a top-class opening batsman. That role is crucial because in all the euphoria over Australia's domination of India, it shouldn't be forgotten that on a couple of occasions the top order was reduced to tatters before the experienced middle-order players retrieved the situation.

All the talk about Watson not converting starts into centuries often enough misses the point of the task at hand. There are two types of successful openers: those who get a start and go on to amass big scores and those who are hardly ever dismissed early but rarely pass the century mark.

As an opener Watson has only been dismissed for under 20 13 times in 45 innings and five of those came in his last eight digs. This is not the time to lose confidence in him as an opener, and demoting him to the middle order so he can bowl more isn't as straightforward as it may sound.

Watson is best equipped to be a top-order player and there's every chance he won't be as effective in the middle order. The lowest I would contemplate using him is at No. 3, but before making that move Australia need to find someone who is a better opener. I haven't seen that player yet.

Watson and David Warner could turn out to be a highly explosive combination at the top of the order. When they fire, Australia could be on the path to victory in the first session of a Test match. In addition, Watson's experience and consistency could be invaluable to Warner, allowing him the freedom to play with an attacking flair that comes naturally.

As for Watson's bowling, I'd treat him as a part-timer whose main priority is to make runs at the top of the order. He might bowl a couple of short spells during the day but nothing that's going to detract from his batting. With Australia's strength in pace bowling and spinner Nathan Lyon showing promise, there shouldn't be any need for Watson to provide more than just a few overs in a day's play.

Haddin's presence in the Test side gives Matthew Wade an extended opportunity to acclimatise to international cricket via the shorter forms of the game. By the end of the Indian Test series Haddin's glovework was much sharper, and his batting still has a destructive edge to it. While he wasn't keeping like a man whose time has come, he does need to be more consistent.

Even if the selectors can't convince Cricket Australia to take a second wicketkeeper to the Caribbean, Wade could be chosen as the extra batsman. Of all the young batsmen around, he is probably the best qualified for the middle order. He has had success in that position in the Sheffield Shield competition and he plays spin bowling better than the likes of Shaun Marsh, Usman Khawaja and Phillip Hughes.

While Watson and Haddin may currently be relegated to club cricket it shouldn't mean they are no longer considered important members of the Test side. Wade needs to force Haddin out of the team with the weight of international performance and a fit Watson is a must at the top of the order.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

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Posted by Optimistix on (February 15, 2012, 20:04 GMT)

I like Watson, but the truth of the matter is that he's too fragile to be a regular allrounder, yet not good enough to play as only an opener.

To call him a top-class opener is a great exaggeration, and to point out his average of 38 and mere 2 centuries is not to miss the point at all. An opening combo of Warner and Watson is going to give you a terrific start only once in a while, more often than not it shall result in an early wicket, or two.

Posted by NAP73 on (February 14, 2012, 23:48 GMT)

Can't believe people still mention Hughes. He is hopeless. How many times has he failed. Haddin is getting close to the same territory now.

Posted by RandyOZ on (February 14, 2012, 16:43 GMT)

Isn't it obvious Khawaja should be 3, with Watto at 4. Hughes and Warner to open. Plain obvious. Also poms - keep wiping that egg off your faces. It's hilarious to watch :)

Posted by Busie1979 on (February 14, 2012, 5:18 GMT)

Sorry Ian, usually you make sense but not this time - get rid of that defensive mindset. Big scores by openers are needed to set the tone for test series. We need an experienced specialist opener and the best guy for the job is Mike Hussey. Watson started out as a middle order player. He only has 2 test centuries in a whopping 58 innings, averaging a mere 38. Seriously, the only thing keeping him in the team is his bowling, which is more impressive than solid but unspectacular batting. Unlike Watson, Khawaja was dropped for making starts and getting out. But Khawaja can't bowl like Watson - which is why Watson is still in the team. This is not the 1920s. Openers need to put the team in a dominant position, not simply see off the new ball. You can tolerate 30s and 40s at number 6, not up front. Hughes, Jaques and Warner have as many or more 100s than Watson despite Watson playing many more innings. A couple of years ago he was in the form of his life and has very little to show for it

Posted by   on (February 14, 2012, 1:11 GMT)

Agree with Ian's view, but why is it that it always comes out when the answer is so blatantly obvious. Watson's performances more than warrant him staying at the top of the order, and given the performance of Australia's young attack in the recent Test series', there shouldn't be a need for Watson to put in much time with the ball at all. I don't agree with the decision to retain Brad Haddin though - now that Australia has started showing signs of fostering a performance culture, Haddin should be given the flick in lieu of Matthew Wade, whose domestic record and recent form in the one-day arena speak volumes for his talent. Cowan is still an unknown quantity in my opinion, and given his age, not sure if he's the right choice going forward. As an interim solution he is OK, while the ACB find a more suitable, and younger, replacement.

Posted by MrDynamic on (February 13, 2012, 21:37 GMT)

Ian, I think you are getting old and hence .... I disagree with your views. May be you need to lose little bit of that patriotism and you will come out of that thing which is blinding your views.

Posted by   on (February 13, 2012, 17:33 GMT)

Few changes I would make to the test side, Watson and Warner to open, followed by Wade at number 3(wk), Ponting@4, then Clarke 5, Mike Hussey 6, then Dan Christian for the allrounder role at 7, then ur bowlers: ryan harris, peter siddle, Hilfy and lyon. This means that watson would hardly be needed and could be used as a partnership breaker with the ball and after he got the breakthru take him off!! Let watto focus on his batting as he is one of our best batsman in the country. Also Wade at number 3 whether he is keeping or not seems a solid option, he has the shield record to back it up and has played well for australia so far. If u look at a comparison of peter forest and matt wade as batsman u will see wade has the much better record in both first class and one day domestic.

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (February 13, 2012, 13:37 GMT)

There is a spot at 3 but if he takes it he can't bowl much at all. These young bowlers coming through may make this possible. There was a period when he was our best bowler and opening the batting, obviously a workload too big. This may have contributed to his current injury. If he is to bowl he has to go down to at least 4.

Posted by   on (February 13, 2012, 10:29 GMT)

@takenaback: Watson does have to be nursed as a bowler. Simply go and look at his fitness record and you can see that. Asking a guy to bowl 26 overs as he did one Test in Sri Lanka and to then go in at the top of the innings is absurd. A Warner-Cowan-Watson top order works very well for me. With Punter and Hussey in at 4 and 5 and Wade coming in for Haddin, that looks good on paper. Watson has played as an all-rounder but it's clear that the stress is too much for his body. Every return from injury, he has to find both the batting and bowling touch again. Australia would gain far more from him by putting him in at 3 and limiting his bowling to, say, maybe two 3 to 4 over bursts per day in the field at Test level.

Posted by zenboomerang on (February 13, 2012, 6:44 GMT)

@Kunal Nanda... Agree about the TV commentators - never liked most of them... Over winded braggards & rarely follow the play on the field... Luckily in Oz we have the national broadcaster ABC on digital radio - so I just turn off the volume on the TV & listen to more respectful & interesting commentators from both Oz & abroad... Much fairer & more enlightening... Cricinfo also helps :) ...

Posted by zenboomerang on (February 13, 2012, 6:43 GMT)

@Sachida Nand... Yes we cannot have risky batsmen opening at both ends & much prefer Cowan's batting technique... But in regard to Watson's bowling, he is a quality bowler... He has three 5-for's bowling @28 & on a number of occasions has torn through a batting line-up... Also only played 14 out of 32 Tests at home... His 6 Tests in India has batting average of 40 while bowling 12 wkts @33... He is often brought on when the opposition are batting well & the ball is older - his ability to move the older ball is better than most & has proven a match winner as a bowler...

Posted by Bryce27687 on (February 13, 2012, 6:16 GMT)

Watson at three. That is where he always batted for his state prior to be thrust into the opening role and that is his natural position. Yes Warner and Watson would be a dynamic opening combination but I think that Cowan would compliment both of their games perfectly. Also LOL@someone naming Shaun Marsh in their Test team. The last thing he needs now is more time on the international stage.

Posted by Benster2 on (February 13, 2012, 6:00 GMT)

I actually think the test batting order works by keeping the order used in the last test and replacing Marsh at No 3 with Watson. A straight swap. Keep in mind that Ponting hasn't been performing at 3 recently and Clarke never really performs that well batting at 4 or higher. Also, the openers (Warner and Cowan) are starting to forge something (which I don't think should, yet, be disturbed) - and they should be given a bit of an extended run to prove themselves.

But I totally agree with the sentiments not to overbowl Watson. Clarke has bowled Watson far more than Ponting used to and, as a result, he has become injured. While I think Watson is actually a decent test bowler, his body can't handle it and he is better off being used as a batsman who can contribute a few handy overs.

Oh - and it should be a no brainer that Wade should replace Haddin.

Posted by stormy16 on (February 13, 2012, 5:53 GMT)

I agree Watson should open and forget about his bowling and its not like Aus has a shortage of wicket taking bowlers for crying out aloud. Also Watson brings with him a dominace effect which can demoralise the opponent upfront. Bowling only gets him in to trouble wth injuries and Aus need him more as an opener than a part time bowler. Haddin I am afraid has had his run in my books. At a time when Aus needed his as a senior player to bat with assurance he has been airy fairy and throwing his wicket. What's more he is missing opportunities behind the stumps. Finally this could be a case of Ian Healy was good till they gave Gilchrist a chance and Healy kept out Gilchrist for way too long with a 'reasonable' job. I am not suggesting Wade or anyone else is a Gilchrist but Haddin is 'reasonable' at best and that's not enough over the long period of time to hold one's place in the side.

Posted by zenboomerang on (February 13, 2012, 5:47 GMT)

Like the comments that Watson doesn't need to bowl... lol... He has a better average than Siddle, Hilfenhaus & is the perfect exponent of using the older ball... With the obvious injury to Pattinson caused by over bowling him, Oz needs a 5th bowler to share the load... Christian should have played from the Hobart Test & through the India series & is the obvious replacement in the Test team for Watson for when he is injured...

Posted by zenboomerang on (February 13, 2012, 5:46 GMT)

@Ian Chappell :- "Watson not converting starts into centuries often enough misses the point"... - "ofen enough" - lol... Actually quite the opposite - it highlights the fact that Watson will never be a top class no.1-5 batsman... All good top order batsmen score centuries at a reasonably regular rate - every 7-10 innings... Watson scores a century every 29 innings... That is the difference between setting up a match winning score &/or fighting just to stay in the game.... Watson wins matches with the ball & his 5-for's do win games for Oz - not his batting...

Posted by Rahul_78 on (February 13, 2012, 5:42 GMT)

Edie Cowan needs to buy Ian a drink. Clearly the lad is not in good books of Ian. Ian has been admin-string Warners case for long and clearly stated that Cowan is not the one for the job even though he had a decent series against India. Ian also has an issue of age with Cowan though he is just 28 where has people like Mike Hussey debuted late for OZ and served the country with distinction. With Cowan and Warner doing the decent job at the top and recent failures of Shaun Marsh and Usman Khwaja and eminent retirements of Ponting, Hussey and Haddin what is the harm in creating batting spot for Watson in the middle order? He is no doubt a quality player and match winner with both bat and ball. If he plays in middle order he wont have to face the new bowl, he will have time to rest after bowling few overs and also provide some answers to middle order follies of OZ. For ones I don't agree with Ian here.

Posted by zenboomerang on (February 13, 2012, 5:29 GMT)

@Ian Chappell :- "Watson is injury-prone and it's a problem"... That is the crux of the matter & Shaun Marsh has similar problems... Lose both in a game & you are down to 9 players... Add Clarkes known back problems & you have a recipe for disaster... No team can afford an opener that is injury prone - unbalances the team too much when injured...

Posted by Mark00 on (February 13, 2012, 4:50 GMT)

Australia's capacity to consistently produce world class players is astounding such that it's easy to forget that, in terms of population, they are one of the smallest countries.

Posted by Bone101 on (February 13, 2012, 4:21 GMT)

If Watson was good enough to play Test cricket as an opening batsmen (without bowling) this comment would be fair enough. But is he really? With still only two centuries to his name and consistently throwing away good starts I doubt it. And that's not even the most ridiculous statement in this article - Haddin retaining his place and going on the WI tour - surely it must be April Fools Day

Posted by bobagorof on (February 13, 2012, 3:35 GMT)

@jonesy2: is that Shaun or Mitch Marsh? You've been pushing for the Marshes so long I've lost track.

Posted by featurewriter on (February 13, 2012, 2:52 GMT)

Chaps completely dismisses Cowan's value to the team. Of all the openers we've tried recently, Cowan has the temperament and the talent to be a good counterpoint to the explosive style of Warner. I'd like to see the following squad go to the WI: Warner, Cowan, Ponting, Clarke, Mike Hussey, Watson, Wade, Johnson, Pattinson, Cummins, Lyon. With Siddle, Hilfenhaus, David Hussey, Forrest, Christian. (Starc for Johnson, if Johnson is still injured.) And with Paine injured, I'd have Ronchi as a backup keeper on standby in Australia. (Haddin's time has come; his keeping isn't good enough for international standard, and hs batting has become too inconsistent.) Mitch Marsh needs more time to develop.

Posted by MinusZero on (February 13, 2012, 2:12 GMT)

Top class opening batsmen as Chappel puts it in regard to Watson, score a hell of a lot more than 2 centuries in 45 innings. I have always maintained the view that he is not an opener. They need a builder at the top not a batsman whose focus is scoring fast. Watson and Warner is a disaster in the making. Realistically, how often will they get a big opening stand? Watson should return down the order instead of Marsh and the others should move up? IMO, He can only be picked as an allrounder. Batting and bowling alone is not high enough quality for tests.

Posted by Boba_Fett on (February 13, 2012, 0:54 GMT)

Geez, just as we finally find an opening partnership that can get settled down and work on building a great reputation over the next five years or so (i.e. Warner and Cowan), we get this 'Watson should open' rubbish being peddled again. If he's going to open he's not going to be able to do any bowling, that's pretty clear. So is he good enough to walk back into an opener's slot? Not even close going on his past 12-18 months record. His only chance is to come back in as an all-rounder, and that means batting down the order.

Posted by   on (February 13, 2012, 0:26 GMT)

Watson makes alot of starts but doesn't really push on. Only two centuries is a bit of a worry. Even all or nothing North had 5, edgey Hughes has 3 and explosive Warner already has 2.

I would keep Cowan and play Warner or Watson as his foil. If you don't bowl Watson Then play the other at the problematic 3. Or play Watson at 4 like Sa do Kallis.

Posted by Kolpak1989 on (February 13, 2012, 0:15 GMT)

1. Warner 2. Watson 3. Clarke 4. S Marsh 5. Ponting 6. M Hussey 7. Wade 8. Siddle 9. Pattinson 10. Cummins 11. Lyon (12th man Starc or Hilfenhaus).

Marsh is too talented to not be given more chances in the Australian side. The way he batted against South Africa is testament to that. Pressure needs to be taken off Ricky Ponting so batting him at 5 allows for the first new ball to be seen off before Punter has to bat. He is always shaky early on so batting him a bit further down the order will help get him set. Huss stays at 6 because he is a gun, Clarke moves up to 3 because he is currently the best batsman in the side and should take on the responsibility of establishing the innings. Sad to see Cowan out of the best XI because I think he is very good but Watson and Warner is Australia's best opening pair.

Posted by Meety on (February 13, 2012, 0:12 GMT)

@smudgeon - I agree, I think allrounders only become a problem when they are preferred to specialists, like in Sth Africa over the years, they would have too many. England often had that problem in ODIs throughout the 90s & early naughties. I'd like to see Watto open to create a left hand right hand combo at the top, but think his best spot id at # 3 or #4. I agree with IC's comment that consistancy as an opener is golden, but I would like to see Watto score more 100s. Watto should be able to bowl 10 overs a day. That means Oz should be able to get 50 to 60 overs of quality pace + 10 overs of Watto & then 15 to 25 overs of spin from Lyon. Also - given the amount of injuries our bowlers get, I think Watto is good insurance, & on a day when we lose a pacer DURING a match, he'll need to step up & bowl 15/16 overs. @Behind_the_bowlers_arm - like the side, but for the time being I wouldn't have M Marsh in, & definately not ahead of Wade!

Posted by D.V.C. on (February 12, 2012, 22:16 GMT)

I agree with the author. Watson averages 20 more runs when he opens than when he bats in the lower middle order. If you want to throw away 40 runs a game by all means bat him at 6.

Posted by Behind_the_bowlers_arm on (February 12, 2012, 21:53 GMT)

Ive always been in favour of Watson going to 6 but i'm starting to doubt it. What he should be used as is as a sparing bowler around the time the ball is reverse swinging for 10 or a dozen overs at most. There has to be a time when some of the next generation of batsmen like S Marsh & Khawaja emerge to replace Ponting & M Hussey but none of them are knocking the door down. This is the major problem that the selectors need to address urgently. If that doesnt happen i think the team in a year or so will still include the oldtimers (but not Haddin ...he is done) and be something like : 1. Watson 2. Warner 3. Ponting 4. Clarke 5. M Hussey 6. M Marsh 7. Wade 8. Pattinson 9. Starc 10. Cummins 11. Lyon

Posted by   on (February 12, 2012, 21:14 GMT)

Ed Cowan & Shane Watson should open. Warner is just a dasher, not ideal for test cricket. He will have 1 or 2 good innings here and there but he is an epic fail.

Posted by   on (February 12, 2012, 20:13 GMT)

as far as i beleieve watson will fullfill a role of a solid batsmen in one day internationals as he has performed incrediblby well all over the world in that format provided his onslaughts in the opening overs .his big scores ,big shots at the times of batting powerplays and his quick run making skills and after all his ability of fullfilling the role 4th seamer.as far as an openers role in a test cricket is concerned it needs a lot of pateince,determination ,dedication ,shot selection and ability to stay at the crease even fr a day or two and at the same time making runs which both watson and warner lack.a top class side needs a solid opener with gud defence better shot slection and a very gud temprament and technique .so cowan is a gud choice as one of the openers and as far as second opener is concerned either warner has to be responsible enough or australia needs to find a beeter opener who can show something to match the clas of the hayden and langer...

Posted by blitzNM on (February 12, 2012, 20:03 GMT)

watto shud be slotted between clarke and hussey so that he gets experience in middle order. by d time ponting, hussey retire, he will be ready to handle the middle order. He shud be bowled more overs n used as an perfect allrounder. mr chappel, his bowling skils are also too good to be shadled by being used only as a frontline batsman. His bowling stats in test r gud with avg of just 28. warner n cowan make a gud combination of attack n defence, they will work as another hayden-langer pair. Haddin is aged and out of form for long time n so wade shud be rotated as wiketkeeper so dat he is ready for a permanent slot aftr haddin retires. basically watto shud b groomed for hussey's place, wade for haddin's n either marsh or khawaja for ponting ! or else marsh cud bat aftr khawaja at probbly no. 4

Posted by   on (February 12, 2012, 19:57 GMT)

Watson is too good an all-rounder to not be bowling. He has also started bowling smarter now. His bowling in Sri Lanka on the slow and low sub-continent pitches was very good. As for opening the batting, I think Shaun Marsh can easily be promoted and also there are few other openers waiting to make their mark at the international level like Mark Cosgrove.

Posted by   on (February 12, 2012, 18:30 GMT)

I would like to see Watson in testing situation. Like on a Green wicket or a dusty bowl of India, probably on 4th or 5th day, just to see how he performs. Don't forget, people call Sehwag, a world class batsman too, and we all know where he stands on wickets that do a little bit or not suitable for his flat track bullying. As far as his bowling is concerned, its handy. I don't expect him to tear through a batting order, even Kallis apart from his early days, only contributes with 1 or 2 wickets every innings, so, its good to have people like Watson around. But having risk-takers at both ends (Warner and Watson), could spell doom for Aus in seaming conditions. Cowon looks much more organized and some how reminds me of Langer. Nice Lad.

Posted by mariofan97 on (February 12, 2012, 16:35 GMT)

Watto and Warner should bat at the top, Khawaja or Marsh should go at 3, Ponting at 4, Clarke at 5, Hussey at 6, Haddin or Wade at 7, and then the tail.

Bowlers (assuming all are fit) should be Cummins, Pattinson, Siddle and either Lyon or Hilfenhaus, depending on pitch.

Posted by csowmi7 on (February 12, 2012, 16:33 GMT)

watson should open. period. If the selectors want to persist with cowan he can come 1 down followed by ponting and clarke and so on.

Posted by hhillbumper on (February 12, 2012, 16:07 GMT)

Yeah Jonesey 2 that top 3 should really have world bowlers quaking.40-3 each time.

Posted by landl47 on (February 12, 2012, 13:52 GMT)

Watson isn't a top-class opening batsman, so Chappell's argument fails immediately. 2 career test centuries and an average of 38? Please. He's been a better bowler than batsman over the last year or so. He's over 30 now and isn't going to get better. As for Brad Haddin- is there anyone who thinks Chappell hasn't undermined his own credibility by saying Australia needs him?

Posted by   on (February 12, 2012, 13:15 GMT)

Dont AUSTRALIAN understand that they dont have any better player than WATSON

Posted by hmmmmm... on (February 12, 2012, 12:12 GMT)

Watson has consistently been one of the best Australian batsmen in the last few years and rightly deserves his place as one. Now that we actually have bowlers who can bowl and get wickets again, he will bowl less and should bat as an opener or first drop. He is far more versatile than warner and cowan - one only has first gear and the other has no idea about spin or bowling round the wicket.

Posted by jonesy2 on (February 12, 2012, 12:10 GMT)

he should bat at 3, marsh and warner to open. there.

Posted by smudgeon on (February 12, 2012, 11:35 GMT)

I'm not sure I agree with the argument that top sides don't need allrounders. Watson has shown on a number of occasions that he can get wickets when others are struggling - and that changes the momentum of the game. It's difficult to understand why anyone would tell Watson to give up (or further limit) his bowling to concentrate on batting when he's a 50-50 allrounder. He's a funny one, though - he loves playing the new ball, but just hasn't looked like going on to score a big hundred - and we know he's more than capable. I reckon a move to 3 or 4 would be good, allowing him time to settle after being in the field. Like others here, I think it'd really improve his ability to stick at the crease, but we need him as that other bowling option. Clarke can't rely on the Golden Arm Of Hussey as a partnership breaker forever!

Posted by wnwn on (February 12, 2012, 11:32 GMT)

The openers should be Watson and Warner. Ponting should bat at 3 as there's no one better and the middle order should include Clarke and the Hussey brothers. This would be a formidable top 6.

Posted by Blakey on (February 12, 2012, 9:55 GMT)

@govenor, how many of those games did Australia win? Given the current positive form of the team, I can't see a spot for Watson. He is awful in the field and running between wickets and doesn't make enough big scores. He is dismissed too many times just after a break in play or has some responsibility for the dismissals of his partners. If the selectors are looking for 'value adding' Watson brings negatives!

Posted by   on (February 12, 2012, 9:42 GMT)

Regardless if he is in the side for his batting or bowling the selectors need him to focus on one skill during a match as right now he is spread to thin and it seems like he isn't as effective as he could be. Either drop him down the middle order and if not then lessen his bowling load.

Posted by Chris_P on (February 12, 2012, 9:25 GMT)

@takenaback. When you have a strong bowling lineup there is no need for an all rounder. The great West Indian side & recent Aussie side of 1995/2007 didn't have nor needed an allrounder of test class there. All rounders are there for sides whose bowling attack isn't where it should be or whose batting lineups need propping. Why should Watson bowl 20 overs in a day with the likes of Pattinson/Hilfenaus/Harris/Cummins/Siddle/Copeland/Starc with Nathan Lyon there as well? Watson would prosper far more knowing he was there primarily as a batsman.

Posted by SamAsh07 on (February 12, 2012, 8:56 GMT)

Actually Warner & Watson should open, followed by Cowan at no.3 then Ponting no.4 Clarke no.5.

Posted by Simoc on (February 12, 2012, 8:30 GMT)

Cowan has been good but is not in the same class as Watson as a batsman. Marsh was good overseas in SL and SA but his form fluctuates to much. Khawaja and Hughes don't look up to test standard at present. So Watson to 3 I think.

Posted by   on (February 12, 2012, 8:27 GMT)

@takenaback. Watson averages 45 in FC cricket and over 40 in ODI cricket. He is worth more to Australia as a batsman than as a bowler and the obsession to get him playing as an all-rounder means Australia lose out on his run scoring ability when the injuries crop up. If he quit bowling, I have no doubt that he'd average high 40's/low 50's in Test cricket.

Posted by The_Wog on (February 12, 2012, 7:49 GMT)

Watson as a batsman hasn't done the job recently. He's good enough in ODIs but isn't likely to make a Test 100 and lately hasn't looked like getting to 50. As a specialist batsman, we risk carrying another Hughes.

Meanwhile, I have to question @Andrew Brighton's comparison of Cowan to (especially) Khawaja. Usman gets to play ENG when they were genuinely the #1 team. Cowan played the hapless IND, who have toured only marginally better than ZIM. I didn't see the rest of the side making 4/600 when ENG was out here. It's very early in even these guys' first class careers to be throwing around descriptions like "out of their depth." Cowan has a LOT more experience.

Posted by Krisheyet on (February 12, 2012, 7:13 GMT)

He is good all-rounder like Kallis. Aus should USE his skill. He is better top order batsmen.

Posted by itisme on (February 12, 2012, 7:02 GMT)

Usual trash from IC. warner and cowan have developed quite a formidable combination at the top. they are perfect foil for each other. they are young and they should be retained with. as for watson, yes he must find a place in the team. now that shaun marsh has lost his usefulness the selectors' job has become easy. put watson at no. 3 (i would prefer ponting at no.3 and watson/clarke at no. 4 and no. 5) and keep the other slots as they are.

Posted by theunbendingone on (February 12, 2012, 6:37 GMT)

Wtason averages 38, has made 2 hundresd and scored less runs in 2011 than Philip Huhges from the same number of innings/matches. Given Hughes was (rightly) dropped from the side, its hard to justify Watson as explosive and a 'must have' player on his batting alone.

Posted by bobagorof on (February 12, 2012, 6:29 GMT)

I think it would be a mistake to bring Watson back as an opener. How many successful opening combinations have had two dashers? Most have a fast scorer and an accumulator - Hayden/Langer, Taylor/Slater, Greenidge/Haynes. Australia has that now with Warner/Cowan. Two dashers getting out early puts huge pressure on the middle order. I think Watson is best suited at 4 - it is where he played most of his cricket for Queensland. It allows him some time to switch mindset between bowling and batting. He could still contribute with the ball, as he did in South Africa when he carried the attack. If Australia's pace bowlers continue to perform, he won't be required but could still fill a vital place in the order when Ponting retires.

Posted by   on (February 12, 2012, 6:21 GMT)

watson shud bat in middle order as marsh shud be dropped

Posted by Governor on (February 12, 2012, 6:17 GMT)

I totally disagree with you Takenaback. Shane Watson is a top class opening test batsman who struggled for 8 years to find his batting niche for Tasmania and Queensland until 2009. From a sports science viewpoint, his body cannot handle the demands of bowling 20 to 30 overs in a test match. He gets injured. Wake up!! From 2009 til the time he got injured, he set up the foundations for a competitive score. He scored more half centuries than centuries. His job was to set the innings up for the no 3 and middle order batsmen. Just imagine Warner and Watson opening a test innings for Australia? We have a chance to take the initiative away from the opposition. Warner and Watson reminds me of Greenidge and Haynes. Test Match entertainment. Is there a good opener (Not Cowan and Hughes) who can compliment David Warner? No. Watson is the man.

Posted by donda on (February 12, 2012, 6:04 GMT)

I believe that Ian chappel has a point. But two explosive batsmen at the top, not a good balance. Ricky ponting and hussey are going to retire in a year or two so who is going to take there position in the team. I believe that Cowan should stay as opener and watson should play 2 or 3 down.

Ian chappel when talks about australia he looks good but when he writes about india he writes with no purpose and i hate his article.

Cricinfo should only allow Ian to write about australia and allow indian writers to write about india only. It's cultural difference which Ian can never over come. Period. However good article this time Ian chappel.

Posted by   on (February 12, 2012, 5:56 GMT)

Mr.Ian,I disagree.Cowan n Warner should open with Watson slotting at 6 to beef up the middle order and bowl more overs to ensure the quicks don't get overworked and break down.56 wickets in 32 games at 28 per wicket gives me a feeling Watson is underused.

Posted by rahulcricket007 on (February 12, 2012, 5:23 GMT)


Posted by   on (February 12, 2012, 4:43 GMT)

I think it would be terribly unfair to drop Cowan when Watson returns. Cowan had a solid if unspectacular introduction against India. He deserves a place in the side over the likes of Marsh, Hughes or Khawaja who have all looked out of their depths in the test arena. Watson should bat at 4 or 5 with ponting returning to the no. 3 position. Also, Watsons bowling is needed. The bowlers may have had a good time against India but at somepoint they will run into a batting line up with some backbone and Watson as a 5th bowler will need to bowl more than a couple of overs.

Posted by takenaback on (February 12, 2012, 4:39 GMT)

I totally disagree with the view that Watson must be nursed as a bowler. He is an all-rounder and a very good bowler at that. It enables Australia to have another batsmen in the team making them even stronger. He is not a fantastic batsmen but he is a good batsmen and the selectors have picked him as an all-rounder, so in my opinion he shouldn't be nursed through bowling only a couple of overs.

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Ian ChappellClose
Ian Chappell Widely regarded as the best Australian captain of the last 50 years, Ian Chappell moulded a team in his image: tough, positive, and fearless. Even though Chappell sometimes risked defeat playing for a win, Australia did not lose a Test series under him between 1971 and 1975. He was an aggressive batsman himself, always ready to hook a bouncer and unafraid to use his feet against the spinners. In 1977 he played a lead role in the defection of a number of Australian players to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, which did not endear him to the administrators, who he regarded with contempt in any case. After retirement, he made an easy switch to television, where he has come to be known as a trenchant and fiercely independent voice.

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