Brydon Coverdale
Assistant editor, ESPNcricinfo

Watson's resignation throws up important questions

Who should replace him? And is Watson still in Australia's best XI?

Brydon Coverdale

April 20, 2013

Comments: 69 | Text size: A | A

Michael Clarke and Matthew Wade share a laugh on their way to tea, India v Australia, 2nd Test, Hyderabad, 1st day, March 2, 2013
In many ways, Matthew Wade would be the logical pick for the position of vice-captain © BCCI

The Australian vice-captaincy should not be a free pass that guarantees selection. Nor should the captaincy be, come to that. But equally, dropping one of the team's nominated leaders from the XI is an unpleasant business, for the player and the selectors. That's the scenario that Shane Watson has avoided by stepping down as Michael Clarke's deputy, for if his disappointing form continued at the start of this year's England tour, an ugly mid-Ashes axing might have eventuated.

Of course, by then he may not have been vice-captain anyway, for John Inverarity's panel might have demoted Watson from the role in naming the squad. If so, Watson has successfully sniffed the breeze. But that is neither here nor there. What matters now is that two questions need answering. Is Watson worth his place in the XI for the first Test at Trent Bridge? And who should replace him as Clarke's second in command? Neither has a clear-cut answer.

The matter of the vice-captaincy is the most pressing issue, for the naming of Australia's Ashes squad is rapidly approaching. But first the selectors must decide what they want from their new deputy. Do they want a back-up, plain and simple, someone who is capable now of stepping in if Clarke is injured? Or, given that Clarke's back problems are unlikely to allow him significant longevity in the game, has the time come to groom the next full-time captain?

The problem is knowing who that will be. Based on current form, how many members of the side can the selectors predict with confidence will still be in the XI one or two years from now? Watson's place in the team is far from secure, but apart from Clarke, whose is?

Perhaps the selectors flagged their choice in Delhi when Matthew Wade, the wicketkeeper, was appointed vice-captain to Watson. In many ways Wade would be the logical pick. His work in India was mixed at best but it would take an extended run of poor form for him to lose his place. He has long been viewed as a man with leadership potential, and by choosing him the selectors could hedge their bets.

If down the track they decide he is the man to follow Clarke, he will be well prepared. But if another leader emerges, they can invoke the wicketkeeping workload argument, as when Ricky Ponting was preferred ahead of vice-captain Adam Gilchrist as Steve Waugh's successor. At 25, Wade should have a long international future and he already has more Test-match experience than Gilchrist had when he first captained Australia. He could also fill the role in all three formats, unlike some of the candidates.

The dearth of other leadership options was apparent during the third Test in Mohali last month, when Clarke was off the field nursing his sore back and Watson was at home in Sydney. The reins were temporarily handed to Brad Haddin, who was not even part of the original squad and was playing his first Test for 14 months as a late replacement for the injured Wade.

Haddin is a fine leader and will provide valuable support to Clarke during the Ashes tour, though it will most likely be off-field back-up. Unless, that is, the selectors spring a surprise and give Haddin the vice-captaincy on a short-term Ashes basis. There could be worse options, especially given his strong batting form in the Sheffield Shield last summer. He could either play as a specialist batsman or take back the gloves from Wade, though the latter course appears unlikely.

Ed Cowan is another candidate who would provide Clarke with thoughtful, mature on-field support. Besides Clarke and the naturally fleet-footed Steven Smith, Cowan was the batsman who adapted best to the difficult conditions in India. He still needs to find a way to turn his starts into bigger scores in order to lock down his place in the side. But Geoff Marsh was a sound and loyal deputy to Allan Border during another challenging era despite a Cowan-like average hovering in the low to mid-30s.

Cowan's opening partner David Warner briefly held the vice-captaincy of the ODI side in 2011-12 when Watson was injured, and Inverarity said at the time Warner had "considerable leadership potential". He is close to Clarke, but it is questionable whether he yet has the maturity to be the Test deputy. If Wade gets the job, Warner could be the type to leapfrog him to the captaincy when Clarke retires, form and development permitting.

Are there any other options? Peter Siddle? Few would begrudge him the honour, but Australia are loath to put bowlers in charge. An outsider like George Bailey? Unlikely. Whoever it is will be only a tweaked back away from becoming Australia's 45th Test captain, as Watson discovered when he became the 44th. Now he must wonder what his Test future holds.

If by Ashes time he is bowling, he will be a far more attractive proposition. The balance of the side looked askew when he was at No. 4 as a specialist batsman with Wade at No. 6 to accommodate an allrounder. On batting form alone, Watson cannot keep being selected indefinitely, for his average in the past two years is 24.11 and it is two and a half years since he has scored a Test hundred.

Against England's fast bowlers he should be more effective than he was against India's spinners, and if he is bowling he should be part of the team for the first Ashes Test. But Moises Henriques showed in India there are other allrounders ready to grasp their opportunity. If Watson makes a poor start to the tour, he could be gone. At least now that won't mean the embarrassment of axing the vice-captain mid-series.

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

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Posted by V-Man_ on (April 23, 2013, 0:56 GMT)

This might be bit drastic but how about Steve O'Keefe. Australia has brought Bob simpson back from retirement and gave him the captaincy so why not bring in some one new and give them the vc.

Posted by 5wombats on (April 22, 2013, 22:37 GMT)

@Greatest_Game on (April 22, 2013, 20:24 GMT) Not sure what reality you are talking about. In the real reality I have posted about 9 comments on cricinfo in the last 9 months, so, given that in reality I have written very little here lately - I would actually wonder what on earth you are talking about. How very magnanimus of you to not be antagonistic... do keep it up.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (April 22, 2013, 20:24 GMT)

@ 5 wombats. My posts were not meant to claim the superiority or inferiority of ANY team. My sole intention was to demonstrate the fallacy of silly excuses, and to do this using soundly based argument. Thank you for the compliment, but please be clear: I have found much of what you write to bear as little resemblance to reality as does the "bad weather, bad luck" excuses.

I oppose deliberately antagonistic commentary by anyone, and will defend all, from Aussies to Englishmen to Indians to Kiwis to Zimbabweans. For this reason my nationality is regularly mistaken. It is not where I am from, or whom I support, that motivates me. It is because of my love and respect for this unique game that I take the time & do the research to expose nationalistic rubbish.

I sincerely hope that Watson is fit and in form for the Ashes. It will make the contest more exciting. That is the joy of the game.

For the record, I am a South African, living in the USA, but follow all cricket with equal passion.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (April 22, 2013, 19:57 GMT)

Aus lost to SA due to "bad weather & horrific luck." Really.

Weather: 1st test, Aus 115 up after 1st inngs. 2 tests earlier, Aus were up by 188. SA won by 8 wickets! Bad weather for SA perhaps? NOBODY knows?

Luck: Duminy snapped his Achilles tendon, could not play, had surgery, & went home in a cast. Horrific.

Philander out of 2nd test - bummer.

Kallis yorks Cowan with his 3rd ball - caught & bowled. 6th ball of his next over he squares up Ponting, so beaten he fell over clean bowled. 9 balls later Kallis tears his hamstring & can't bowl. Best all-rounder since Sobers, all-time great, SA's lynchpin, already has 2 ripping dismissals. That's really really bad luck.

Pattinson bats, scores 42. In 82 overs he bowls spells of 4, 2, 2 & 1. 9.1 overs, 0/45. Uninjured, he conceded more than he scored! Kallis, in 3.3 overs took 2/19. Injured, he scored 58 & 46.

A "horrific loss" is an injured Kallis, not an injured Pattinson. This "weather & luck" excuse is embarresing. Let it go.

Posted by 5wombats on (April 22, 2013, 19:05 GMT)

@Greatest_Game on (April 22, 2013, 16:52 GMT) - thank you. It's good how you quote the Aussie players who did not try to hide and did not make excuses. A few posters on here could learn a few things from them. As for Watson - I can't wait for him to walk out to the crease with a bat in his hand at Trent Bridge, always supposing of course that he gets selected in the first place. It'll be fun to watch....

Posted by jplterrors on (April 22, 2013, 17:37 GMT)

I bet they wish they had the depth of NZ with Int quality captains like Taylor, Williamson and Fulton waiting in the wings. Well at least we are doing the Aussies a huge favour by playing Eng 1st they will be so demoralised and beat up after that 2 test encounter that Aussies shd try and take full toll. With Southee, Boult and Bracewell swinging it a mile cant see POMS posting over 150 in their 4 innings.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (April 22, 2013, 16:52 GMT)

@ PFEL. Bad weather & bad luck are poor excuses for losing. Ironically, SA had the worse luck. The Gabba: Duminy lost before taking field. SA played with 10 men. The Oval: Philander couldn't play. Cowan & Ponting lasted 3 balls each in Kallis' 3.3 overs. Pattinson took nothing in 9.1! Ultimately, Aus failed against SA's defence.

In Perth, the only test without injuries, Aus had NO defence, only cameos, & were crushed.

Ponting said this about Perth: ""That was them trying to impose themselves on the series and THEY DID IT BETTER THAN I HAVE SEEN ANY TEAM TAKE A GAME AWAY FROM THE OPPOSITION BEFORE … they thoroughly deserved to win this series."

Clarke, quoted in Brydon Coverdale's article titled "South Africa rightly the best side - Clarke," said "They showed why they're the No.1 Test team in the world." Coverdale began that piece saying "In the end, the best team won. Not the team that played best in Brisbane or Adelaide."

Ponting, Clarke, & Coverale made no excuses. Why do you?

Posted by RandyOZ on (April 22, 2013, 14:59 GMT)

Hopefully watto can come back and slay the poms. I mean they could barely beat NZ so are also struggling~

Posted by   on (April 22, 2013, 12:16 GMT)

@Meety, I'm not sure Wade should ever get near the captaincy... To me he looks like he gets easily upset and also dwells on things far too much. He has the wrong personality for it I think. I truly think we need at least another 3 or 4 years before we see the next captain emerge.

Posted by   on (April 22, 2013, 12:12 GMT)

The problem I see with making Wade VC is that he isn't the best Australian keeper. He's not even the second best. You have Haddin & Paine above him *at least*. Maybe Hartley, too.

So by all means play Wade - he showed some fight in India with the bat - but he should be there as a batsman only.

Posted by cloudmess on (April 22, 2013, 12:03 GMT)

Ed Cowan will never be a great Aussie batsman, but with such a dearth of other candidates, Australia should make more use of his excellent brain while he remains in the side. He'll hold his place for the Ashes, so give it to him in the short-term, and see how things go. I also wonder about picking David Hussey, just for the next year or so, just as a stop-gap for the middle order. He may be getting on, but he'd made an all-time XI for non-test players, and would almost certainly still give a good account of himself. His first class average in the mid 50s is so much higher than many of other players Australia are trying. I notice Australia have sometimes used veteran Brad Hogg in their limited overs side in recent times. I seem to recall there's another veteran spinner available, in his early 40s, who's still occasionally playing the game - I think he has blonde hair.

Posted by 5wombats on (April 22, 2013, 7:35 GMT)

@Meety on (April 21, 2013, 23:45 GMT) Your posts are normally pretty sensible (unlike @PFEL), so I'm surprised at you and your liberal use of the word "nearly" and block capitals. Since when did "nearly" win a Test match? What a load of cobblers. "horrific luck" posing as fact - as if. It's funny too that Australia losing badly in India is "irrelevent" - I guess that means England winning in India is irrelevent too? What a load of eyewash. It's the word "nearly" that is irrelevent - not the cricket. EVERY game of Test cricket is relevent - win or lose, otherwise - why bother to play it?

Posted by Ms.Cricket on (April 22, 2013, 4:18 GMT)

How about the captain? Is Clarke good enough as captain (not talking about his batting) or is he arrogant and has destroyed the confidence of his players including Watson? Tr an outsider like Bailey as captain (though it is unlikely that the Aussie selectors would have the ticker to do this) and hope that it will stop this freefall under Clarke.

Posted by   on (April 22, 2013, 3:57 GMT)

Wade needs to learn how to keep to Lyon before he should be considered again. Lyon has been robbed around 4-5 wickets in the last 5 tests from Wade's substandard keeping. Haddin needs to come back, and back as a sturdy VC

Posted by Mary_786 on (April 22, 2013, 3:48 GMT)

Its a tough one but frankly the job of VC should have gone to Siddle a few years ago. Giving it to one of the other batsman wont' work as they have cemented their spot except for Warner. Watson has large musculature and it causes excess torque to be placed on his joint capsules.The guy is basically a racehorse and needs to be trained differently. This will give him more time to get his body right for both bowling and batting. I am glad that he is bowling because it allows us to get 6 batsman in and after 4 months of waiting of seeing the classy left hander play and i know folks think Smith can't handle the swing bowling in UK but he has worked hard on his batting and just may come through for us.

Posted by MinusZero on (April 22, 2013, 0:48 GMT)

Captains and Vice Captains never get dropped. I think this it the first step in dropping Watson. He cant have the gold selection card forever. The selectors need to get over the Ashes loss thanks to Flintoff. Ever since, they have been obsessed with all rounders. Its time to just have the best bats and best bowlers, not someone who is half good at both.

Posted by kaos2 on (April 22, 2013, 0:32 GMT)

Pick Wade as a batsman at 5 or 6 and give him the VC. Play Hartley or Haddin at 7 to keep - they are both competent with the gloves. Wdae would never make my XI as a keeper - he is not up to it. Watson should only play if he can bowl his full quota. If he does then he should slot in at 6.

Posted by Meety on (April 21, 2013, 23:45 GMT)

@ 5wombats on (April 21, 2013, 18:38 GMT) - I know you have been out of action for a period of time, but if you go back over the articles at the time, had Oz won the Test series, (better placed to win the 1st 2 drawn tests), we would of gone to #1 on the ranking. That is FACT. The India series is irrelevant & btw, Eng got a very bloodied nose in their last series v NZ, so I don't rate a lost test as a big deal, England NEARLY lost two of them!

@Jono Makim - I really felt that Wade was destined to be the next captain of Oz. Been dissapppointed with his home summer & the tour of India, although I believe talk of being absolutely rubbish is weak. Rod Marsh barely took a stumping in decade long test career, Wade has basically matched him in a year AND Marsh was notorious for dropping catches early in his career. I agree that SOME patience is required. I have been a late convert to Ludeman & would love to see him blooded in Short Form cricket for Oz.

Posted by SDCLFC on (April 21, 2013, 22:59 GMT)

Australia is never that comfortable with all-rounders and you can understand why when they are normally able to select 6 specialist batsmen and 4 genuine wicket taking bowlers. But from an NZ supporters take on it, when you're down on genuine specialists then all-rounders can be a lifeline (OK, so sometime we over do it, but don't begrudge us). Watson at 6 averaging 35 and contributing 10-12 overs a day over 3 spells and all of a sudden the Aussie side looks very well balanced. There are a couple of ifs in there but it still leaves 5 batsmen with no excuse not to score runs and 4 bowlers with no excuse not get wickets. The current panel seemed to have overdone it (quite) a bit recently but I think Aussie should be looking for a batsmen who can bowl 10-12 overs. When you're down on resources all-rounders can be healthy well.

Posted by johnnynield on (April 21, 2013, 20:59 GMT)

From the English side of the world, there have been some odd selectorial goings-on with Australia. First, the ditching of Katich seemed untimely. In '09, Hauritz showed some bottle, went on to help win tests in '10, then was relegated behind all sorts of inferior spinners. Letting someone of Hussey's stature retire prematurely is a big error. He had the wood on Swann and would be the ideal stop-gap VC.

Posted by 5wombats on (April 21, 2013, 18:38 GMT)

@PFEL on (April 21, 2013, 8:24 GMT) Following on from the 3 Innings defeats England handed Australia in the 2010/11 Ashes, the last 2 years of Australian cricket have included home defeats by New Zealand, a home series defeat at the hands of South Africa and a whitewashing in India. And you are trying to claim that but for horrific luck Australia would have been the no. 1 ranked test side!!! Very good, very good - wonderful sense of humour! Wombats may not be knowledgeable but they know the difference between "horrific luck" and "not a very good side".

Posted by   on (April 21, 2013, 17:42 GMT)

Excuse me Sir, can I just make sure? I was under the impression that you just advocated selecting Matthew Wade, a wicketkeeper who couldn't catch a cold, and makes Matt Prior in his early England days look like Alan Knott, for the position of Australian vice-captain? Please confirm this, thanks.

Posted by Fine_Legs on (April 21, 2013, 14:19 GMT)

It really did seem as though Ed Cowan had the necessary fight in him during the difficult Indian tour. If only he could have eschewed the attempted square cut or square drive on wickets where the ball simply bounced lower than expected, he would have ended up scoring many more runs. He is probably the right person to be Clarke's deputy in terms of sheer bulldog spirit (Siddle has more of that than anyone, but as Bryan Coverdale notes, nominating a bowler for leadership is really not right). The other person who could be looked at long term as a leadership candidate, believe it or not, is Steve Smith - not now, mind you, but as a really long-term option. Smith may not have looked ready yet, but one thing that is coming through in his performances is that he has raw talent, which is less than you could say about pretty much any batsman except David Warner right now. And Warner simply doesn't have the maturity needed for leadership.

Posted by   on (April 21, 2013, 13:28 GMT)

@JesseV, therein lies the problem for Siddle and any one of Wade and the younger batsmen too, they are no sure things to play every test and nor should they be handed the burden of being VC.

@Andrew Schulz, in fairness to Wade he has hit a couple of stunning centuries, a little patience wouldn´t go amiss.

I think you really only need run through the comments on this thread to come to the conclusion that Cowan is the only possible choice. Its simply just too big a call for one of the young bats, Wade or Siddle. To pick any one of them would be attempting to pick a winner in an untried field. Give it 2-3 years and one of them will almost certainly have stepped forward as the successor to Clarke. In the meantime the level headed Cowan is your best alternative, doesn't matter that he is only just clinging on to his place in the team, i'd be happier dropping a middling performing VC from the team than having to drop a poorly performing young bloke who has had too much pressure on him

Posted by thandsmut on (April 21, 2013, 13:06 GMT)

I agree that bowlers get a raw deal when it comes to the top job. Give it to Siddle because if Clark keels over again, he's the one I'd have confidence would do the best job.

Posted by andrew-schulz on (April 21, 2013, 12:44 GMT)

This is rubbish. Total unadulterated rubbish. That Wade should be even considered vice-captaincy material is ridiculous, and yet you call him the 'logical choice'. Of all the players chosen for Test cricket during the Indian tour, and at any point in recent history, Wade has been the worst in his designated place in the team. His batting in India was truly mediocre-any of his five main opponents would have done better - but forget that- his keeping was worse than any club keeper could have put up. Mixed you call it? Rubbish. Even if his batting were ten times better than it is, Wade would not merit a place because he simply has no idea. Conditions were challenging in India, but that is no excuse for schoolboy errors which had nothing to do with the way the ball was behaving: ignoring the chance of a run out because he thought it might be a direct hit, going up for an lbw appeal and ignoring a chance of a catch, being more interested in avoiding injury than diving forward

Posted by jackthelad on (April 21, 2013, 10:06 GMT)

'Wade has long been seen as one with leadership potential' ... maybe, but he is also a run-of-the-mill performer at international level and would be out on his ear if Oz had any obvious replacement. I'm old enough to remember England keeping faith for what seemed like centuries with a completely nondescript non-starter named Pringle because of his supposed 'leadership potential'. That one worked well.

Posted by   on (April 21, 2013, 9:14 GMT)

Wade the logical choice here, Warner would be the commercial one to go with but super aggressive batsman like him usually face a paradox when captaining and batting in their true nature.So for me hands down Wade has to do the job.Making Haddin the vice captain might but extra bit of pressure on Wade and it might translate into poor Ashes performance.

Posted by JesseV on (April 21, 2013, 9:13 GMT)

I think it's unlikely, but I think giving Peter Siddle the Vice Captaincy, it would make him go to greater heights as a bowler and player in general. He is already the unofficial leader of the bowling attack, and constantly trying his guts out, even if he isn't the most naturally gifted of players. But really, who knows. I'm not eve sure if he is 100% guaranteed a spot in the XI for each Test.

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (April 21, 2013, 8:49 GMT)

The VC should be a player who has cemented his place in the team. The only two who have done this with certainty are Clarke and Siddle.

I think Watson should open the batting. He looked very assured against the moving new ball. Ponting used him well as captain and only bowled him a few overs each innings.

1 Watson, 2 Hughes, 3 Rogers, 4 Clarke, 5 Warner, 6 Smith/Khawaja.

Posted by PFEL on (April 21, 2013, 8:24 GMT)

@5wombats, your lack of knowledge betrays you. The last 2 years of Australian cricket have been more than decent. If not for weather and horrific luck Australia would have been the no. 1 ranked test side after the recent home-series against SA.

Posted by 5wombats on (April 21, 2013, 6:50 GMT)

I have never rated Watson as a Test player. He isn't good enough. It was the "Hughes Tweeting affair" that propelled him into the 2009 Ashes opening berth, not form or class. And yet I seem to remember that after Australia lost the 2010/11 Ashes series Watson, incredibly, got Australian "cricketer of the year". I pointed out on cricinfo at the time that if Watson was the best that Aussie could do in the way of a cricketer of the year then it was a poor reflection on the state of cricket there. I got howled out of court for that - but the last 2 years for Australian cricket have not proved me wrong.

Posted by Amith_S on (April 21, 2013, 6:44 GMT)

Pup seems to of taken on all the leadership roles. And unlike Alan Border and Geoff Marsh, who were similar same age, Marsh 3 years younger had a great friendship and were never rivals, Pup and Watto are actually the same age, all there careers there has been this distance or rivalry despite there careers being so connected and so much in common.Even as people they have a lot in common, but there has always been this tension between them they both openly admit they are not the best of friends.Mike Atherton and Nasser Hussain in the 1990′s playing were almost identical age, they always got on well, and worked well as leaders. Its a shame as we needed these 2 to get along. In any event if this leads to Watto bowling and batting well then it will be all fine. @Sunil my picks for our best batters in the ashes are also Clarke and Khawaja but don't be surprised if Watto bats well in July as he won't get a barrage of spin bowling as he did in India.

Posted by KhanMitch on (April 21, 2013, 5:38 GMT)

I think Watson is the best person for VC but given he is not there in that position it gives us an ideal opportunity to re-build. Pup will be captain and first picked for the next 3 years, however, then we have to have a new captain and the nucleus of a new team.The next 10 tests are Ashes tests and some would say do not pick young debutants for the Ashes because you would throw them to the wolves. Well I say hogwash. Identify now the up and comers and pick them now, and throw in a couple of seasoned people to provide the correct teachings.For the Ashes the batsmen I would pick are Clarke, Cowan, Warner, Watson, Khawaja and maybe Smith, although that last spot is a bit open. Khawaja will I think star for us in the ashes and I also think Clarke will continue his form. Warner could fire but needs to focus on containing his loose shots outside the off stump.

Posted by landl47 on (April 21, 2013, 3:52 GMT)

To me, grooming a replacement for the future is a luxury that sides can only afford when the designated player is certain of his place on playing ability alone. I'm not sure Australia has anyone in that position except perhaps Siddle and I'm not a big fan of fast bowlers being captain.

If Bailey and/or Haddin is in the squad I'd make one of them VC. They are bright guys with experience, can contribute at management meetings and are decent captains. It's hard to think that Warner or Wade have the maturity to take the job on; Cowan might be OK, but I think he'll struggle to hold his place in the side and Bailey and Haddin have better credentials as captains.

Let's hope Clarke stays fit and the issue of a replacement doesn't arise.

Posted by Timmuh on (April 21, 2013, 3:32 GMT)

@InnocentGuy, Watson has been the very worst of a bad bunch for two years or more. He should not be in the 17 man squad, much less the eleven. Even if he is able to bowl, on form over recent years he is not anywhere near the best six batsmen (despite how bad that best six is, he is not even top ten on recent form) nor is he in the best four bowlers. There is no place for him. As for opening the batting, since the time of Katich's dumping Watson has averaged even worse when opening than in the middle order.

Posted by   on (April 21, 2013, 2:59 GMT)

Is it really necessary that we name a vice-captain at all? Clarke and the hierarchy would know who possesses the leadership skills but putting any of the current players in the position of VC is only going to put more pressure on them in a time when they only need to be thinking about contributing in their chosen role. If at any time Clarke cannot play a test or ODI let the think tank decide who should take over rather than locking someone in before its needed. Cowan looks like he has a cool head so if Clarke needs to go off the field (or will miss a game) then let him say to Cowan or whoever "Mate you take over".

Posted by Batmanian on (April 21, 2013, 2:17 GMT)

I think if Khawaja could bowl passable medium, like Henriques, his imperfect but promising batting would be cut more slack. The young Steve Waugh treatment, as others have said (not forgetting Steve Waugh was one of the first truly brilliant ODI medium pacers when he was young, and that and his amazing fielding were what got him the chance to become a Test batting maestro in the '89 Ashes). As it is, we need results from him, pronto, but he doesn't seem to thrive on pressure.

Posted by Batmanian on (April 21, 2013, 1:33 GMT)

@Ngee-Ming Goh, that team can't get twenty English wickets in seven or eight sessions. If you're going to pass Watson off as half a bowler, you need another half. Of course, one way is to consider Stark or Johnson an all-rounder, which maybe you're already doing. Have to get Harris in.

The selectors will pick Khawaja. There's no sign he's Test calibre, but they will. So it means there's no room for a Bailey. Cowan has to go, obviously.

So, Feldman/Haim - Watson and Warner to open. But no Cowan. Hughes at three, then Clarke to remind him of just how much pressure is on him. Then Khawaja, with protection above and below him in the hope that it works this time. Then Wade, too high of course. Then Johnson/Starc, Pattinson, Siddle, Harris, Lyon. The Two Coreys and plenty of bowling would definitely take England by surprise.

Warner has to vice captain, alas.

Posted by whoster on (April 20, 2013, 23:20 GMT)

Watson can only be picked as long as he's able to bowl. There's absolutely no way that 2 centuries in 40 Tests, together with an average in the mid-30's, is acceptable for a specialist batsman - even with the mess the Aussie batting is in at the moment. A couple of years ago, Watson was possibly Australia's most important player because he contributed regular 50's and was a genuinely dangerous bowler when conditions suited. He was a world-class all-rounder at his best, but if he can't bowl, he shouldn't be considered for a starting place. If he CAN bowl, and remains fit, he should be pencilled-in.

Posted by blink182alex on (April 20, 2013, 22:03 GMT)

'There are other all rounders ready to grasp the opportunity'. Why do the selectors seem incensed on selecting an all rounder. Yes i accept Watson, but he really should be opening the batting, but if Watson doesn't play that doesn't mean we must replace him with an all rounder, especially if they are not good enough to be selected solely as a batter or bowler, don't just select an all rounder because he is an all rounder. Chris Rogers will contribute more to a team than Moises Henriques or Glenn Maxwell.

Posted by Meety on (April 20, 2013, 21:39 GMT)

@ HatsforBats on (April 20, 2013, 10:53 GMT) - "...The bowlers are out..." - not if they select Copeland, he fields in the slips! He'd be too junior anyways! @ Chris_P on (April 20, 2013, 9:28 GMT) - on the topic of Copeland, he hasn't set the world on fire in County. I thought he'd nearly be unplayable in April over there. He HAS been very economical & probably a bit unlucky as I hear he is testing the batsmen, BUT he also got a 70 from #11! I commented on the match that IF he keeps that up he could open for Oz in the Ashes!

Posted by Zat. on (April 20, 2013, 20:40 GMT)

Watson 'resigning' as vice-captain once again shows how much ego the man has. Sadly, he is reflective of a culture that came into Aussie cricket during the halcyon days of being #1, when players who didn't deserve to stay in the team kept being picked, Brett Lee as one example. This has raised a generation of players who seem to think their baggy green is an entitlement not a privilege. And the leader of that pack? One Shane Watson, who keeps insisting he is of Test standard when, apart from a brief spell three or so years ago, his whole career has seen him struggle to rise above mediocre. The guy should not be on the plane for the Ashes, I hope Clarke asks for, and is given, a squad of players who will treat their selection as an honour and play accordingly.

Posted by hhillbumper on (April 20, 2013, 20:39 GMT)

Shane Watson is a n all time great player.At least in his own mind.If this is the best Australia can produce then they are in deep trouble. It suprises me that he doesn't go on with his agent and physio.It certainly seems like someone talks him through his bowling action

Posted by InnocentGuy on (April 20, 2013, 16:41 GMT)

I somehow find it ludicrous that there is even a discussion on whether Watson is worthy of his place in the XI. We have seen the Aussie team now faltering a lot in the last couple of years but frankly, Watson is no worse than anyone else right now. Maybe someone we have not seen that much yet? Khawaja? Hlfenhaus? I don't know. But point is, to some extent, Watson is a more valuable player overall than any other single batsmen or bowler on the scene right now for Australia. When the Argus review happened and Inverarity took over, I thought Australia have turned the corner. It now feels, to me at least, that dropping Watson will be suicidal, and Inverarity's position should be questioned if Aus lose badly.

Posted by DMJR on (April 20, 2013, 16:09 GMT)

giving it to someone like starc or smith will be a good investment.Both young men got a bright future

Starc contineus to improve his batting the responsibility will add more confidence. Ausies can make him leader after clarke

Posted by Dr.Scott on (April 20, 2013, 13:13 GMT)

Shane Watson should not be in the Ashes squad, his has failed as a batsman and his bowling, while handy, is not enough to merit a spot. Australia needs specialist batsmen not struggling players like Watson.

Posted by popcorn on (April 20, 2013, 12:45 GMT)

Ed Cowan is the BEST CHOICE. He is steady, he is a THINKING Cricketer,and handles pressure situations well.

Posted by peeeeet on (April 20, 2013, 11:54 GMT)

I would seriously consider bringing George Bailey into the test squad. I feel he has done brilliantly in ODIs and while he didn't have a great season in first class cricket, the fact that he performed at international level should give him a look in. Like everyone else here, I am tired of seeing a non-bowling Watson getting picked in the team. The fact that there's batsmen like Khawaja, Bailey, Smith, to some extent Doolan and even players like Rogers and D Hussey (even though his form has been down) that are specialist batsmen with decent enough records that can't get a game because an injured under-performing non-bowling allrounder is in their place is astounding. On the matter of the vice-captaincy, how about just not appointing one?

Posted by gsingh7 on (April 20, 2013, 11:24 GMT)

vice captaincy is of little importance. what is important is performance. sehwag was indian vice captain and india lost 8-0 overseas. inbetween india won nz and wi, though. he was sacked and india won 4-0 vs australia. his replacements in dhawan and vijay did excellent jobs. watson was one big factor along with cowan and hughes and lyon in ensuring 4-0 loss to indians . he needs to be dropped for khawaja or even returns of hussey and ponting.

Posted by InvisiblePJs on (April 20, 2013, 11:10 GMT)

Along the lines of Chris_P, I too cannot see the benefit of Watson being in the team at all - his batting average is far from specialist test level, and if he cannot guarantee he will be able to bowl at full capacity for a full Ashes series he should not even be considered. As to the concept of Wade even being considered for the VC spot - give me a break! He only got into the team due to unfortunate personal circumstances for Haddin and an injury to Paine - the selectors should be looking at Paine as a primary keeping option and his smarts with Tasmania would make him a very viable VC. Wade is not the long term answer, he had to leave Tasmania to get a first class game.

Posted by RedRoseMan on (April 20, 2013, 11:01 GMT)

In the normal run of things, who cares who the vice captain is?! I'm not even sure who England's vice captain is - Prior I think? The resignation of Watson as VC is only of interest because (a) it is highly likely that his replacement will end up captaining Australia in one or more Ashes Tests and (b) it shows just how far Watson's star has fallen over the last two years.

Posted by HatsforBats on (April 20, 2013, 10:53 GMT)

Watson? Only if he bowls. The vice captaincy? Wade is too mouthy (as is Warner) and lacking in skill behind the stumps; make him T20 captain for all I care but he shouldn't be playing all three formats and ideally Paine brought in as test wk and VC. The bowlers are out, 3rd man/fine leg is too far from the action. Hughes is mentally fragile and is yet to figure out his own game (any batsman dismissed in exactly the same way in for consecutive innings doesn't exactly strike me as a cerebral giant). That leaves Cowan: intelligent, mature, composed, knows his game. Smith is a promising future candidate.

Posted by   on (April 20, 2013, 10:51 GMT)

@Jono - I disagree. Watson should only play if he is a bowler and nothing more. I would be interested in seeing how far his bowling can develop if he focused on nothing but that. He seems to be spread too thin to excel in either batting or bowling when playing as an all-rounder and he isn't good enough to play as a specialist batsman. 2 centuries from 19 half centuries and an average below 40 after nearly a decade in the side is not good enough.

Also, the excuse of injuries hindering his development doesn't carry weight anymore. If at the age of 31 he can't get his body to the point that it can sustain the demands of multiple forms of international cricket, then when is he going to be able to do it? As a batsman, Watson is a liability, and people need to stop looking at him with rose tinted glasses and accept the cold hard reality that he can't cut it as a test level batsman.

Posted by   on (April 20, 2013, 10:42 GMT)

Echoing some of the opinions...if FIT and in FORM, Watson certainly warrants selection. He plays swing/seam well and has good experience playing against England and in English conditions. He needs to be healthy enough to send down 10-15 overs a day and I'd have him open the batting, likely alongside Warner. If he isn't fit enough, and doesn't regain form, then clearly he should be dropped. For the Ashes it'd be between Henriques and Faulkner for the all-rounder role - though frankly Faulkner isn't far off warranting a place on his bowling alone - either slotting in at 7 behind Wade.

VC. I don't see Cowan being dropped anytime soon and there's respect for his nous and knowledge so I'd go for him. Siddle will be in danger of being rotated as a bowler and the other players either lack experience or are still finding their feet at international level.

Team for Ashes? Ideally:- Watson, Warner, Cowan, Hughes, Clarke, Khawaja, Wade, Johnson/Starc, Siddle, Pattinson, Lyon.

Posted by tpjpower on (April 20, 2013, 10:21 GMT)

I have seen nothing to indicate that Wade and Warner are leadership material. Cowan is rather more mature and cerebral than most of his teammates, and his performance in India - while nothing more than solid, frankly - stood out thanks to his colleagues' travails. He's also a favourite of the selection panel. He is probably the best-equipped of the current team to take on the VC role. Otherwise, I'd go for Siddle. On a different note, some of the assertions in this article are ridiculous. Henriques played well in the first Test, but was mercilessly exposed thereafter. I also find it hard to believe that Wade has cemented his place in this team. It is baffling that such an ordinary gloveman is selected ahead of Hartley and Paine on the strength of his batting, especially when he's yet to really prove he can score runs consistently against good Test bowlers.

Posted by vallavarayar on (April 20, 2013, 9:41 GMT)

I always thought that players like Watson and Andrew Symonds who punched above their weight were really an additional bonus to a talented Aussie squad. But could they considered as sure batting choices? Only if the top six lacked any talent, like at present.

Posted by Meety on (April 20, 2013, 9:33 GMT)

" Watson still in Australia's best XI?" - the answer is............ yes & no! LOL! Yes if he is 100% fit & in form, being capable of bowling 10 to 15 overs a day & opening the batting (the only position he's done well internationally). No - if we get the same old Watto of the last TWO years, where he bats @ #4, wants to be an opener & not sure if he wants to bowl or not. IF, he is in form, he has to be in the XI, but if not - we are better off with a specialist batsmen or bowler instead!

Posted by Winsome on (April 20, 2013, 9:29 GMT)

It doesn't matter who is v/c. As none of them are assured of their place, it really doesn't matter if the job changes around game to game. It's not ideal, but Clarke is the important one. He sounds a control freak so it's not like the V/C will have much to do other than nod a lot.

Posted by Chris_P on (April 20, 2013, 9:28 GMT)

I am still to be convinced he is should be selected at all. Performances at first class level for the past 3 years show him hopelessly out of form. With a batting average of less than 30 & bowling average over 40 hardly gives me any feeling of relief he is there. Henriques showed far more application & promise, plus he is a team man. The naming of him as VC was always going to be the disaster it eventually turned out to be. He will (undeservedly IMHO) be selected in the touring side, & if selected in the test team, will leave us further weakened. Wade being considered for VC also staggers me as his work behind the stumps has been disgraceful for an international player. He isn't anywhere near being among the best 6 glovemen in Australia, the best batting gloveman yes, but pure glovework? Absolutely appalling. We saw it in the Sri Lankan series here & watching him perform in India was real cringe-worthy stuff.

Posted by willsrustynuts on (April 20, 2013, 9:22 GMT)

You didnt answer your own question, 'is Watson good enough to be in the Australia test team?' so let me help.

Yes he is good enough to be in this team. But that isnt saying much.

A lot of Australian supporters seem to be living in denial - Clarke is a great captain!!!! Watson will contribute with ball and bat!!!! - the facts do not support your arguments.

Posted by Dangertroy on (April 20, 2013, 9:15 GMT)

While I think siddle deserves it for sheer effort, he, like the other bowlers are likely to be rotated. Wade is probably the most likely, but his keeping needs to improve. I'd actually like to see ed Cowan become vice captain, I think he's the type of player for whom the extra responsibility will lift his game. Again, a non bowling Watson shouldn't play, he shouldn't have in India. Hopefully he he bowling, can bat at six so wade can go back to seven, otherwise wade at six, Faulkner at seven.

Posted by Clyde on (April 20, 2013, 8:55 GMT)

Warner, Watson, Hughes and Cowan are all good batsmen with star quality. They just need for Australia to be thrashed in the Ashes to bring out a bit of determination in them. Then, I don't suppose they have to do anything much if they are not pressed by anyone likely to take their places. Ho hum.

Posted by Paul_Rampley on (April 20, 2013, 8:52 GMT)

@Jono_Hakim spot on mate. I said in my other comments that Watson will continue to be an important member of the team with ball and bat and i am sure he will do both in the ashes. We are fortunate to have a great captain in Clarke and so nothing changes. Agree with the options listed by most folks in Siddle, Warner and Wade, I think it will be one of them. Khawaja is a good future choice too but he needs to get a chance which i am sure will be in the ashes as he is a class act.. Haddin could also be a choice but I think Wade is ahead of him as long as he holds on to his catches, but we are lucky to have a guy of Haddin's class as our second man in waiting.

Posted by FIPL on (April 20, 2013, 8:48 GMT)

I think Australian Cricket Board should SERIOUSLY CONSIDER bringing CAMERON WHITE in and made him deputy to Clarke. White definitely has the potential to become a good leader

Posted by   on (April 20, 2013, 8:35 GMT)

He can only be selected if he is playing as an allrounder and then only at six so that he is easily interchangeable with the likes of Henriques or Maxwell. Still our best proposition as an allrounder but he should never be picked in the top five again, it is far too disruptive, necessitating too many changes as he comes and goes.

Posted by Mary_786 on (April 20, 2013, 8:18 GMT)

Good article by Coverdale. I think we saw in the India series that Watson won't make the side if he doesn't bowl but he has publicly stated that he is bowling in the ashes which is important as it gives the likes of Maxwell and Henriques time to develop in shield. Top 7. then becomes Cowan, Warner, Hughes, Khawaja, Clarke, Watson, Wade.For me Siddle has to be the vice-captain now, he gives 100% percent and is a role model for up and coming cricketers, particularly fast bowlers. But I think either Warner or Wade will get the role.

Posted by Edwards_Anderson on (April 20, 2013, 8:15 GMT)

He is in the top 11 if he bowls, without it i am not so sure, and yes Wade is probably the favorite but don't be suprrised if Warner or Siddle win out. Also if Watson is bowling we can get another batsman in the top 6(i.e Khawaja) which would give us 6 batsman in the team including Watson which will be very important in the ashes as its our batting thats the weakness come July. And Cook knows this.

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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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