July 30, 2013

Watson's technical tangle

While Shane Watson needs to be aware of his front-foot problem, he can't afford to be consumed by it
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Shane Watson has been called a lot of names over the last few days - social media is abuzz with terms like "poor loser" and "selfish". His attitude, his judgement, and his future in the Australian side have all been questioned. Supremely talented, yet never the most popular player, Watson has become something of a punching bag for fans and critics alike.

Though the entire Australian team has failed to live up to the pre-series hype, Watson has been ridiculed the most. He has been accused of getting out in an identical fashion (lbw) as well as wasting precious reviews on decisions that were pretty straightforward.

While one can fault him on the second count, it is rather harsh to criticise him beyond a point for the former - a technical blooper can only be corrected in due course. Yet, the fact is, Watson and Michael Clarke are the only two proven world-class players in this Australian line-up who seem to have the potential to resurrect their flailing fortunes.

There was a time in Australian cricket - when Allan Border took charge from Kim Hughes in the early 1980s - that they lost six straight Tests and endured a hammering from West Indies and England. Border then inspired a young team to win the World Cup in 1987 and regain the Ashes in 1989. For the next 15 years just about every cricketer who wore the coveted baggy green was capable of winning matches on his own. The operative word in the Australian set-up back then was "performance", which now seems to have been replaced by "promise" and "potential".

That has made the likes of Watson come into focus, and his dismissals stand out. At one level, you can't help but feel for him - you see him do everything it takes to avoid the ball hitting his pads, though he fails. At another, you realise that there is no place to hide at the top of the order; if there's a weakness and the opposition knows about it, you better sort yourself out overnight or be prepared to look like a fool. That's what is happening with Watson - he knows that he has been found out, he knows that Anderson and Co are targeting his pads. He's trying different ways to avoid it, yet nothing is working.

Watson's problem is his long front-foot stride, which goes right across the stumps. To counter the disadvantages of going too far across, he opens up his shoulders even when he is playing the ball straight down the ground or through the off side. While this method allows him to play around his pads, it also makes his bottom hand more dominant than it ideally should be. At the moment, though, the dominant bottom hand is the least of his problems, it's the moving ball (both in the air and off the surface) that's giving him a migraine.

It's easier for Watson to protect his pads when the ball isn't moving much, for that gives him the freedom to reach out for the ball and play it in front of the pads. But in England, especially while opening the innings, this approach is bound to spell doom. As an opener, one must make the slight technical adjustment of allowing the ball to come close and play as late as possible, but in Watson's case that's inviting trouble, for the big front foot right across the stumps is too large a target to miss.

Critics are busy questioning the role of coaches and video analysts in identifying and mending the problem, but while much of it sounds good in theory, it's tricky in practice. Watson's front foot going across stems from the fact that his head falls towards the off side when he takes his stance. Your feet follow your head, and if the head is on top of the off stump when you start moving, the front foot will also land around the off stump.

Watson tried to address his problem in the only way he could, considering the shortage of time between matches and innings - by taking stance slightly outside leg stump. Unfortunately that didn't work out at Lord's. Going forward, he might look to try to get his head in the right position too (above the toes while taking his stance) but that adjustment is going to take a lot longer.

Kohli's head also falls towards the off side when he takes stance. But instead of lunging forward with a big stride, Kohli has cut down his front-foot movement drastically, which in turn allows him to play late

Watching Watson reminds me of Virat Kohli and how he made the right adjustments. Kohli's head also falls towards the off side when he takes stance. But instead of lunging forward with a big stride, Kohli has cut down his front-foot movement drastically, which in turn allows him to play late. He has also opened up his front foot, which makes it possible for him to play straight and not around his legs every time the ball is within the stumps. Kohli, though, is a lot shorter than Watson, so it's possible for him to find that balance with a short stride; Watson might find himself in a tangle if he shortened his stride.

Sachin Tendulkar too, early in his career, had a similar problem that made him susceptible to deliveries that came in sharply. His method of dealing with the problem was, perhaps, the best one, for it eliminated that flaw completely from his game. He started to stand upright in the stance and also stopped leaning on the bat while waiting for the bowler to deliver. The front foot stopped going across. Additionally this change helped him achieve greater balance while playing his shots.

The biggest problem Watson will face while walking out to bat at Old Trafford is that he will have to find a way to become aware of his lbw problem without being consumed by it. He can't afford to assume that the problem doesn't exist; yet he can't be obsessing over it too much.

Even if he is acutely aware that England's bowlers will be trying to expose his weakness and will be targeting his pads, he simply can't assume that every delivery is going to be heading towards his pads. If that happens he will start playing inside the line to almost every delivery and end up nicking a straight ball to the wicketkeeper.

It's a tightrope walk for Watson, and he needs to rely on skill and conviction to take him through.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 15:57 GMT

    Great article. Like someone points out, this technical deficiency is not going away in the next Test match, needs a lot of patience and practice in the nets. Opening of stance is just a temporary fix, what Watson needs to do is focus on his strengths and keep a positive attitude at the crease. He is an attacking player, so even if he ends up scoring a quick 50, that will go a long way in helping his team than scratching around to a 20 with a new technique. Stay calm, stay positive.

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 3:13 GMT

    Nice one. I feel a little sorry for Watson too. Although he has to take the blame for the reviews I still think people are picking on him way too much. A technical problem needs time to be rectified because you pretty much have to change what you do instinctively. I remember Tendulkar having problems with in swingers and Abdul Razzaq in particular exploiting that during one series. Even if you know what will fix the problem it still takes a fair bit of time to incorporate that into your game.

  • POSTED BY Ninety9 on | July 30, 2013, 3:13 GMT

    The reason I, and perhaps most others, like Chopra's articles are because they speak about the technicalities of the game. This article is precisely that and I love the way a problem has been presented and possible solutions explored with evidence of success from the past and the present. A change in stance seems to be the best remedy, one that also allows the batsman to not think too much about the problem. I just hope Watson finds the time to read through this before taking the field in Manchester.

  • POSTED BY Cricket_theBestGame on | August 2, 2013, 4:28 GMT

    akash, your articles are always well thought out and informative.

    "Even if he is acutely aware that England's bowlers will be trying to expose his weakness and will be targeting his pads, he simply can't assume that every delivery is going to be heading towards his pads. If that happens he will start playing inside the line to almost every delivery and end up nicking a straight ball to the wicketkeeper. "

    almost exactly what happend !

  • POSTED BY H_Z_O on | July 31, 2013, 19:22 GMT

    Contd.

    In fact, Watson's record in Australia is worse than all of England's top 5. So there's a definite argument that he's, at best, a number 6 batsman in Tests.

    I think he's talented, in terms of his ability to play shots, but he lacks the mentality of a Test match top order player. Test batting isn't just about what you do with the bat, it's about what you have between your ears. In Watson's case, it looks like he's got Candy Floss between his.

    If, as some have said, this is his last series, I think he'll be remembered as the man who wasted so much natural ability. Despite his stats being better, he's never been the match-winner Freddie was. What's worse, he should have been aiming so much higher than even that. He could, and should, have been Australia's answer to Kallis.

    And yet now, if you were to mention Watson and Kallis in the same breath you'd be laughed at, and rightly so. Kallis has delivered on his ability; Watson hasn't (as yet) and time may be running out to do so.

  • POSTED BY H_Z_O on | July 31, 2013, 19:12 GMT

    @Peter James Warrington better confirmation bias than stating incorrect stats on a site where it's not exactly hard to check them.

    Firstly, you said "for an average of 35, half of it not opening" which is untrue. He's had 50 Test innings as an opener. He has batted just 79 Test innings in total. Even if I were to ignore this series, we would have 46 innings opening out of a total of 75. In both cases comfortably over 60%.

    Secondly, you said "there is the average of 50, when opening" which is untrue. His average as an opener is 41.75. And even if we disregard this series, it's 43.06. And even if I take the 2009-2011 component of your comment he averaged 43.67.

    Now if we look at Watson's average as an opener outside of Australia, it gets even worse (35.84). His away record at 3 is not too dissimilar (32.16). Yes, he does well opening at home, but even then his record in Australia as an opener is considerably worse than Cook's, despite having played more innings.

    Contd.

  • POSTED BY dpeerwani on | July 31, 2013, 19:06 GMT

    Its elementary, Mr. Watson.

  • POSTED BY SantyJ on | July 31, 2013, 18:07 GMT

    Watson should make a SOS call to his Rajasthan Royals captain - Rahul Dravid, arguably the best overseas test batsman in England in this century. I am sure he will get some great tips to work around this technique issue.

    Also, I think Watson gets measured on a very different scale by the media/pundits/fans. He has scored 30's with the bat, bowled testing overs with new/old ball and caught almost everything that came his way in the slips..which isnt as bad as some of the other Aussie performances in this series.

    May the forces be with Watson!

  • POSTED BY on | July 31, 2013, 17:49 GMT

    Every successful batsman possesses a "weak point" in his technique. Not surprisingly, it is upto the bowlers to exploit it. This is the very essence of the battle between a batsman and a bowler. Watson is an extremely talented batsman - there is no doubt about that. His strokemaking ability, I'm certain, is the envy of several others. However, it has come to a point where he is now focussing on his weakness rather than his strengths. Lets be realistic - over the duration of Watson's career, he has, no doubt, faced a plethora of inswinging deliveries aimed towards his pads which he has successfully played. So.. he must have done something right in those cases. He needs to understand what he does right and attempt to replicate that. The body works like a machine. Muscle memory can do wonders. The only cure for this flaw is by consistent practice in the nets to the point where his front foot, by muscle memory, does not get planted on off stump. The rest will take care of itself.

  • POSTED BY dorothydix on | July 31, 2013, 13:11 GMT

    There is far too much criticism of Watson and his technique. There happens to be a specialist batting coach with the Australian team. It is his job to sort this technical problem out , simple as that. There is all this support staff but basic batting techniques within the Australian team have not been solved for a number of years now. Until Australia find an effective way of helping the players don`t expect change. Players can only improve with help. Clearly its not happening so don`t place all the blame on the players who are trying the best they know.

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 15:57 GMT

    Great article. Like someone points out, this technical deficiency is not going away in the next Test match, needs a lot of patience and practice in the nets. Opening of stance is just a temporary fix, what Watson needs to do is focus on his strengths and keep a positive attitude at the crease. He is an attacking player, so even if he ends up scoring a quick 50, that will go a long way in helping his team than scratching around to a 20 with a new technique. Stay calm, stay positive.

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 3:13 GMT

    Nice one. I feel a little sorry for Watson too. Although he has to take the blame for the reviews I still think people are picking on him way too much. A technical problem needs time to be rectified because you pretty much have to change what you do instinctively. I remember Tendulkar having problems with in swingers and Abdul Razzaq in particular exploiting that during one series. Even if you know what will fix the problem it still takes a fair bit of time to incorporate that into your game.

  • POSTED BY Ninety9 on | July 30, 2013, 3:13 GMT

    The reason I, and perhaps most others, like Chopra's articles are because they speak about the technicalities of the game. This article is precisely that and I love the way a problem has been presented and possible solutions explored with evidence of success from the past and the present. A change in stance seems to be the best remedy, one that also allows the batsman to not think too much about the problem. I just hope Watson finds the time to read through this before taking the field in Manchester.

  • POSTED BY Cricket_theBestGame on | August 2, 2013, 4:28 GMT

    akash, your articles are always well thought out and informative.

    "Even if he is acutely aware that England's bowlers will be trying to expose his weakness and will be targeting his pads, he simply can't assume that every delivery is going to be heading towards his pads. If that happens he will start playing inside the line to almost every delivery and end up nicking a straight ball to the wicketkeeper. "

    almost exactly what happend !

  • POSTED BY H_Z_O on | July 31, 2013, 19:22 GMT

    Contd.

    In fact, Watson's record in Australia is worse than all of England's top 5. So there's a definite argument that he's, at best, a number 6 batsman in Tests.

    I think he's talented, in terms of his ability to play shots, but he lacks the mentality of a Test match top order player. Test batting isn't just about what you do with the bat, it's about what you have between your ears. In Watson's case, it looks like he's got Candy Floss between his.

    If, as some have said, this is his last series, I think he'll be remembered as the man who wasted so much natural ability. Despite his stats being better, he's never been the match-winner Freddie was. What's worse, he should have been aiming so much higher than even that. He could, and should, have been Australia's answer to Kallis.

    And yet now, if you were to mention Watson and Kallis in the same breath you'd be laughed at, and rightly so. Kallis has delivered on his ability; Watson hasn't (as yet) and time may be running out to do so.

  • POSTED BY H_Z_O on | July 31, 2013, 19:12 GMT

    @Peter James Warrington better confirmation bias than stating incorrect stats on a site where it's not exactly hard to check them.

    Firstly, you said "for an average of 35, half of it not opening" which is untrue. He's had 50 Test innings as an opener. He has batted just 79 Test innings in total. Even if I were to ignore this series, we would have 46 innings opening out of a total of 75. In both cases comfortably over 60%.

    Secondly, you said "there is the average of 50, when opening" which is untrue. His average as an opener is 41.75. And even if we disregard this series, it's 43.06. And even if I take the 2009-2011 component of your comment he averaged 43.67.

    Now if we look at Watson's average as an opener outside of Australia, it gets even worse (35.84). His away record at 3 is not too dissimilar (32.16). Yes, he does well opening at home, but even then his record in Australia as an opener is considerably worse than Cook's, despite having played more innings.

    Contd.

  • POSTED BY dpeerwani on | July 31, 2013, 19:06 GMT

    Its elementary, Mr. Watson.

  • POSTED BY SantyJ on | July 31, 2013, 18:07 GMT

    Watson should make a SOS call to his Rajasthan Royals captain - Rahul Dravid, arguably the best overseas test batsman in England in this century. I am sure he will get some great tips to work around this technique issue.

    Also, I think Watson gets measured on a very different scale by the media/pundits/fans. He has scored 30's with the bat, bowled testing overs with new/old ball and caught almost everything that came his way in the slips..which isnt as bad as some of the other Aussie performances in this series.

    May the forces be with Watson!

  • POSTED BY on | July 31, 2013, 17:49 GMT

    Every successful batsman possesses a "weak point" in his technique. Not surprisingly, it is upto the bowlers to exploit it. This is the very essence of the battle between a batsman and a bowler. Watson is an extremely talented batsman - there is no doubt about that. His strokemaking ability, I'm certain, is the envy of several others. However, it has come to a point where he is now focussing on his weakness rather than his strengths. Lets be realistic - over the duration of Watson's career, he has, no doubt, faced a plethora of inswinging deliveries aimed towards his pads which he has successfully played. So.. he must have done something right in those cases. He needs to understand what he does right and attempt to replicate that. The body works like a machine. Muscle memory can do wonders. The only cure for this flaw is by consistent practice in the nets to the point where his front foot, by muscle memory, does not get planted on off stump. The rest will take care of itself.

  • POSTED BY dorothydix on | July 31, 2013, 13:11 GMT

    There is far too much criticism of Watson and his technique. There happens to be a specialist batting coach with the Australian team. It is his job to sort this technical problem out , simple as that. There is all this support staff but basic batting techniques within the Australian team have not been solved for a number of years now. Until Australia find an effective way of helping the players don`t expect change. Players can only improve with help. Clearly its not happening so don`t place all the blame on the players who are trying the best they know.

  • POSTED BY abcxii on | July 31, 2013, 10:02 GMT

    Aakash Chopra is spot on. Only because he has vast experience as an opening batsman all over the world pitches.

  • POSTED BY android_user on | July 31, 2013, 9:30 GMT

    How about we focus on getting the best out of these players for the ashes and at least put up a fight? saying things like oh he has been found out, cant bat no more. Just look at the history of the game Gilchrist was found out, Taylor was found out, Steve Waugh was found out, Atherton was found out, Gooch was found out, Flintof was found out, Seewag was found out, does any one want me to continue??? ho and one other thing Didnt Australia carry Mark Taylor for 2 years while he struggled to make any meaning full runs? Some times thing you people actually think you are fans when in fact are wannabe experts

  • POSTED BY android_user on | July 31, 2013, 8:07 GMT

    Watson has had years of chances. He is a walking wicket and lucky to be in the team. odi and t20 sure but he is not test quality. I could probably get him lbw at this point. Drop him and move on.

  • POSTED BY on | July 31, 2013, 5:40 GMT

    "Confirmation bias.".. Where you pick the stats to suit an argument. You said he wasn't an opener. I said he was, more than anything else.

  • POSTED BY IndianSRTfan on | July 31, 2013, 3:44 GMT

    That picture really summarizes Watson's problems doesn't it? In a first class game, on a green tinged pitch, he is long way across, on the front foot, to a length delivery bowled by a left arm bowler looking to bring the ball in!! Too many improper things to do in a single frame!! He has a technical flaw in his game which is exploited again and again. Plus it's been reported that he is not on good terms with his captain and has been dropped from the team for disciplinary issues.

    Barring the disciplinary thing, it reminds me exactly of Gautam Gambhir's situation some time ago. Indian selectors just lost their patience, dropped him from all formats and currently with new proper openers Indian team looks in a better shape without GG.

    I strongly believe better and new opening pair was one of the big reasons for reversal of fortunes of the Indian test team. Maybe Aussie selectors will be better off in letting Watson go back to domestic circuit and work on his batting and other problems.

  • POSTED BY YogifromNY on | July 31, 2013, 2:37 GMT

    Terrific article - as always, Aakash. I read your articles with great anticipation every time: they are filled with nice technical observations and are also extremely well-written. Re Watson and the criticism he is enduring - I get it that in today's day and age where camera work is so sharp and detailed, every frailty is exposed to the millions watching and gets criticized. But I do feel for Watson. I hope he can sort out his issue soon and succeed.

  • POSTED BY funkybluesman on | July 31, 2013, 1:51 GMT

    Watson's place in the side would be under serious scrutiny except for the fact that despite getting out the same way continually and squandering starts, at least he's been getting those starts, which puts him well ahead of most of the rest of the batting lineup.

    The flaw is core to his technique, but they aren't getting him out the moment he walks out, he's usually getting starts and looking good first. I agree with one of the other comments that it's more likely a concentration thing. Like batting well and then getting out the first ball after a drinks break. You've got to blame concentration rather than technique for that.

    The thing is, all batsmen have technical flaws, and you avoid getting out to them by concentrating. Lose a bit of concentration and you instantly fall into the bad habit and risk getting out. The more major a technical flaw the more you need to really concentrate at all times.

  • POSTED BY landl47 on | July 30, 2013, 23:58 GMT

    @Peter James Warrington: confirmation of what bias? I'm not saying Watson is not very good because he's Australian, I'm saying he's not very good because he's not very good. If you've read what I've written here over the years you'll know that I've always had the greatest regard forAustralians in general, having watched them for over 50 years and seen a lot more England defeats than victories. I think (and have often said) that Clarke is a great batsman and a fine captain and I was scornful of those Australians who wanted to drop Siddle on the basis of a few warm-up game performances when the guy has proven himself over the years to bf Australia's one truly reliable bowler.

    If you think Watson's record is good or even adequate as a test batsmen, then we disagree, but it's not because of bias. If I thought Watson was a great batsman I'd say so.

  • POSTED BY 5wombats on | July 30, 2013, 23:02 GMT

    Watson is vastly over-rated as a batsman. Always was. I was amazed that he was made Australian Cricketer of the Year after the 2010/11 Ashes series. It told you everything you needed to know about the depth of talent available. If you watch the highlights from the 2009 and 2010/11 series he had the same faults then too. @Jason Bray - very good points re; BBL & 20/20 - I agree with you. Where is the incentive to improve your technique if 20/20 pays you to not improve your technique???

  • POSTED BY 214ty on | July 30, 2013, 21:34 GMT

    Watson's Solution: Forward, so that the head and body fall directly behind the ball. Once this is done correctly the pad must fall outside the line of the ball. The ball will only hit the bat and not the pad. Watson is going too far across and putting his pad in line rather than the bat. Try that method Watto and it must work. This also applies to every other Australian batsman. I had that problem also, LBW was my worst nightmare. When I adjusted I almost forgot LBW was part of the game. None of these excuses for Watson is a remedy.

  • POSTED BY Rahulbose on | July 30, 2013, 19:46 GMT

    I think this is over analyzing the issue. Only couple of years back Watson was rebuilding his stop-start career as a opening batsman and made a rush of 50s. The main question was why he could not convert to big hundreds. The truth is his priorities have changed since then, he is more talented and valuable as a T20 ball striker.

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 16:35 GMT

    I think the coaches need to tell to open up the legside as a scoring option. Currently (apart from the hook/pull) he is always looking for the drive through the off side as his primary means. Its really endemic in Australian batting that kids don't look to score through the legside. Apart from Mark Waugh all right handers are primarily off side players. Feed him some balls coming into him and force him to score through midwicket and play the ball under his nose. There's no way he could make a giant stride with his foot pointing towards wide mid off and have any success.

  • POSTED BY CoverDrive88 on | July 30, 2013, 16:16 GMT

    The problem with your logic is that this problem became evident in the last Ashes series when he was first moved to open, in 2009. Have a look at the scorecards - 5 innings as opener, 4 lbw's, 2 Onions, 2 Broad. England was already targetting him then so he's had plenty of time to learn but there's been no change whatsoever. The fact that he got 50 in almost all of those innings helped gloss over the fact that his technique is not really up to dealing with the swinging ball, particularly the reversing ball. He has never been a quality player despite all the hype, just a decent player. In a good team Aussie team, he'd be lucky to carry the drinks. In this team he looks like a star, but it's only relative. Furthermore, he often seems to be a stupid player, and not just with referrals. Have a look at the runouts he's caused with amazingly dumb calls that a schoolboy would be criticised for that have cost us the wicket of much better batsmen at some crucial times.

  • POSTED BY Beertjie on | July 30, 2013, 16:15 GMT

    Spot on @Jason Bray on (July 30, 2013, 3:13 GMT) Surely he must then move down the order and trust that those up front can "protect" him insofar as that may be possible. I can't understand why Clarke can't come up to four leaving Watson at five. Warner or Hughes can open.

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 15:45 GMT

    Really interesting piece. Nobody has mentioned the option of a back and across trigger movement ...

  • POSTED BY ScottStevo on | July 30, 2013, 12:16 GMT

    @Chris_Howard, the reason the "fetish" began was due to Watson's perfromances in England. After being called up to play, as opener, he did remarkably well. Granted, he still managed to get out at 50 and didn't go on, but he made 50 almost in almost every innings and got Australia off to good starts. His stats are a little ordinary, but if you lok at Watson as an opener, they're not too bad. I agree that it's troublesome that this same issue has been with Watson for so long. Im beginning to think it's not a technical fault, but more a concentration/mental fault. If it were a straight out technical fault, he'd still get done in ODIs the same way. For me, I think it comes down to lack of concentration once he feels comfortable at the wicket, then he starts instinctively planting the front foot and ultimately having to try and play around it. Possibly he could try taking guard 3 feet down the track to try and take lbw out of the equation!

  • POSTED BY 2MikeGattings on | July 30, 2013, 12:14 GMT

    It's worth pointing out that Watson has only taken 1 wicket all tour. Even when he is bowling well batsmen know that they only have to wait 2 or 3 overs and they will have seen him off. That makes him a quality part timer rather than a real bowling option. As such he doesn't contribute all that much to the balance of the side -- so he really does have to deliver with the bat.

  • POSTED BY insightfulcricketer on | July 30, 2013, 11:54 GMT

    Wouldn't standing more square-on like Mohinder used to do help Watson?That way he could keep his lunge the same length but the pad would be more in line of middle and leg

  • POSTED BY DaisonGarvasis on | July 30, 2013, 11:50 GMT

    "There is no place to hide at the top of the batting order" - Yes, some people feel pity for Watson. But the Australians have been ruthless over the years on exploiting any weakness in opponents. There has been better players than Watson who got found out and faded away because they couldnt find a way to fix it. So, if he can fix the problem, good for him. If he can't, well, tough luck then...

  • POSTED BY mqry on | July 30, 2013, 11:31 GMT

    can someone add an article on "Australia & the flintoff effect" ? quite a long list to get the next flintoff ... Maxwell/Henriques/Watson/Hastings/Agar/White/Johnson bypassed someone like a Bird/Cutting

  • POSTED BY Vakbar on | July 30, 2013, 11:10 GMT

    Excellent article by Akash...great to get a perspective of technique from a technician who has also played with some of the very best!

    Actually Watson's problems are suprisingly bad given he's had coaching from Greg Chappell. One of Chappell's bing things was that the very best bastmen move their front foot towards the ball in defence and in the direction they're playing a shot when driving. Watson defends as if he's driving...his foot is never pointing in the direction the ball is coming, because his trigger movement is as if to drive.

    Take a look at the picture above...watson's foot is poiting twowards extra cover, to a left arm delivery that looks like it will land on a length...if the balls moves in, he cannot possibly get his pad out of the way and will have to play round it. If however, his first movement had been to point his foot TOWARDS the direction the ball came from, his bat would have room to come down straight...Vaughan was great at this

  • POSTED BY mqry on | July 30, 2013, 11:01 GMT

    @ Chris_Howard : True that.. Australia wanted a flintoff kind of allrounder & all they got was Watson. That obsession with allrounders led to Australia having bits & pieces players like Watson/Agar/AB McDonald

  • POSTED BY Chris_Howard on | July 30, 2013, 10:10 GMT

    Dunno where you get the idea that Watson is "world-class player". In ODIs and T20, no argument. But, despite a reasonable First Class record, there is nothing in his batting Test record that elevates him to be talked about in the same vein as Michael Clarke.

    Watson wouldn't get a game with England, India or South Africa. Clarke (the batsman) would be a walk up start in any of those teams.

    We've got to stop the Watson fetish. He's had four years to fix this problem. (Kohli fixed his pretty much immediately)

    He has already worked on technique with Greg Chappell a couple of years ago and still has serious technical flaws.

    The guy we should feel sorry for is Phil Hughes. Every time there's the slightest hint of a technical flaw, the selectors don't hesitate to send him back to the domestics.

    It's always Hughes making room for Watson, whether to replace Hughes or retain Watson. Both with flaws, but treated vastly differently.

    Australia's troubles began in 2009 with its Watson fetish.

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 10:09 GMT

    Whilst I have some sympathy for Watson, it is not very great. This is not, after all, a young lad still getting used to Test Cricket and getting to grips with his own game. This is a 32 year old man, who has played 40+ test matches on his second tour of England. It is a pretty glarign technical deficiancy for an opener.

  • POSTED BY salim on | July 30, 2013, 10:03 GMT

    Excellent analysis Aakash. I think you've hit the nail on the head with regards to diagnosing the problem. I face a similar problem and being 6ft+ it is harder to put into place the solutions that Tendulkar put in. However, what I have learned is that if I delay my trigger movement for a fraction of a second and adopt the Kohli method of shortening the stride then it has helped me a lot. Having said that, I play club cricket and test bowlers are ever so slightly quicker and better ;- ) From what I'm told here in England is that this bad habit probably crept in having played much of my cricket growing up on hard "patiya" (piece of plywood) wickets in the maidans of Mumbai.

  • POSTED BY Babu22 on | July 30, 2013, 10:03 GMT

    @OneEyedAussie -Watson obviously would've practiced a lot and accepted coaching advice since his younger years. It's evident in how well he middles the ball. Can also cut and pull well. Some of his shots are great. And I agree that his failures will look very bad in the CVs of Nielsen, Arthur and Langer. However, you said Watson fixed his problems before. But I am sorry, I can't recall any. He has been playing exactly like this for years. All I am saying is that the younger you are the better is your chance to correct the flaws. He is not young. Plus you need to admit that you have a problem and to have interest in eliminating the flaws. But sadly, he doesn't seem to have that. If he had a strong interest, he would have eliminated these flaws 4 years ago. Either he has been unable to do it or has no interest in doing it. Because of these reasons I said a coach may not be able to do much good for him. The coaches probably tried but failed. They need to take a part of blame as well.

  • POSTED BY Rowayton on | July 30, 2013, 10:02 GMT

    Ankitsuperking describes Watson as a genuine match winner. Que? Give us a list of matches he has genuinely won, and no, t20 does not count. What annoys me with him is not a technical fault, it's his lack of concentration. One of his LBWs was the first ball after drinks, trying to force through mid wicket. That's not a technical fault.

  • POSTED BY itismenithin on | July 30, 2013, 9:26 GMT

    Good observation by Akash. I think most Australian players try to get behind line of delivery which is good technique to have in bouncy conditions where lbw is not a big threat. Like Dravid did in last England tour they will be best advised to stay in line and not make exaggerated front foot movement. Easier said than done.

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 9:24 GMT

    precisely the problem with watson...as a batsman u cannot call him a predominant front foot or backfoot player ...if u c watson playing spin bowling there is this tendency to go for the pull each time ...or either ways ( front food lunge while facing fast bowling or that backfoot stride spin) it is his nature to attack the opposition which is his undoing at the moment....even if your nature style is playing aggressive brand of cricket u ought to rely on one technique and then u can have your minor adjustments...and if u are an opening batsman in all formats, all u need to be aware while playing is " the format" ...something that earned virender sehwag that stature :)

  • POSTED BY ToneMalone on | July 30, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    Shane Watson is copping so much criticism largely because he, more than his team mates, has squandered countless chances to deal with a critical technical fault. Watson was first tried as a Test opener in England in 2009, and survived some perilously close lbw decisions back then. Had DRS been available then, I suspect the Watson opening experiment would have been a footnote in history.

    Four years on, Watson should have found better ways to respond to this problem, especially given the way he has lobbied to win back a opening spot. So while this article makes sense from a technical perspective, I'm struggling to find much sympathy for his predicament now.

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 8:40 GMT

    Calling Watson's problem technical is like calling Gary Sobers left handed..its obvious ! Well thought out write up on Watson's technical flaws, which also make one think about the flaws / failings of other batsmen around the world ! Hope Watson gets to read this before Headingly !

  • POSTED BY Rahul_78 on | July 30, 2013, 8:23 GMT

    Wonderful article. I guess Leehman and co pretty much know the problem and the correction. This is precisely the reason why Watto was kept away from the 3 day game. However I am sure Watto must be cursing himself and Rogers for that review. It just added fuel to that fire. With all the media attention and pressure from fans it would be very difficult for Watto to correct his flows in small time and then execute the corrections in the middle. Better way would be for him to swallow his ego and bat down the order and let Warner open the innings. This way he will be away from hard and shiny ball and Anderson. Anyways thanks a bunch Aakash for explaining the problem and providing the solutions with examples. Should be quite useful for the youngsters.

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 8:09 GMT

    Watson has not been a world-class performer for some time. He's been a world-class under-achiever. He's too old now NOT to fulfill his promise, and still stay in the team. Either he's an allrounder or he gets judged as a batsman. His average as a Test batsman is poor.

  • POSTED BY latecut_04 on | July 30, 2013, 8:06 GMT

    @OneEyedAussie on (July 30, 2013, 5:17 GMT) -Thanks for your response and i see you agree with many of my points.Well reagrding coaching staff 'fixing'Watto's problem,they may have addressed it and failed to correct the flaw.ie N number of trials may have been done in nets with retries BUT watto just hasnt been able to transform all those inputs to practice.Definitely Langer must have addressed this.Wato used to bat like this when he was around.and he makes runs like this in ODIs and T20s because the formats allow you much more breathing space.But i agree with your general view that coaching staff has failed w.r.t Aussie batting.

  • POSTED BY Kitschiguy on | July 30, 2013, 7:47 GMT

    Greta article. A very interesting insight into the technical aspects of batting. Although I'm still miffed at the constant use of the word 'talented' and in this case 'supremely talented' when referring to Watson. he's had long enough to prove his talent. How long must it go on before we admit that this 'unfulfilled talent' is actually just not that talented?

  • POSTED BY LoungeChairCritic on | July 30, 2013, 7:43 GMT

    Just like Gilchrist & Sehwag, Watson has some major technical flaws. At the age of 32 it is hard to change your game completely. Although he should tweak his technique slightly, I think he needs to focus more on the mental side of his game. As an all-rounder Watson appears to struggle with concentration. He gets out when he should cash in. Most batsmen would kill to middle the ball so well during the early stages of their innings. The difficulty with Watson is trying to figure out the batting position where he can contribute both with ball and bat. My gut feeling is that he is suited to opening. He is a bully boy stand and deliver type batsmen who doesn't rotate the strike enough to be a middle order batsmen. If he continues to struggle for runs, their will be more pressure on him to contribute with the ball. His ability to reverse swing and bowl stump to stump is still vital to us on dry tracks. I wouldn't drop him.

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 7:25 GMT

    Not a test quality opening batsman. Simple.

  • POSTED BY SouthPaw on | July 30, 2013, 6:48 GMT

    I think Chopra is trying to force-fit Watson's case into a theory that he has. The real problem is that although he lunges forward, his weight is still on the back foot. So what happens is that his head is not near the front foot, rather it is between the two legs on a line with his navel. The result - he is "stuck in mud" and is not able to swing the bat in time to meet the ball.

  • POSTED BY OneEyedAussie on | July 30, 2013, 6:36 GMT

    @Babu22 on (July 30, 2013, 6:10 GMT) : I am sorry, but I find the situation as you describe it totally implausible. Nobody gets to the level Watson has without accepting coaching advice and fixing problems of technique. Watson has done this in the past, so why not now?

    Do you think honestly that Watson's utter failure to reach his potential looks good on Nielsen's, Arthur's and Langer's resumes? Do you think they have handled the situation well? All evidence is to the contrasy in Watson's case. Sure, Watson must take the bulk of the responsibility for his poor performance, but I hardly think he is to blame for a coaches poor performance.

  • POSTED BY Ankitsuperking on | July 30, 2013, 6:15 GMT

    I agree that there is a flaw in watson's technique but still he is a genuine match winner and there are very few Aussies cricketer who is better than him. Every cricketer has some or other flaw, Sehwag and Ganguly both had problem with short ball, but is about focusing on your strength which is attacking play for watson. may be middle order is a better place in Test match for Watson especially in these conditions.

  • POSTED BY Babu22 on | July 30, 2013, 6:10 GMT

    @BradmanBestEver - the reason Watson did not fix his problem is that he is not capable of fixing it or he is not bothered about it. He has been having this issue for years. If he could/did not fix it in 4 years, then he would never fix it. @OneEyedAussie - a lot of people have been suggesting what's best for Watson. A lot of people have commented on his front foot problem in the last 4 years. Either he is unable to correct it or simply chooses not to correct the problem, because this is not a problem at all in ODIs and T20s. Therefore, even if you bring the best coach in the world, he wouldn't be able to do anything for Watson. In ODIs and T20s the bowlers will be wary of cutting/swinging the ball into him, because if the ball misses the leg stump by a fraction, it will be called a wide. I don't think you can blame the coaches here. Even if he is capable of fixing the problem, it will take a lot of time, I think. He wll keep getting found out in tests, but does he bother?

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 6:07 GMT

    landl47 confirmation bias is your friend. mine too. for every 100 there are 4 90s or 80s. for an average of 35, half of it not opening, there is the average of 50, when opening, from 09 to early 11.

    the only time watson has been successful has been as an opener. now he has been found out, by excellent seamers, it's probably time for him to go. but to call him a middle order batsman just defies facts and logic.

    his talent extends to handy seam bowling, reasonable captaincy, and decent slipping. he;s not Keith Miller, but he;s better than Glenn Trimble.

    all of this angst about the reviews, that infuses even this excellent technical analysis. give it up. it belongs on social media. this is a cricket blog. he was right to be dubious re his dismissal at Trent Bridge (see his loss of Bell's wicket for context), and Rogers confirmed he should review at Lords. get over it. it doesn't mean anything.

    sack the agony aunts and start talking cricket.

  • POSTED BY Romanticstud on | July 30, 2013, 5:57 GMT

    Go back to the basics ...try to put your foot in the direction the ball is coming from and your bat next to it ... keep your eye fixed on the ball ... let the ball hit the bat ... I know it is difficult to achieve when in ODIs the aim is to work the ball around for runs every ball ... Until the eye is in ... make sure that you keep the bat as straight as possible ... Cross bat shots should be kept to a minimum ...

  • POSTED BY latecut_04 on | July 30, 2013, 5:47 GMT

    @landl47--Watson is not fooling anyone.atleast he isnt doing it by himself.Selectors/coach who make him open despite repeated failures are equally responsible for this farce.@BradmanBestEver--Amazed that it bemuses you.Were you bemused when the likes of Tuffnell/Giles could not turn the ball like Warne....at least based on performances till date Watto seems incapable of dealing with inswing.period.

  • POSTED BY Babu22 on | July 30, 2013, 5:42 GMT

    I love Aakash's articles. My son, who is 14 yo, goes for batting coaching in Perth. One thing the coach always says and ensures my son follows is "take your head to the ball", just like what Aakash is saying here (for full deliveries). Then the feet, body and everything else follows that and allows you to play the ball late, significantly reducing errors and still have a fallback option left if something goes wrong. However, what Aakash doesn't say here is that this requires a lot of patience and an attitude to respect the bowler. Watson at 32 is unlikely to develop either of these qualities overnight, and I can't see how he will improve his game. But that said, I am praying with all my might that he should play the remaining 3 matches as the opener. Then, and only then, we will have proof that he is useless and that will be more than enough grounds for removing him from the test team permanently. Waiting for the day.

  • POSTED BY KannanAnanya on | July 30, 2013, 5:41 GMT

    Ideally, Warner and Rogers should open, followed by Cowan, Watson, Clarke, Haddin, Smith, Siddle, Starc, Lyon and Harris.

    If Rogers fails to meet the expectations, then promote Cowan to open and play wade at No.7. even if the top fails, wade will play aggressively with the tail.

    You are playing the wrong people at wrong places.... If watson plays above clarke, then the duo can put together some useful partnerships.... also, haddin can lend his hand....

  • POSTED BY SlipsGlance on | July 30, 2013, 5:28 GMT

    Thanks for a very interesting and enlightening article. I wish TV commentators would spend more time discussing technical matters instead of gossiping and stating the obvious.

  • POSTED BY BradmanBestEver on | July 30, 2013, 5:27 GMT

    When Nasser Hussain was demonstrating this problem with Watsons batting before the 1st test I figured that Watson will do something about it because he would have been aware that the English are on to this problem. Bemuses me why Watson did not fix it.

  • POSTED BY OneEyedAussie on | July 30, 2013, 5:17 GMT

    @latecut_04 on (July 30, 2013, 4:18 GMT): If the English were not gaining reverse swing I would agree with you about Watson moving to the lower order. The fact is he is just as vulnerable there as he is anywhere else. At least against the hard new ball he has the opportunity to blast a few runs. In any case, it would still behove him to stop falling to the off-side.

    What I mean by addressing a flaw is to fix it. Several suggestions are offered in the article above from vastly more commendable sources than myself. If it is not the job of the coaching staff to help Watson to correct these problems, then what exactly is their job? Looking pretty? Cheerleading?

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 5:07 GMT

    For a batsman who scores centuries before lunch with ease even though the opposition are just first class teams there shouldn't be a problem like the writer says above. Those who question Watson's talent and ability to play as test batsman fail to see scoring runs easy is the real yardstick to measure a batsman's talent. Alistair Cook too plants his front foot dangerously in front of the middle stump but it doesn't hurt. It is matter of confidence. Watson has to play as usual. Just one 75; it could come in hour for him; Watson will score at 3 hundreds in the remaining 8 Ashes tests.

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 4:46 GMT

    Watson should open in the subcontinent where people can plant there front foot forward and play effectively. but in seaming and swinging conditions it is pointless opening with such an opener... he should drop down when the ball is a bit older he could play better. Es specially for the ashes series he should not open... he is better for an attacking 2 down batsman... cowan and warner should open

  • POSTED BY latecut_04 on | July 30, 2013, 4:18 GMT

    @OneEyedAussie--Your post has the problem and solution(if possible)for Watson's case.For someone who is vulnerable to inswinging delveries the best position(if at all there is one)to bat is lower middle order.If everything goes fine he would be mainly dealing with slightly old balls and his weakness will not precipitate as much as it does while opening.Also what exactly is meant by 'addressing' a flaw.Right from 2009 he has been fickle and that is a weakness or deficiency.At times batsmen sort out flaws and go on to become successful batsmen(eg:Alistair Cook)OR they just cant do that and get replaced by technically better players.In Watson's case to be honest he seems unable to correct his flaw and only reasonhe goes on opening for Aus is because his replacements too have their own share of problems.(eg:Hughes)..Period.

  • POSTED BY landl47 on | July 30, 2013, 3:49 GMT

    I keep hearing about how talented Watson is ('supremely talented' according to this article) yet where's the evidence that this is true? Because he looks good briefly before he gets out?

    Watson is 32. He's played 43 tests. His test average is under 35. He has made 2 test centuries in 79 innings, the highest 126 and the second and last 3 years and 22 tests ago. Is there any evidence there of his supreme talent?

    If a player has been playing tests for 8 years, isn't still having a fundamental flaw in his technique direct evidence that he is not supremely talented? The comparisons with Kohli and Tendulkar early in his career are meaningless; Kohli is still only 24 and has already solved the problem and Tendulkar solved it earlier than that. Watson is far nearer the end of his career than the beginning and still has poor technique.

    Watson is a lower middle order batsman masquerading as an opener. His supreme talent is fooling people into thinking he's a batsman.

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 3:13 GMT

    20/20 cricket muddies these kind of issues immeasurably. Not so long ago a player would work hard on their flawed technique because if they didnt it would be the end of their careers in cricket. But why would Watson, Warner etc change their flawed batting approach that is making them rich, famous and successful in the BBL and IPL? No matter how much flak they cop for failed Ashes performances, these Aust players know they have a cricketing safety net if they continue to fail at test cricket - 20/20.

  • POSTED BY OneEyedAussie on | July 30, 2013, 2:53 GMT

    Chopra is correct. Watson's problem is that he is falling towards the off-side which makes him vulnerable to the inswinging delivery. Chopra is also correct that we should not be too harsh on him for having this problem - afterall, Ponting also had it (particularly when he was out of form). What baffles me is that Watson has been batting with this flaw for what can be described in cricketing terms as a "very long time" (I can still remember him getting wrapped on the pad over and over again in 2009). And it appears that the issue is only being addressed now (4 years on).

    While I am not in the Shane Watson is an innocent victim camp - it is obvious that had Arthur spent more time ironing out the technical flaws in Watson's game rather than shuffling him around the order he could have been a far better cricketer.

  • POSTED BY MinusZero on | July 30, 2013, 2:44 GMT

    I just hope Watson doesn't score runs. He isnt a test batsman no matter how much CA want him to be. For the good of the team's future, Watson should retire from tests.

  • POSTED BY MinusZero on | July 30, 2013, 2:44 GMT

    I just hope Watson doesn't score runs. He isnt a test batsman no matter how much CA want him to be. For the good of the team's future, Watson should retire from tests.

  • POSTED BY OneEyedAussie on | July 30, 2013, 2:53 GMT

    Chopra is correct. Watson's problem is that he is falling towards the off-side which makes him vulnerable to the inswinging delivery. Chopra is also correct that we should not be too harsh on him for having this problem - afterall, Ponting also had it (particularly when he was out of form). What baffles me is that Watson has been batting with this flaw for what can be described in cricketing terms as a "very long time" (I can still remember him getting wrapped on the pad over and over again in 2009). And it appears that the issue is only being addressed now (4 years on).

    While I am not in the Shane Watson is an innocent victim camp - it is obvious that had Arthur spent more time ironing out the technical flaws in Watson's game rather than shuffling him around the order he could have been a far better cricketer.

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 3:13 GMT

    20/20 cricket muddies these kind of issues immeasurably. Not so long ago a player would work hard on their flawed technique because if they didnt it would be the end of their careers in cricket. But why would Watson, Warner etc change their flawed batting approach that is making them rich, famous and successful in the BBL and IPL? No matter how much flak they cop for failed Ashes performances, these Aust players know they have a cricketing safety net if they continue to fail at test cricket - 20/20.

  • POSTED BY landl47 on | July 30, 2013, 3:49 GMT

    I keep hearing about how talented Watson is ('supremely talented' according to this article) yet where's the evidence that this is true? Because he looks good briefly before he gets out?

    Watson is 32. He's played 43 tests. His test average is under 35. He has made 2 test centuries in 79 innings, the highest 126 and the second and last 3 years and 22 tests ago. Is there any evidence there of his supreme talent?

    If a player has been playing tests for 8 years, isn't still having a fundamental flaw in his technique direct evidence that he is not supremely talented? The comparisons with Kohli and Tendulkar early in his career are meaningless; Kohli is still only 24 and has already solved the problem and Tendulkar solved it earlier than that. Watson is far nearer the end of his career than the beginning and still has poor technique.

    Watson is a lower middle order batsman masquerading as an opener. His supreme talent is fooling people into thinking he's a batsman.

  • POSTED BY latecut_04 on | July 30, 2013, 4:18 GMT

    @OneEyedAussie--Your post has the problem and solution(if possible)for Watson's case.For someone who is vulnerable to inswinging delveries the best position(if at all there is one)to bat is lower middle order.If everything goes fine he would be mainly dealing with slightly old balls and his weakness will not precipitate as much as it does while opening.Also what exactly is meant by 'addressing' a flaw.Right from 2009 he has been fickle and that is a weakness or deficiency.At times batsmen sort out flaws and go on to become successful batsmen(eg:Alistair Cook)OR they just cant do that and get replaced by technically better players.In Watson's case to be honest he seems unable to correct his flaw and only reasonhe goes on opening for Aus is because his replacements too have their own share of problems.(eg:Hughes)..Period.

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 4:46 GMT

    Watson should open in the subcontinent where people can plant there front foot forward and play effectively. but in seaming and swinging conditions it is pointless opening with such an opener... he should drop down when the ball is a bit older he could play better. Es specially for the ashes series he should not open... he is better for an attacking 2 down batsman... cowan and warner should open

  • POSTED BY on | July 30, 2013, 5:07 GMT

    For a batsman who scores centuries before lunch with ease even though the opposition are just first class teams there shouldn't be a problem like the writer says above. Those who question Watson's talent and ability to play as test batsman fail to see scoring runs easy is the real yardstick to measure a batsman's talent. Alistair Cook too plants his front foot dangerously in front of the middle stump but it doesn't hurt. It is matter of confidence. Watson has to play as usual. Just one 75; it could come in hour for him; Watson will score at 3 hundreds in the remaining 8 Ashes tests.

  • POSTED BY OneEyedAussie on | July 30, 2013, 5:17 GMT

    @latecut_04 on (July 30, 2013, 4:18 GMT): If the English were not gaining reverse swing I would agree with you about Watson moving to the lower order. The fact is he is just as vulnerable there as he is anywhere else. At least against the hard new ball he has the opportunity to blast a few runs. In any case, it would still behove him to stop falling to the off-side.

    What I mean by addressing a flaw is to fix it. Several suggestions are offered in the article above from vastly more commendable sources than myself. If it is not the job of the coaching staff to help Watson to correct these problems, then what exactly is their job? Looking pretty? Cheerleading?

  • POSTED BY BradmanBestEver on | July 30, 2013, 5:27 GMT

    When Nasser Hussain was demonstrating this problem with Watsons batting before the 1st test I figured that Watson will do something about it because he would have been aware that the English are on to this problem. Bemuses me why Watson did not fix it.

  • POSTED BY SlipsGlance on | July 30, 2013, 5:28 GMT

    Thanks for a very interesting and enlightening article. I wish TV commentators would spend more time discussing technical matters instead of gossiping and stating the obvious.