Australia in South Africa 2013-14

Watson accepts all-round role

Daniel Brettig in Cape Town

February 26, 2014

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Shane Watson has a trundle but will not play the second Test, Port Elizabeth, February 19, 2014
Shane Watson knows he does not warrant a place in the Test team as a specialist batsman at the moment © Getty Images
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Shane Watson has conceded he does not merit a place in Australia's Test side on his batting alone and is committed to pursuing a more targeted pre-season this winter in a bid to be fitter for the all-round role the captain Michael Clarke and coach Darren Lehmann require of him.

Little more than a year after he toured India as a non-bowling batsman, Watson is now at peace with his definition as an allrounder with a variable commission in the Australian batting order. Though he batted at No. 3 during the home Ashes, Watson is more likely to come in at No. 6 in Cape Town should, as is expected, he be included in the team seeking to win the series decider over South Africa.

"I know where I am at and where I have been with my batting in Test cricket especially, I haven't been as consistent as I would have liked," Watson said. "I don't warrant a spot as a batsman at this point, but I do know I can hold my spot as an allrounder.

"For this upcoming Test I will bowl what is required, hopefully I wont have to bowl much because it will mean the wicket's got a little bit in it and the main quicks have done their job. Once I have a decent break after the IPL I'll be talking to Alex [Kountouris, physio] and the doc [Peter Brukner] about getting a good pre-season in for the first time in quite a while to try and make my body more hardened to be able to bowl the overs I want to bowl."

These words will be music to the ears of Clarke in particular, who engaged in numerous debates with Watson over the course of his captaincy about what the former vice-captain's best role should be. Initially used as an opener following a successful stint at the top during Ricky Ponting's tenure, Watson found himself bowling more as Clarke valued his intelligent seam and swing as much as his destructive but variable batting.

The additional workload duly led to injuries and a shuffling up and down the batting order, something that has continued since Lehmann replaced Mickey Arthur as coach. Watson and Arthur lost respect for each other as time went on, culminating in his suspension from the Mohali Test in 2013. Lehmann and Watson have a demonstrably better relationship, contributing to the younger man's willingness to adapt.

They and Clarke had agreed upon Watson's demotion to No. 6 in the batting order for South Africa, before a calf problem intervened. This episode was the first significant setback for Watson since Brukner's successful use of dry needling to reduce tension in his muscles. It cost Watson his place for the first two Tests of the series, and his change bowling was badly missed in Port Elizabeth as the pace attack flagged on an unresponsive pitch.

"[A day] was what it was going to be initially but I came back a little bit too quick, it was only a couple of days before I was running and trying to bowl again," Watson said. "Initially it was only going to be a couple of days, and especially the techniques that Peter Brukner has got as well, he's got me through a hell of a lot of cricket.

"When something has flared up he's been able to help me to get over that very quickly. This time it didn't work exactly to plan. [But] it also gave me a chance to get my body right, I've had a few niggles through the summer that I was able to play with but this has given me time to get over those. It's worked out better because when I come back I won't have those niggles."

Thus a spectator at St George's Park, Watson watched Dale Steyn's mastery of reverse swing with some interest, having enjoyed success with the old ball himself. Cape Town was the scene of the dramatic 2011 Test, when what was arguably Watson's best Test spell - 5 for 17 - was obscured by Australia's subsequent disintegration for 47.

"It'd be nice if that happened again, and the conditions were the same - but not the back part of that [Test]. I couldn't get a run ... and started the rot when we got bowled out for 40-odd," Watson recalled ruefully. "The wicket has normally got a bit of seam and swing in it for the first couple of days. I know if I'm fit and I get picked that my bowling could be pretty suited to it.

"It's going to be a big challenge for us in this next Test, because they've got more bowling under their belt. I know Dale and a few of their bowlers were a bit underdone going into that first Test match, but they've got some more bowling under their belt now, and they were impressive in that last Test match."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by   on (February 28, 2014, 7:58 GMT)

To all those Hughes supporters, the guy has already been dropped like 3 times! The selectors are being very careful with him, each time in the past he has been found out at international level. Remember that NZ series? Anyway Hughes is still relatively young where as Doolan and Marsh are both 30 so the selectors have done the right thing.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (February 28, 2014, 6:16 GMT)

I'm with foozball - I'm an unashamed supporter of Phil Hughes and can't understand why initially Doolan and Marsh were picked in front of him. But we are now coming to the third test his last first class game was back in December, which really not ideal conditions for his re-entry to the team. Get him back to Australia and get him playing first class cricket. Bring Watson in for Marsh its the only change needed at this point, we need Hughes with some decent match practise before his re-entry.

Posted by cricketsubh on (February 28, 2014, 5:49 GMT)

i donot think australia need allrounder to play in the team to support the fast bowlers 4 bowlers can win u thy test if they are gud inof i think australia need batsmen not allrounders they need solid batsmen who can make big runs if they pick watson who is not a test player and 33 years of age makes team weak in bating if i am a selector i pick hughes for marsh and bating him at no 6 and bird and go with 4 fast bowlers and smith and clarke ,warner can bowl part time spins so my team for 3rd test 1.rogers.2.warner.3.doolan.4.smith.5.clarke.6.hughes.7.haddin.8.jhonson.9.harris.1.bird.11.siddil.

Posted by 2MikeGattings on (February 27, 2014, 18:47 GMT)

Perhaps this time he has finally figured out that he needs to adapt to the demands of the team. But I suspect he's just telling people what they want to hear.

Posted by ScottStevo on (February 27, 2014, 16:49 GMT)

@HansonKoch, you've gotta be kidding me! The Big Show or whatever else he'd like to proclaim himself to be, should consider himself lucky to play in our T20 side let alone ODI side and shouldn't even come close to our test side. He's useless enough in ODIs, In tests, 30 from 20 isn't good enough, hell, it's not good enough in ODIs!

Posted by ScottStevo on (February 27, 2014, 16:44 GMT)

@kensohatter, completely disagree. There's not a chance in hell that Faulkner can replace Watson. I'm sure his 'admission' that he's not up to it as a batsman alone is through gritted teeth. Considering WE selected Watson on his return to the Aus team in 09 as an opener, I'd say we'd selected him as a batsman first and foremost. To that extent, Faulkner isn't worthy to bat anywhere in the top 8 of any test team, regardless of a few slog sessions in ODI's - which, when compared to Bailey's ODI heroics in 2013, don't stack up and yet Bailey was unable to cut it with the bat even when we were hammering Eng. What would make anyone believe that Faulkner would do any better? So, replacing a batsman who can bowl (and was once considered a genuine bowler) with a bowler who most likely isn't up for selection as a bowler as there are others more worthy, who can't and shouldn't bat in the top 8 sounds like complete idiocy to me...

Posted by foozball on (February 27, 2014, 12:23 GMT)

Normally I would back a callup for Hughes, but to what end? For 1 match, at the end of the season? If he fails, he'll be miserable. If he succeeds, he'll spend the off-season wondering if his showing was good enough to cement a follow up.

Poor Hughes can't win: better not to play, I'm afraid.

Doolan shown to be woefully out of his depth, despite talent and ability. Needs more time, but not sure this team is strong enough to carry him.

Marsh... haven't seen enough of him to draw any conclusion, really. PE was not encouraging, but was (unfortunately) all too recognisable

Posted by rock_kamran on (February 27, 2014, 8:53 GMT)

Phil hughes and Shane Watson should come in place of doolan and marsh.

Posted by SteveSinatra on (February 27, 2014, 8:30 GMT)

I must agree that Phil Hughes is overdue for a recall. My team and batting order would be Hughes & Warner to open, Rogers at 3, Clarke at 4, Watson at 5, Smith at 6, Haddin at 7, Johnson at 8, plus whatever bowlers are fit and picked

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 6:36 GMT)

yes Jamie Dwyer, no Martyns, Slaters, Langers, I Chappells, Harveys, Clarkes etc. No Normal O'Neills. No Doug Walters.

Funnily, England are following the Australian model (although Carberry was a strange throwback). But they will pick Robson when we wouldn't.

When I was a kid Silk would have been in the team FOR SURE this season.

Funny how things change, all because M Hussey was a one-off...

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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