SL Board XI v Australians, Colombo August 24, 2011

Watson concerns put toilers in pace frame


Australian concerns about the workload of Shane Watson over an unprecedented three back-to-back Tests may yet allow the pace toilers Peter Siddle and Trent Copeland to jump the queue for selection in Sri Lanka.

As the tourists considered the risks of fielding two fledgling spin bowlers against the Sri Lankans on what is expected to be a turning pitch in Galle next week, the captain Michael Clarke said his deputy Watson would not be overbowled as a third seamer if two slow bowlers were chosen. The tour schedule is so cramped that Australia play three back-to-back Test matches for the first time in history.

Such a selection would be counterbalanced, Clarke said, by the selection of pace bowlers capable of long spells, placing Siddle and Copeland firmly in the frame. Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris, arguably Australia's two most incisive fast bowlers, can be better suited to shorter bursts. Harris is also returning to the Test team after a broken ankle, and has not played first-class cricket since he suffered the injury in last year's Melbourne Ashes Test.

"No doubt it's a concern," Clarke said. "It is a positive we have Watto and we know he can bowl, he's got some good bowling in the one-dayers, but no doubt he's a huge player for us, opening the batting is a big role as well.

"I don't want to blow him out in the first Test, knowing we've got three very important Test matches so there's some concern if we decided to go with two spinners about how heavy his workload would be. But then it also depends on the two other quicks you pick as well.

"If you go with two spinners, the two fast bowlers' role becomes very important, because you have to have someone there who can bowl you some overs. It really is determined by conditions and picking the best bowling unit. When we're picking this team, it's about who we think are going to take 20 wickets, and what is the best combination to do that, not necessarily who are the best four individual bowlers to bowl."

There is little consideration being given as yet to Watson's shift down the batting order, particularly after Simon Katich was so harshly sacrificed by the selectors. This was apparently done to establish Watson and Phil Hughes as a settled opening partnership ahead of the next Ashes series.

"He's been so good at the top of the order, so I don't think it would be smart to move him right now, who knows what may happen in the future," Clarke said. "On one side he's probably going to find it a bit harder opening the batting if he's bowling a lot more, but the other side of it is if he comes off the field after bowling, it generally takes a bit of time for your body to stiffen up, so it might be better for him to get out there and keep playing.

"It's important me and Watto continue to communicate and we'll see how he's travelling and what his thoughts are. Right now he's loving opening the batting and he's a big player for us, he's our vice-captain, and I want him scoring runs, so if he's happy with that right now, then we'll keep him there."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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  • Andrew on August 26, 2011, 4:00 GMT

    [cont] - 4. Gets out just before or after milestones (in the 40s or 90s). This is why I didn't want him to be the vice captain or captain. To be an allrounder he needs to be able to bat & bowl. Therefor logic would dictate that he bats lower in the order, HOWEVER, he has clearly been one of Oz better players, & for the time being needs to stay opening the innings until another good NSW opener comes along like Maddinson, Katich (again), or Warner!!!! LOL!!! Seriously though I really meant until ANY other good opener comes along. We need our openers do what haydos, slater, langar, taylor & boonie did - that is when in, score big. I tend to think that one day, something will just CLICK with Watto & he will epically destroy attacks all round the world. At the moment I think he is soft mentally, he doesn't have great match awareness. At the moment he is expected to open the batting, bowl 10 overs a day at least, & be the vice captain, all whilst not fully developed as a cricketer! Jeez!!!!!

  • kieran on August 26, 2011, 2:01 GMT

    @ Hyclass: you're probably right, I'm not going to contest any theory with Bradman involved : ) Let's just agree we want to see Watson converting those 50's to 100's.

  • Christopher on August 26, 2011, 1:38 GMT

    Lets agree to my experience,the mental fatigue you are describing is caused by loss of electolytes due to physical fatigue.I recall reading the SA captain discussing how,at the end of an extremely hot day,Bradman had only a tiny dot of sweat on his shirt back and still looked fresh as he jogged off after making 299*,while all around were exhausted and sweat soaked.Bradman pointed to many players around him,whom he considered were as good,but lacked the concentration and mental stamina.I have always felt that his amazing concentration was due to his rare gift of hardly sweating and his bodies outstanding endurance,that wore all around him down.This allowed his mental faculties to remain sharp in all circumstances.He was described as a genius with a head for business,who would be running the second hard at the end of the day on the chance of a misfield and an extra run and if players today could see it,they would be better for it.Endurance is heavily underrated.

  • kieran on August 25, 2011, 23:29 GMT

    @ Hyclass: I think you misunderstood my post re: Watson. I agree he does get fatigued, but I believe it is more mentally not physically, and that it is brought on by curbing his natural offensive play because he feels the responsibility to stay at the crease. His SR of 50 indicates that he is playing within his "natural" style, or rather the style we see him displaying in ODI's and T20. I am suspect on his lack of aerobic fitness; he doesn't do weights anymore and I believe he mostly does plyometric and stretching work, and the reason you won't see him run at full pace is due to his previous hamstring injuries. His fatigue during the 185* in Bangladesh was after fielding/bowling in humid conditions, it would happen to most players.

  • Christopher on August 25, 2011, 12:20 GMT

    Did you even read my blog @VivGilchrist? I use words like admire,appreciate and gifted to describe Watson.There is no attempt to denigrate him.His test S/R IS 50-a fact-not an opinion.Thats 1 more run per hundred balls than Katich.I have stated here that any side without him would be unbalanced and that in light of his physical limits and well publicised propensity to injury,a well prepared selector or coach would make contingency plans.I use the caveat that he should be recognised and accepted as a great player with stamina limitations,whose innings fall into easily identifiable patterns.Its supported with his own words.This article addresses that very factor and Clarkes concerns are about that subject.@KingPie demonstrates a similar position in describing the same approach being used for Kallis.Some believe that he suffers nerves nearing a hundred.Ive never seen signs of nerves and believe mental fatigue caused by physical exertion is the explanation that best covers all the facts.

  • Basil on August 25, 2011, 11:53 GMT

    KingPie, ....and where does Kallis bat, at 4. What do you think of that othello22?

  • Deon on August 25, 2011, 11:05 GMT

    Kallis is also a big unit and like Watson he can crank up the pace to around 140km/h (even at the ripe old age of 36). SA have managed him very carefully for many years. If he scores big he doesn't bowl much; and if he is dismissed cheaply, his bowling workload is often increased, particularly when the conditions favour swing/seam. Australia should take notes. That is the only way to manage an extremely talented batting allrounder. No-one is capable of taking on a full batting a full bowling responsibility. The only exceptions in the history of the game are Sobers and Faulkner, but neither of them bowled anywhere near 140 km/h.

  • Merv on August 25, 2011, 10:31 GMT

    Not Siddle please! He is hopeless and exactly the sort of bowler they will play. Us Copeland for the next 10 years. he is that good.

  • Lee on August 25, 2011, 9:27 GMT

    I find it hilarious that even now, there is still a noisy chorus of lunacy ranting and raving in the background about how Watson is not an opener and how he should bat at 6. Are you people serious? This guy's success at opening the batting is about the only positive thing to come out of Australian cricket for the last two years. I don't care how good a bowler he is, he is a genuine batsman (not to mention currently our best and most consistent batsman) and demoting him down the order now would make even the dumping of Simon Katich look like a masterpiece of progressive thinking. It's not broke. Don't fix it. There are plenty of things going on in Aussie cricket that need fixing, but Watto opening the batting is not one of them. Give it a rest.

  • Basil on August 25, 2011, 8:40 GMT

    Wow hyclass! You must be an awesome cricketer yourself to so easily criticize Watto the way you do. The guy averages over 40 with the bat, opens the innings, never drops a catch, and 31 with the ball. Name one Aussie allrounder of the past 30years in test cricket who would even be worthy of carrying Wattos bags?

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