Australia in Sri Lanka 2011 September 13, 2011

Opening my primary job - Watson

34

Shane Watson has reiterated his desire to stay at the top of the order for Australia but said that if he has to bowl more overs for the team he may need to be played in a different role.

Watson has managed a highest score of just 36 during Australia's ongoing Test series against Sri Lanka, but as a bowler has had a significant influence. He took three middle-order wickets in the first innings in Galle, which tilted the match decisively towards Australia, then offered excellent support to Trent Copeland and Ryan Harris as they sought to spoil the hosts' efforts to save the Pallekele Test on the final day. This takes a toll on Watson's batting, but he said he must find a way to better balance the two roles.

"It's easy to say that [my bowling is affecting my batting], but really in the end I'm in the team as an opening batsman; my primary job is to score runs and I've just got to get better at it," Watson said. "There's no doubt being an allrounder and bowling does take a lot more out of you than guys who just bat, but that's part of being an allrounder.

"I really do enjoy opening the batting and taking on the quicks with the new ball, but it does depend on what my role is. If the new dynamics of the team require me to bowl more, as I did in this [the Pallekele] Test match, then my role may change and I'm happy to bat anywhere to make sure we've got the best people in the right positions. I feel my body is really coping and handling the overs a lot better as well."

Watson enters the final Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo without the runs he believes his batting touch has warranted. In something of a microcosm of Watson's Test batting career, first-innings scores of 22 and 36 gave Australia a start, but were not the match-shaping tallies he and the team crave.

A career ledger of two Test centuries, against 15 half-centuries, rather sums up his present state of frustration, despite spending plenty of time in this year's Indian Premier League at the feet of Rahul Dravid, who he quizzed in some detail about the art of concentration.

"It's been disappointing," Watson said of his batting performances in Sri Lanka. "After not playing Test cricket over the last seven or eight months I've been really excited about getting into the Test cricket side of things, the batting especially. I'm hitting the ball alright. Hopefully I can turn that into a big score.

"That's the most frustrating thing, not being able to capitalise when I'm batting really well. I know within the team I'm a more senior player now so it is my job as a top-order batsman to be able to score big runs, and unfortunately I haven't been able to do that consistently. It's something I've got to get better at."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Meety on September 16, 2011, 2:55 GMT

    @Ben Liya - its been a pretty good public relation tour! The series itself has been free of any undue nastiness, (even the Mahela/Pup catch incident was fairly minor). Hopefully it will continue thru the 3rd Test.

  • on September 15, 2011, 3:57 GMT

    Hussey had a lot of success as an opener, and I don't know why they put him down the order. I think Watson should remain at the top though, as he has all the makings of a top-class opening batsman. He has been one of the bright lights for Australia, so why mess things up just because he had one bad test match and a score of 36?

  • hyclass on September 15, 2011, 1:07 GMT

    Watson is a champion.His weakness,not one i expect to be addressed,is his muscular physique burning energy more quickly than a natural physique,fatiguing him rapidly.It makes concentrating problematic.Physical and mental fatigue are intimately intertwined.I deem his duration of concentration to be between 90 and 120 minutes,when rested.Id have a dietician looking at supplements and monitor blood sugar.Rates of fatigue are different for each metabolism.Kallis and Flintoff are natuarally big men,producing strength from natural size,which uses less energy than trained muscle.I understand he has modified his training,to reduce muscle mass,which plagued him with hamstring and back problems,but im confident that this is the source of his concentration issues.The conundrum is that Watson is a complete batsman.The downside of Watson as opener,is that he cant run quickly and turn over the strike to help his partner.Its possibly why he bats the way he does.I think hes an ideal number 5 or 6.

  • NRI- on September 15, 2011, 0:49 GMT

    Watson's test batting is well under his ODI batting which means he will score far better at no 6 as well as bowl more overs. With Shaun Marsh's century, it should be obvious to MC to try that - Marsh & Hughes to open, Ponting at no 3, Watto at no 6 and Khwaja making way for now - if Hughes continues to fail, there is always Katich or trying Hussey or Khwaja as an opener.

  • on September 14, 2011, 22:40 GMT

    Aussie players show their generosity in sri Lanka.

  • landl47 on September 14, 2011, 21:41 GMT

    @HatsforBats: the difference is, of course, that Anderson's getting better and Johnson's getting worse. Over the last 15 months, since the start of the English summer in 2010, Johnson has played 10 tests and got 30 wickets at 36. Anderson has played 17 tests and got 84 wickets at 22. So Johnson's wickets are costing him 14 more each and Anderson's getting 5 per game as opposed to Johnson's 3. Head-to-head in the Ashes series- Anderson 24 wickets at 26, Johnson 15 wickets at 36. Of course, Johnson had to bowl against England, while Anderson only had to bowl against Australia. I'm looking forward to England playing a team in form, too, or at least one that was in form before they played England. Now let's see- India, #1 ranked test side, beat Australia 2-0, tied with SA in SA 1-1, won the World Cup and beat WI in WI 1-0. If they hadn't played England, wouldn't you have said they were in form?

  • on September 14, 2011, 17:44 GMT

    Like Gilly, watson should bat at #6 / #7 in tests... Watson can bat without any pressure and he can play his natural (ODI) game, when the team needs to score some quick runs...

  • on September 14, 2011, 13:03 GMT

    When Ponting comes back I would like Marsh to open and Khwaja be dropped.Watson should be pushed down to no.6 and bowl more overs given that Harris is injury-prone,Johnson somewhat unpredictable and Copeland and Lyon are pretty new to International Cricket.That is what is good for him as well as the team.For limited overs Tim Paine and Marsh could open the batting with Watson and Cameron White at 6 and 7.

  • on September 14, 2011, 12:07 GMT

    you know what....let him open, when Ponting and Hussy retire(hopefully in a good note)then marsh and Uzi can come in to side full time, i still believe the Warner will be in the team, my bet that Warner will score a massive amount of runs this season for NSW that it will be near impossible to not play him for Australia, he is evolving into the perfect batsmen in all levels, puts your money on it!!!!

  • on September 14, 2011, 11:59 GMT

    i like Watson as an opener but i like his bowling just as much, to have both discipline and and be both great at each is fantastic, but!!!! i would like Marsh and Uzi to be both in the team, Watson could make a great floating top order batsmen, if the top order is struggling like 3 for 30 then put him in to build an innings, and if the top order does well then put him in if we need quick runs and bat like in the shorter version, his bowling is needed very much to keep it tight and take wickets.

  • Meety on September 16, 2011, 2:55 GMT

    @Ben Liya - its been a pretty good public relation tour! The series itself has been free of any undue nastiness, (even the Mahela/Pup catch incident was fairly minor). Hopefully it will continue thru the 3rd Test.

  • on September 15, 2011, 3:57 GMT

    Hussey had a lot of success as an opener, and I don't know why they put him down the order. I think Watson should remain at the top though, as he has all the makings of a top-class opening batsman. He has been one of the bright lights for Australia, so why mess things up just because he had one bad test match and a score of 36?

  • hyclass on September 15, 2011, 1:07 GMT

    Watson is a champion.His weakness,not one i expect to be addressed,is his muscular physique burning energy more quickly than a natural physique,fatiguing him rapidly.It makes concentrating problematic.Physical and mental fatigue are intimately intertwined.I deem his duration of concentration to be between 90 and 120 minutes,when rested.Id have a dietician looking at supplements and monitor blood sugar.Rates of fatigue are different for each metabolism.Kallis and Flintoff are natuarally big men,producing strength from natural size,which uses less energy than trained muscle.I understand he has modified his training,to reduce muscle mass,which plagued him with hamstring and back problems,but im confident that this is the source of his concentration issues.The conundrum is that Watson is a complete batsman.The downside of Watson as opener,is that he cant run quickly and turn over the strike to help his partner.Its possibly why he bats the way he does.I think hes an ideal number 5 or 6.

  • NRI- on September 15, 2011, 0:49 GMT

    Watson's test batting is well under his ODI batting which means he will score far better at no 6 as well as bowl more overs. With Shaun Marsh's century, it should be obvious to MC to try that - Marsh & Hughes to open, Ponting at no 3, Watto at no 6 and Khwaja making way for now - if Hughes continues to fail, there is always Katich or trying Hussey or Khwaja as an opener.

  • on September 14, 2011, 22:40 GMT

    Aussie players show their generosity in sri Lanka.

  • landl47 on September 14, 2011, 21:41 GMT

    @HatsforBats: the difference is, of course, that Anderson's getting better and Johnson's getting worse. Over the last 15 months, since the start of the English summer in 2010, Johnson has played 10 tests and got 30 wickets at 36. Anderson has played 17 tests and got 84 wickets at 22. So Johnson's wickets are costing him 14 more each and Anderson's getting 5 per game as opposed to Johnson's 3. Head-to-head in the Ashes series- Anderson 24 wickets at 26, Johnson 15 wickets at 36. Of course, Johnson had to bowl against England, while Anderson only had to bowl against Australia. I'm looking forward to England playing a team in form, too, or at least one that was in form before they played England. Now let's see- India, #1 ranked test side, beat Australia 2-0, tied with SA in SA 1-1, won the World Cup and beat WI in WI 1-0. If they hadn't played England, wouldn't you have said they were in form?

  • on September 14, 2011, 17:44 GMT

    Like Gilly, watson should bat at #6 / #7 in tests... Watson can bat without any pressure and he can play his natural (ODI) game, when the team needs to score some quick runs...

  • on September 14, 2011, 13:03 GMT

    When Ponting comes back I would like Marsh to open and Khwaja be dropped.Watson should be pushed down to no.6 and bowl more overs given that Harris is injury-prone,Johnson somewhat unpredictable and Copeland and Lyon are pretty new to International Cricket.That is what is good for him as well as the team.For limited overs Tim Paine and Marsh could open the batting with Watson and Cameron White at 6 and 7.

  • on September 14, 2011, 12:07 GMT

    you know what....let him open, when Ponting and Hussy retire(hopefully in a good note)then marsh and Uzi can come in to side full time, i still believe the Warner will be in the team, my bet that Warner will score a massive amount of runs this season for NSW that it will be near impossible to not play him for Australia, he is evolving into the perfect batsmen in all levels, puts your money on it!!!!

  • on September 14, 2011, 11:59 GMT

    i like Watson as an opener but i like his bowling just as much, to have both discipline and and be both great at each is fantastic, but!!!! i would like Marsh and Uzi to be both in the team, Watson could make a great floating top order batsmen, if the top order is struggling like 3 for 30 then put him in to build an innings, and if the top order does well then put him in if we need quick runs and bat like in the shorter version, his bowling is needed very much to keep it tight and take wickets.

  • Barnesy4444 on September 14, 2011, 11:41 GMT

    Watson could seriously be the next Kallis, I've believed this for a while. He could make piles of runs and take lots of wickets.Number 4 is the highest he should bat. He will have learnt a lot from his time as opener.

  • Truemans_Ghost on September 14, 2011, 10:47 GMT

    I don't think I'veever been as wrong about a player as I have about Watson. I didn't fancy him at all when he first came on the scene. When he went trough that phase of getting 50s but no tons opening I reckoned he was lucky but wouldn't last, then I finally accepted he was a class act with the bat (certainly in one dayers, and good enough in tests). I still couldn't persuade myself to rate his bowling but he has carried on getting wickets at less than 30 often enough that I grudgingly accept I might be wrong about that too. He is, in my view, the only true alrounder in the world at the momnt (Kallis isn't the bowler he was and Bressie and Broad, valuble though their batting is, are bowlers who bat rather than true all rounders). I still find him a hard guy to love though

  • brisCricFan on September 14, 2011, 9:01 GMT

    @shelts7: I read a statistical article on the relevant reliability and consistency of bowlers... and contrary to belief (and the writer had a similar reaction) Johnson is more reliable and consistent than many of the bowlers of both past and present... he rated better than Warne, Murali and Steyn. Interestingly Malinga rated very highly too... this is because although he doesn't take big bags regularly, he regularly is around his average over any given 20 innings he plays... so whilst he looks like he isn't doing well, his history belies that. If someone knows the article, I think it was from this journalist (Dan Brettig) it is worth looking at the comparisons.

  • HatsforBats on September 14, 2011, 6:51 GMT

    @ landl47: Johnson's bowling avg before the last test was under 30 (as it has been for 3 years), it is still less than Jimmy Andersons, his SR is better, and there is 0.06 difference in economy. S.Marsh, M.Hussey, & Khawaja have all opened for their states - there are plenty of options. I can't wait to see how England go when they eventually play a side that is in form.

  • Black_Rider on September 14, 2011, 6:50 GMT

    That picture where Watson holding a little girl in the national hospital was awesome..Thanks Aussies for coming there.Thank you very Much for visiting Sri Lanka....

  • shelts7 on September 14, 2011, 6:49 GMT

    I think Watson should bat at #6 with khawaja opening with Marsh(both are proven openers) then Ponting,Clark then Hussey etc. I also agree with RajivSrinivasan why do they persist with Johnson when he only bowls one good spell out of every 10. I am an Aussie and really like Johnson but he lets the team down too much. he should be replaced with Bollinger

  • dsig3 on September 14, 2011, 4:47 GMT

    He was only selected as a stop gap measure when in England. I dont mind him being at the top of the order but its a specialist job. He has the talent and technique but he has too many roles in the squad. Clarke is bowling him more and more. Vice captain, bowling and opening the innings.

  • ajayrcs on September 14, 2011, 4:39 GMT

    In the second test, the problem was not runs on board Its the wicket column for that Watson need to bowl more overs So he needs to do more of a bowlig all rounder than then concentrate only in batting. So Watson needs to bat at 6 for the benefit of the team. And Marsh and Hughes should open. And why Australia giving so many chances to Johnson, He is doing nothing with the ball.

  • landl47 on September 14, 2011, 4:04 GMT

    Watson's test batting average is 40, which is just about acceptable for a top order bat, but he only has 2 hundreds and he's now 30 years old. His bowling average, on the other hand, is very acceptable at 29- lower than Johnson's. That suggests he should be focussing more on his bowling and dropping down the order to where his hard-hiitting syle would be more suited. It's one thing if you're Sehwag with over 20 hundreds and an average over 50, but another to play the same way as Sehwag and get Watson's results. The problem for Aus is, in this area as in many others, they really don't have anyone else. Replacing one makeshift opener with another isn't going to cut it. Looks like lean times ahead for Aus when they play sides with good bowling attacks.

  • brisCricFan on September 14, 2011, 3:50 GMT

    The selection policy has to assess also the best fit for the side... so all these calls to bring in Finch, Warner, Cosgrove, McDonald, Khawaja, Jaques, Marsh, D.Hussey whilst each has merit, they just can't all get a run... Hey, there is an idea, let's go with Hughes, Khawaja, Ponting, Finch, Cosgrove, Clarke, M.Hussey, Watson, D.Hussey, Marsh and McDonald for the next test... we won't need full time bowlers, the batsmen should make 2000 runs between them... our part time attack should be able to defend that... draw straws for the gloveman.

  • on September 14, 2011, 2:17 GMT

    When watson scored 185 not out against bangladesh and when he got 161 not out against england, no one questioned his ability as an opener, yet when he gets out a few times in only 2 test matches his place as opener is questioned....Watson is an excellent opener and the role suits him, the only thing is australia shouldnt be bowling him when the opposition innings is nearly over because watson needs 30-40 minutes rest + the change of innings break, otherwise he is going to be tired from bowling, he's only human. If he is "too tired" to bat then its his responsbility expecially as VC to say to Clarke, " hey would it be possible for me to swap positions with say Khawaja today? " He'd then go talk to Khawaja and im sure he'd love to bat higher up. Then when watto comes in he isnt tired and can fire away!!!

  • MinusZero on September 14, 2011, 0:26 GMT

    Australia needs better starts and an opener who can get a big innings. Watson's standard 30-50 runs would be better served in the mis-firing middle order. He is not an opener

  • Meety on September 13, 2011, 23:52 GMT

    My preference is for Watto to bat @ #6, but over the last 2 years he has done a sound job. If Katich was still in the side, & if & when Hughes, Marsh or Warner nail the other opening position, the he should should drop down the order. My opinion will only get changed if he considerably improves his conversion rate of starts into to big scores. At the moment it is poor, I beleive he struggles to much batting after he has bowled. He needs to be able to put his feet up & hopefully at #5 or #6 (even #7), he would get that chance!!!

  • on September 13, 2011, 22:51 GMT

    Hughes should be dropped and Khwaja should open with warner, followed by Ponting, Clarke, hussey,Marsh, Watson, haddin,Harris, Copeland,Lyon Khwaja has looked more solid then Hughes at the crease even though the numbers dont show up. Warner is dangerous at the top pf the order, he can be like shewag demoralise the opponents by way of quick scoring at the top. Watson coming lower down the order means lotmof overs in the middle. Mitchell jhonson has no control and looks wayward.

  • zico123 on September 13, 2011, 16:39 GMT

    Australia should stick to same batting line up as 2nd test, bring back a 37 yr old who has passed his prime 2 yrs back, at an expense of a rising young star will be a backend step, they should look to future, so there should be no place for Ponting

  • montys_muse on September 13, 2011, 15:16 GMT

    and as far as taking on the quicks and the new ball is concerened, he can still do it with the second new ball.

  • hris on September 13, 2011, 15:06 GMT

    @joshua. i too feel watson should bat at 6. will also help his batting. and if u look at the new talent in oz, u will notice most of them are openers. marsh, khawaja, hughes, maddinson, warner, finch. so if watson moves down then we would have found our number 6 and we could try out these guys at the top and see who does well.

  • montys_muse on September 13, 2011, 14:58 GMT

    Shane's bowling is a great asset esp in the sub continent for he can reverse swing the ball. He can bowl fast or he can bowl medium....I think he would do well to play at no.6 as an all-rounder...that would also take pressure off him to score big in tests....i think marsh is more suited to the opener's role....

  • jonesy2 on September 13, 2011, 13:48 GMT

    its a tough one because watto is a genunine allrounder but i think having him open is a mistake. i think he should be batting at 6 at the moment and marsh open with hughes/khawaja and then when ponting retires whenever that may be, watto can bat at 3. anyway as long as hes happy he should perform. not a bad problem to have though- finding the best place for your world beating allrounder to bat

  • windiesyouth.12 on September 13, 2011, 13:22 GMT

    being an all rounder who bows a fair bit and opening the bat can put a strain on any cricketer....maybe Marsh should be given a chance to open with Hughes and Watson bat at no. 6.....Khawaja is young and will definitely have his chance in the future

  • on September 13, 2011, 13:15 GMT

    Joshua's comment epitomizes exactly why Australia have failed recently. In the past they would pick a talented kid and give him a really good run to see if he has it. Hughes has been in and out of the team 2-3 matches at a time which is NOT long enough to tell. Give him a year as a regular opener and then make a decision because his first class stats are leagues beyond any other candidates.

    That's not even mentioning your intended replacement is Usman Khawaja, who isn't even an opener.

  • Mary_786 on September 13, 2011, 12:37 GMT

    I agree with Joshua, drop hughes and let Khawaja and Marsh stay in the team. They both deserve their spots.

  • Beertjie on September 13, 2011, 12:19 GMT

    Yeah, I agree that Hughes has been given enough opportunities. It's last shot saloon for him. Marsh and Khawaja should be trialled as openers with Watson moving down the order. And has Haddin really justified his selection ahead of Paine? If a few of the suggestions of that Argus review are going to be implemented, it will be time to make some weighty decisions over the next few months.

  • on September 13, 2011, 10:48 GMT

    I would like to see Watson bat right after Hussey and allow an opportunity for possibly Marsh to open. This would allow Ponting to return in his usual spot at number three and allow Khawaja to open aswell. Hughes has been given a chance to try and unfortunately has failed.

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  • on September 13, 2011, 10:48 GMT

    I would like to see Watson bat right after Hussey and allow an opportunity for possibly Marsh to open. This would allow Ponting to return in his usual spot at number three and allow Khawaja to open aswell. Hughes has been given a chance to try and unfortunately has failed.

  • Beertjie on September 13, 2011, 12:19 GMT

    Yeah, I agree that Hughes has been given enough opportunities. It's last shot saloon for him. Marsh and Khawaja should be trialled as openers with Watson moving down the order. And has Haddin really justified his selection ahead of Paine? If a few of the suggestions of that Argus review are going to be implemented, it will be time to make some weighty decisions over the next few months.

  • Mary_786 on September 13, 2011, 12:37 GMT

    I agree with Joshua, drop hughes and let Khawaja and Marsh stay in the team. They both deserve their spots.

  • on September 13, 2011, 13:15 GMT

    Joshua's comment epitomizes exactly why Australia have failed recently. In the past they would pick a talented kid and give him a really good run to see if he has it. Hughes has been in and out of the team 2-3 matches at a time which is NOT long enough to tell. Give him a year as a regular opener and then make a decision because his first class stats are leagues beyond any other candidates.

    That's not even mentioning your intended replacement is Usman Khawaja, who isn't even an opener.

  • windiesyouth.12 on September 13, 2011, 13:22 GMT

    being an all rounder who bows a fair bit and opening the bat can put a strain on any cricketer....maybe Marsh should be given a chance to open with Hughes and Watson bat at no. 6.....Khawaja is young and will definitely have his chance in the future

  • jonesy2 on September 13, 2011, 13:48 GMT

    its a tough one because watto is a genunine allrounder but i think having him open is a mistake. i think he should be batting at 6 at the moment and marsh open with hughes/khawaja and then when ponting retires whenever that may be, watto can bat at 3. anyway as long as hes happy he should perform. not a bad problem to have though- finding the best place for your world beating allrounder to bat

  • montys_muse on September 13, 2011, 14:58 GMT

    Shane's bowling is a great asset esp in the sub continent for he can reverse swing the ball. He can bowl fast or he can bowl medium....I think he would do well to play at no.6 as an all-rounder...that would also take pressure off him to score big in tests....i think marsh is more suited to the opener's role....

  • hris on September 13, 2011, 15:06 GMT

    @joshua. i too feel watson should bat at 6. will also help his batting. and if u look at the new talent in oz, u will notice most of them are openers. marsh, khawaja, hughes, maddinson, warner, finch. so if watson moves down then we would have found our number 6 and we could try out these guys at the top and see who does well.

  • montys_muse on September 13, 2011, 15:16 GMT

    and as far as taking on the quicks and the new ball is concerened, he can still do it with the second new ball.

  • zico123 on September 13, 2011, 16:39 GMT

    Australia should stick to same batting line up as 2nd test, bring back a 37 yr old who has passed his prime 2 yrs back, at an expense of a rising young star will be a backend step, they should look to future, so there should be no place for Ponting