England v Australia, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's, 2nd day

Watson's a myth as he never learns

Shane Watson's innings was so predictable as to be sad; flattering to deceive then an lbw that was nothing but out yet he still reviewed it

Jarrod Kimber

July 19, 2013

Comments: 122 | Text size: A | A

Shane Watson crunches a drive into the off side, England v Australia, 2nd Investec Ashes Test, Lord's, 2nd day, July 19, 2013
It all looks so good...but you just know what is coming next © Getty Images

Shane Watson's ESPNcricinfo profile is smiling at me. It shouldn't be. It should be looking sheepish. It should be apologising. It should be trying to show me that he's changed, that he's learnt and that in the future things will get better.

I don't know how you convey that in a picture, but Shane Watson needs to learn it. But Shane Watson doesn't learn, does he.

If he was a learner, he might not put his front foot in the exact same place every single delivery. If he was a learner, he might not continually fail to turn starts into bigger scores. If he was a learner, he would not decide to review decisions based on no actual evidence, or to ask his partner when the answer is already obvious.

There is no current player in world cricket who should understand the Laws of lbw more than Shane Watson. Shane Watson is a walking lbw against seam bowling. That massive trunk he calls a leg slams down in front of off stump and dares bowlers to hit it. And they do. Even in a game where he goes out in another way, or dominates the attack, they hit his pad repeatedly.

He should know the Laws inside and out. He should, just by feel of where the ball hits him, now know whether he is out or not. I mean his leg never moves, so he's more reliable than the blue stripe on the pitch or any weapon technology that a TV company can pay for. He is the constant.

And yet, he never seems to believe it is even possible for him to be out lbw. This was his sixth review of such a dismissal. That is six times Shane Watson has believed he will overturn the umpire's decision on a form of dismissal that he is out to almost 30% of the time. Does he think his pad is being picked on, or does he really just not understand the Laws of the game?

Or is it the playing conditions of the game?

Thanks to Charlotte Edwards, even the Queen now understands DRS. Yet it seems that to Shane Watson it is a mystery. To get a decision overturned on an lbw, the ball needs to be missing the stumps completely, hitting 100% outside the line of off stump or to have pitched outside leg stump.

Being that Watson's kind of lbws never really include the leg side, he has picked the two 100% rules of the DRS to overcome. That is stupid. And to do it twice or even thrice, borders on unprofessional and egotistical. We've all seen the Hawk Eye, it's like that digital ball always nicks the stumps, no matter what the situation. So taking that on seems joyless.

And as for being outside the line of off stump, Watson should know that the chances are if you put your foot in the same place every single time, your leg isn't about to be outside off stump that one time. Watson could even just look at the hole on the pitch he has made from the repetitive footprints to double check.

Now even if, as Darren Lehmann has said, Chris Rogers told Watson to review it - that may have happened, even if it didn't look like it when watching the incident happen - none of this changes the fact that Watson clearly wanted to review it. He is a senior player who was hit dead in front. It is his responsibility to the team to choose the best option.

If you've never seen a batsman use a review based purely on his own ego, you've not watched modern cricket. But to do it so often and recklessly with so little chance of redemption in a team with more managers and staff than a Tina Turner gig is nowhere near good enough. Australia should be better, Shane Watson should be better.

When you have a weak batting side, you need to use your reviews smartly. Overturning lbws that you haven't smashed onto your pads is not smart. The follow on effect from a shockingly idiotic review is that the next person doesn't want to use the review for fear of using both of them. So Rogers, who could have gone about his quiet quirky accumulation on his home pitch, was instead sent off the field confused having missed one of the worst balls to get a wicket in Test cricket history.

All the reviews were gone by the time Michael Clarke came in.

This pitiful batting performance reminds us again just how ordinary Australia's batting line-up is. It doesn't need a batsman using a review based on the fact that he simply cannot believe he might be out lbw.

That was the review of a petulant child not a 32-year-old veteran of world cricket.

Some ex players leapt to his defence when Pat Howard said: "I know Shane reasonably well - I think he acts in the best interests of the team - sometimes." Those same players would find it hard to defend Watson on grounds he was acting in the best interests of the team. He was hit plumb in front of the stumps. Rogers seemed to tell him not to refer it. The English players openly laughed at him as he referred it. Yet, Watson still did.

This is a man who has dominated world tournaments. Who can bowl immaculate dry spells. Who has a safe pair of hands. Who can change the shape of a match in so many ways.

But Shane Watson is a Test opener with an average of 35. He regularly gets out in the same way. He has tried to retire from bowling a few times. He was suspended while vice-captain. He has issues with his captain. He bowled in the IPL after stating he wouldn't bowl in Tests. And he uses reviews in a way that does not help his side.

It's hard to be on his side.

Shane Watson may have the natural skills and confidence to win Australia Test matches, but he has the behaviour and results of a man who virtually never has.

Since I first heard his name, I've wanted to believe in Shane Watson. But in Test cricket he's a myth. And he can review my findings if he wants, but right at this moment, I'm pretty sure the evidence backs me up.

8.15pm, July 19: This article was updated after Darren Lehmann's press conference

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

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Posted by cricket_ahan on (July 23, 2013, 3:01 GMT)

Spot on Kimber and said in words that sum up my exact frustration with Shane Watson. He could end up becoming one of the greatest players Australia never had. And a large part of that I believe is linked to his sub-par behaviour and attitude, examples of which are littered through the article. Even Michael Vaughn noticed his negative body language in the recent test and noted that he would have been in his ear about it. You can't refute behaviours and numerous incidence of failure in judgement (both with reviews and general batting technique) - the stats tell the story. Many others are quick to point out that the rest of the team is not performing as well, but by that argument you are weighting every player's merit equally, which is hardly ever the case in any team. Watson has talent / ability, and experience (and probably a higher pay grade to go with it), and has not delivered what he should have in relation to those. I feel his place in the Test team should go.

Posted by   on (July 22, 2013, 17:28 GMT)

Watson is the Rohit Sharma of Australian cricket. All his career we have heard repeatedly about his "potential" -- well when a player gets to 30 people should stop talking about his potential and judge him on performance alone.

In general, I think Australia is giving too much credence to the U19/ center of excellence road to international cricket rather than relying on players who have done the hard yards through the grades and Shield cricket. It doesn't help that Shield cricket is crap right now -- the pitches are lotteries and the season is being taken over by T20. Even in India they keep the Ranji and the IPL separate. Same in England. But in countries like Pakistan/West Indies/Australia T20 is taking over their domestic cricket. I never thought I'd say this, but the BCCI must be praised for at least trying to care about the Ranji Trophy. T20 is important for the survival of the game through the next generation, but a sane balance should be struck between T20 and first-class.

Posted by sunhooks on (July 22, 2013, 12:49 GMT)

Anyone who has been given out in the same manner as Watson is often out would recognise what is happening and at the time would want to review the decision too. Watson feels like the ball is missing leg stump. In fact, he's choosing to play across that ball because it feels like its angling in to his pads. Its not missing, but because his weight is so far across, he will always feel like it is.

Further, the suggestion that Shane Watson cannot learn is fanciful. We're talking about a man who has rebuilt his bowling and preparation from scratch following numerous debilitating injuries. He's gone from a 145km/h quick to a scheming swing bowler who gets batsmen out with accuracy and guile.

Good batsmen limit the impact of the faults in their techniques rather than fix them. Maybe Watson hasn't done enough, but this article isn't about that- its a cheap character assassination. I'm no huge fan of Watson but I have come to expect better from Cricinfo.

Posted by StuartDiscotheque on (July 22, 2013, 11:48 GMT)

@cricketfanindia You say Watson is a good 5th bowler (which I agree with) but in your lineup you are taking a bowler out of the line-up to make way for Warner. This would mean Watto is the 3rd seamer of you're asking Steve Smith to be the main spinner. Both options aren't appetising.

Australia have a frail batting line-up but sacrificing a good seamer to shore it up is not the answer. One option is to bring in Faulkner but he has to come in for either Watson or Smith, probably Watson.

Posted by   on (July 21, 2013, 21:39 GMT)

Watson is a talented bat, he just lacks concentration and application. Last 14 ashes innings 544 runs at 41.85. As a opener especially you'd probably take that as a selector. Only problem is in those 14 innings he's got 4 fifties and never once passed 100. He's been out 9(!!) times out of 14 between 30-60 runs.

But when the rest of the side is so bad can you drop a guy who averages 40+??

Posted by cricketfanindia on (July 20, 2013, 19:18 GMT)

Kimber is wrong. Watson is a Peter Principle problem and the think-tank got it wrong. See Clarke was at 5 and Hussey at 6, then Haddin/Wade. So to slot Watson in Australia picked the opening spot. Kimber is right that Watson does not have the technique or the temperament to open, but he would be a talented 5th bowler. He should have got the No.6 spot. Now he has to compete for it with Steve Smith. Actually Haddin might also make a good No.6, or Wade.. This is Australia's No.6 problem. So they should say, Watson/Smith/Haddin 6/7/8. That leaves 1-5, if Clarke is 5, then warner/rogers/hughes/khwaja are 1-4. Chappell should not have pushed Watson to open. And Agar still needs to work on his bowling and stake his claim against Smith. Australia has talent but the think tank has failed.

Posted by bjg62 on (July 20, 2013, 14:36 GMT)

@Coldcoffee123: Yes - I still think this is a brilliant piece. My point about the non-striker calling for the review is made all the more important given that Rogers incorrectly told Watson to review his lbw decision. Obviously, if Rogers had already burnt one of the DRS 'lives', he didn't want to possibly burn the remaining chance on account of himself. So, what was Khawaja doing? He was the one in best position to tell Rogers to review his 'clanger' lbw decision.

As for not doing my research, I don't think I need to do any research to agree with the writer's assertion that "This pitiful batting performance reminds us again just how ordinary Australia's batting line-up is. "

As I said to someone earlier today, that performance in the Australian first innings made me embarrassed to be an Australian (and 12 hours later, I still haven't changed my mind).

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