West Indies v Australia, 5th ODI, St Lucia March 26, 2012

Harsh lessons for Watson and Australia


Shane Watson's dissatisfaction was plain at the conclusion of a thrillingly tied ODI series against a resurgent West Indies. Australia won the fifth match to level the ledger at 2-2, having fallen behind after winning the first. They had done so despite holding strong positions in every game since, each time having to cope with Caribbean rearguards that bloomed into stirring counter-attacks.

Watson's first full series as captain, in the absence of the recovering Michael Clarke, contained plenty of lessons for a fledgling leader, not least the fact that in the West Indies a match can change course quickly if one team ceases to be as attentive to its rhythms as the other.

For this reason Watson said he had learned many worthwhile things, but remained frustrated at his side's inability to close out the series when it had the chance. It was not a display befitting the world's top-ranked team, however inexperienced.

"There's disappointment, there's no doubt, to tie the series," Watson said. "Especially when we were in a number of those games at a stage where we should've really buried the West Indies, it's very disappointing. But it's a big learning curve for us, we have to get better at those stages, because that's where we're really going to grow as a team.

"After the last game we sat down and talked about exactly the plans we were going to have, we didn't execute them exactly how we wanted to, but at least we've got some good plans and we understand the ways we're going to go about it."

Kieron Pollard and Darren Sammy posed particular problems in the latter halves of most innings, their bold hitting and deft placement giving many of the Australians the air of a tired commuter who has just learned upon leaving the office that their bus or train home has been either delayed or cancelled for the day.

"We've had them in trouble throughout the whole series and they just seem to find a way to fight back, whether it's Kieron Pollard or Darren Sammy today," Watson said. "There's no doubt we're not executing our skills exactly right, but it's some pretty impressive batting as well. The way Darren batted, I've never seen him bat like that, and to be able to do it under pressure was very impressive.

"We're at a stage where we look like we're cruising okay and then things change quite quickly, and it's happened since I've come back into this Australian team over the last 10 games or so - it's certainly something we need to work on."

When he weighed up the series against others he had played since his international debut in 2003, Watson said the team collective had learned as much as any other, for most came to the West Indies with little or no experience of the islands, the grounds and their heady atmosphere.

"It's a bit different [from other series] because I know it's been a bit of a learning curve for all of us," Watson said. "There's been a bit of a turnover in players, and we are really are continuing to try to find the balance we need to put complete games of one day cricket together.

"For me it's been a huge learning curve, one as a captain but definitely also for what we're trying to set-up, leading into the Champions Trophy next year in England, and leading into the World Cup. So I think it is an exciting time because we're all learning.

"There's quite a few [lessons], probably the plans to try to pull the run rate back on smaller grounds has been the biggest challenge for me, giving the bowlers a few plans to go to when the batsmen are on the attack."

As for the series' value as a psychological marker ahead of the Tests, Watson was sceptical, noting how the West Indian team would now be stripped of many of its most accomplished performers due to the financial lure of the IPL.

"Their side's going to change a bit with a few of their better players or bigger strikers and [Sunil ]Narine as well going to the IPL, so they're going to lose a few," Watson said. "We're going to add a few as well with Michael Clarke and Ricky and Peter Siddle, so there's going to be a bit of a change-over with that. So I don't think psychologically it'll play much part."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2012, 22:56 GMT

    Not sure if I like Watson as captain. I agree he is a great player, but as a leader, I feel he is more like Ricky Ponting - more one to lead by example than a natural leader of men. Having said that, I must applaud his aggressive nature, especially his innovative and well thought out field placements. Australia holds the top one-day ranking, but I hardly feel the current team is befitting of that. West Indies played a good series, but Australia did let them off the hook many a time during this series, and in any limited-overs cricket, the slightest waiver can cost a game. Test matches however are a different story - unless rain interferes, I don't see anything else than a solid whitewash occurring here, especially given the number of players WI will lose to the IPL (Narine for me is one of the biggest).

  • Andrew on March 26, 2012, 23:53 GMT

    @RJHB - I think you should worry more about letting SL off the hook at 3/15 & 4/67, than anything doing in Oz. Thanks for your concern though!

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2012, 20:47 GMT

    On the Bowling front Narine was a revelation a combo of him with Benn / Bishoo or even Miller/Martin would have been interesting. Too bad he's going to the IPL. Roach was very good except for when he let Bret Lee get under his skin. That is almost understandable as aggressive players of his kind like Mcgrath & Steyn tend to have that effect on people. Russell is coming along nicely except when he gets carried away. He & Bravo always give 110% in the field. They should just avoid bowling as many 'hit me' balls especially Bravo. The back up bowlers were disappointing. Yeah Sammy Samuels & Pollard tried but 70 odd overs for just 9 wickets at an Average over 35 & Strike rate of nearly 50 is mediocre at best in ODI cricket. Sammy Pollard & Russell were very good with the bat. The big hits really came off well cant complain much there.

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2012, 19:54 GMT

    Glad to see that Bravo & Sammy held their catches this time around but as usual we tease only to disappoint. The fielding was pretty near excellent Kudos to the fielding coach However The top order was very disappointing with the bat & Sammy / Roach cost us the series via lack of reasoning. The Selectors deserve to take the blame this time around. On any given day Gayle & Chanderpaul or even Dwayne Smith/ Edwards/ Sarwan would have been a better choice than Powell & Jason Charles as batsmen especially in the vital opening position. Both Leeward & Windward islands teams can barely make 200 runs in regional cricket yet their players just walk into the West Indies team. Charles & Powell are not ready for International cricket yet. Charles may be good enough for t20 but that is barely cricket.

  • Terry on March 26, 2012, 14:23 GMT

    To be honest Australia were up & down even in the tri-series which they won (though you'd never guess it from the sour Indian & SL comments). Here they suffered from a lack of concentration while batting with endless 20's & noone building on 50's and some mixed bowling that went to water whenever some hitting started. Sammy played well & hit out nicely but Australia lost all control and bowled more full tosses than I've ever seen from a major country. There needs to be a major rethink before the June ODI's in England as to what the strategy is. That said it's probably not quite time to look towards 2015 & bring in younger players as that series could be good grounding for those the selectors are thinking of playing in the 2013 Ashes.

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2012, 13:37 GMT

    Good Cricket by both teams; Bishoo will be in the test team, What will Windies do about Bravo & Samuel? Good to see Roach seems to have regain some of his spark, but will he play in all test? Best is fit bowling fast and less short balls, he deserves a shot; We had a chance to play Smith in the ODI, he is more than a 20/20player,Never thought I would be so happy to see the return of Tiger at this stage of his career;LET Samuels and Bravo with all the talent they possess earn their play; We have inform batsmen in the Caribbean who have played at the highest level of the game who are available.Any can we have an update on Rampaul, F Edwards, Taylor & any test players who have been sideined. Many thanks fans.

  • John on March 26, 2012, 13:18 GMT

    I said before the series that this was WI's best chance to beat Australia in a long time. Having seen the series, I also have to say that I think it was WI's last chance to beat Australia for a long time. WI really haven't uncovered a whole lot of talent; Narine and Roach bowled well, but as containers rather than big wicket takers and the rest of the bowling was just ordinary medium pace. WI's top 5 batsmen didn't, frankly, look anything close to world class. Having a couple of good hitters in the middle order isn't going to win many test matches. The best thing WI had going for them was Sammy's captaincy, which was great except for choosing to bowl in game 5. This isn't a strong Aus side by their own standards, but they do have a couple of good young fast bowlers and Clarke to come in. I think WI will look back on this series and think they should have won when they had the chance.

  • Naveen on March 26, 2012, 12:36 GMT

    Watson, Its just the learning phase so dont let yourself down. The team is composed of new players, Infact most of them would have played on the west Indian pitch for the first time. SO dont get dis heartened, keep fighting and try your level best and Australians would again be hard to beat. We all know its very hard to replace the greats like Hydo, Gilli and Ponting. The development process would take sometime, Have some patience and keep giving your best.

  • Randolph on March 26, 2012, 11:48 GMT

    @RJHB - very good points and something I have noted for a while. We no longer can go for the juggular and finish the game, it's very annoying. @Meety - agree re: Wade. I am still not convinced on him but hope he puts in a good effort with the bat to cement his place, ie: replicate his shield form. His glovework could also improve, it just looks good because we are used to Haddin's debacles!

  • Basil on March 26, 2012, 11:02 GMT

    Why is Australia always considered lucky when they win? Why are bitter Indians always ready to comment on how poor Australia are? 4-0 in Tests, won the tri -series and drew with a very spirited WI team. Now, it's up to the WI players to put the team first and play for WI in the Test series.... except for Samuels, he can go play his little game in India. Pollard should play, as to Deonarine, let's see a contest.

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