Shane Watson is a curious case of a supremely talented cricketer who has never lived up to the expectations; at least, at Test level. A batting average of just a touch above 35 over a span of 59 tests is not pretty reading for a batsman who was batting at the top of the order until six months back. At the ripe old age of 35, there is not too much time ahead of him and who knows, following his mediocre performance in the Cardiff test vs England, he might have even played his last Test match for Australia.
It has been a career which has never taken off, with all due respect. At the start of his international career, Watson’s frame was so frail that it threatened to break him. He refused to give up. Not through recurrences of back stress fractures, hamstring strains, calf problems, a dislocated shoulder or basically every part of his body has been affected because of some strain or the other. After overcoming all sorts of injuries, he finally became a regular for the Baggy Green from the 2009 Ashes where he was promoted as an opener and enjoyed tremendous success. He is considered a senior figure in the team right now and has been involved in quite a lot of success Australia have won in the last decade.
Michael Clarke wasn’t reserved in his praise for his compatriot but sounded out that he’s not guaranteed a place in the team either. Clarke said:
“He’s been a very important senior player and all-round player. Someone who can bat and bowl is always a great weapon to have in your team. Watto, like the rest of us, I’m sure the selectors will sit down and talk about each individual player as they do after every game. Shane is an extremely hard worker; he wants to have success like the rest of it. I think it’s the hardest part of this game – the longer you play the more ups and downs you go through. Through the good times you’ve got to try and ride that wave for as long as possible because you know the longer you player there’s the other side as well. When things aren’t going to plan you’ve got to stick to your processes, work hard, cop a few smacks on the chin and keep backing your own ability. I think that’s exactly what Watto is doing. He’s been a big part of the Australian cricket team in all three formats and has had a lot of success as well in all three formats.”
Despite all the injuries he had at the start of his career, he is facing a situation he has never faced before. His place is under serious threat and what’s worse is that Australia has got a like-for-like replacement in 21-year-old Mitchell Marsh. The lack of a quality batting all-rounder until now meant that Watson wasn’t under great pressure even during periods where he didn’t perform too well, but with Mitchell Marsh waiting in the wings, the situation has never become so desperate for Watson.
He should’ve seen the writing on the wall when he was dropped for a game vs Afghanistan during the World Cup earlier this year, in favour of his incumbent, Marsh. You can call it fortune or not, but he immediately returned in the next game, following an injury to his team rival. Without taking anything away from him, he performed consistently after that, and played a major role during the latter stages of the triumphant World Cup campaign for Australia. Mitchell Marsh was the outstanding batsman of Australia’s two warm-up matches, and had his moments with the ball. He scored centuries in both games and was actually pretty close to getting selected in the first Test.
Darren Lehmann, Australia’s coach, said:
“At the end of day you don’t want to be getting out LBW all the time and you want to make more runs. Shane would be disappointed, so are we. We’ll certainly look at the wicket and work out the best XI to win in those conditions and if it means making changes, we’ll make changes. It’s one of those things where you have to find a way and that’s something we probably didn’t do as a batting group, not just Shane. We’ll certainly look at the wicket and work out the best XI to win in those conditions and if it means making changes, we’ll make changes. That won’t be an issue for the selection panel. It’s going to be a tight call heading into the second Test. We can’t control what just happened, what we can do is learn from it and make the right decisions going forward.”
Can Shane Watson Answer his LBW Criticism?
His pattern of dismissals is all too predictable and his susceptibility to the in-swinging delivery is well documented. This makes him highly prone to succumb to them and more often than not, get out leg before wicket. His LBW percentage rate of 26.6% is the highest of any Test batsman in history to have played at least 100 innings, spawning an innumerable of Watson-inspired memes.
Everyone knows how he is going to be targeted and unfortunately for him, he just does not seem to receive the benefit of the doubt from the umpires any more. Both times in Cardiff he was given out with the ball just clipping the stumps. He plants that front foot and then plays across the pad. The fact he has not changed and adapted is probably why he gets the rough end of the decisions. His never-ending habit of reviewing the umpire’s decisions even if he is caught plumb has made him a laughing stock and with the advent of social media, his inclusion in the team is considered to be a joke.
Make no mistake, Shane Watson is still a great player and on his day, he can run away with the game single-handedly. All he needs at the moment is a calm space and Darren Lehmann, or Boof as he is fondly called, to put an arm around him and give him the confidence and self belief that he badly needs at the moment.
This might sound an outrageous statement to make, looking at the current state of affairs, but Shane Watson has the ability to win the Ashes for Australia. This is simple to tell but all Watson needs to do is some soul searching and with some rebuilt new found confidence, he might be turn out to be instrumental in the Lord’s test match beginning on the 16th of July. Now, the challenge for him is if he can answer his LBW criticism.