Thursday, October 18, 2012

Can Shane Watson Be Australia's Missing Link?

If you ever want to split Public opinion in Australia during Cricket season all you need to do is mention one name for a guaranteed reaction

Shane Watson

A player that so goes against the grain of what the Baggy Green has always stood for as forged by tough as teak grizzled types like Allan Border and Steve Waugh who played with the coat of Arms draped tightly around their hearts. Inspired by forefathers like Wally Grout who after being on deaths doorstep with a major heart condition in 1964 still rose to tour the West Indies only a few months after. Even in the knowledge that he could drop dead at any moment, and tragically his heart did give in a mere four years later

Gives you Chicken Skin the reverence these types and endless more showed

Then your attention turns to Shane Watson and the blood starts to coarse rapidly through your veins again

A figure that has always struggled for acceptance from the traditional fan base for he so goes against what they pay homage too. A pretty boy that looked to have just stepped off Mummy and Daddy's Yacht on Sydney Harbour after sipping Chardonnay to be given his Baggy Green without ever being made to earn it. Then his frail mind that lead to many head in hands moment with him frequently acting like a 2 year old having a hissy fit on the field. To complete his package, his Tarzan like physique was in frequent demand for Women's Magazines, but for Cricket fans was fragile as Bone China. Bringing the fans to boiling point with the reasons and frequency that Watson would miss games. Especially with the Baggy Green being so associated with watching the likes of Border bat with broken hands against the frightening fury of the West Indies pacemen or Rick McCosker ( pictured ) bat against England with a broken jaw.........

The only thing that saved Watson was that both his haters and lovers agreed on one essential point in regards to his ability. That if lived out would have such a profound meaning to the side in all forms of the game. Recently we have seen fleeting glimpses of the defining player he could develop into in Tests while at the same time rising to a true Phenom in the shorter forms of the game

 "When you see how he plays this form of the game, he's almost the complete cricketer." ( George Bailey )

After watching him obliterate with both bat and ball in the recent T20 World Cup you can accept this reality. But another reality that goes with it in Australia is the follow up question of whether he can translate this might into Test Cricket where players are given real credibility in fans eyes in a Traditional Cricketing stronghold like Australia.

This could be answered easily usually by assessing the player in question skill set coupled with his past performances in the game

But like with everything with Watson it has a series of factors attached to it that will define success or failure or innate middling between the two

Critically success will fall on Watson embracing a realistic mindset about what he is capable of as well as prioritising along the lines of the traditions of the Baggy Green.

He seems to be deluded that he can partake successfully in all forms of the game without repercussion despite being on the treatment table more than most. This culminated in Cricket Australia pulling him out of the CLT20 recently through fear of a repeat of last years breakdown

"Watto didn't play one Test last summer, so we don't want that to happen again" ( Captain Michael Clarke stated )

The beauty of this heads up quote to Watson is not only the truth behind it, but who is delivering it in Michael Clarke. A player that has a connection with Watson in regards to a frail body with a dodgy back and question marks over his passion for the Baggy Green in the past because of his care free Meterosexual image.

Clarke has not only inspired a renaissance after he was on the edge of the abyss in the wake of the 2011 Ashes shame by solely dedicating to Tests. But he has become an inspiration to all by rising to being arguably the best batsman in the game and most definitely the most astute Aussie Captain since Mark Taylor.

That could be Watson's reality if he decided to forego T20/ODI's for a while to focus solely on Test Cricket. Especially with a schedule that sees two Ashes series back to back in 2013/4.

With him guaranteed Legend status if he could be a defining factor in bringing the cherished urn back home

This will have a large bearing on how Australia uses him too, and it needs to be defined and stuck with. For even Watson has expressed a confusion about his role in the Test Team, and many past and present players further muddy things by putting in their views over him.

"To me he's an opening Test batsman and I wouldn't be bowling him too much as I wouldn't want to detract from his batting." ( Ian Chappell )

This view of his desired role seems simplistic in my view with it paying too much homage to his batting might in the shorter forms of the game where everything is in the batsmens favour. As well as not fully respecting his bowling that has been defining in Australia's Test success of late.

Firstly on his batting which is motivated by attack, which is ok as an opener away from Test Cricket where there is rarely any swing or seam. But in Test Cricket where the new ball talks Watson has struggled with its demands. Also at the top of the order his dreadful running between the wickets has been a major stumbling block in his success. Where he is very much hit or miss.

His recent figures show this with him scoring 458 runs in his 17 innings at an average of 26.9. 

The thought process of Chappell also tends to ignore the need for balance at the top of the order with most opening partnerships combining the attacking with the defensive. So whereas the dour Ed Cowan is the perfect partner for the cavalier Dave Warner, Watson would be a like for like that throws the balance out.

As Brydon Coverdale rightly points out

Trusting two aggressive stroke-makers to see off the new ball is a fraught approach

So where should he bat?

Most see him batting at three, but again that would stifle his true worth to the Team as well as depriving the Team of a perfect number three in Captain Michael Clarke

In my view his perfect position is 5......

Where he comes in in a position in the line up where he could play his natural attacking game. Very in the manner Andrew Symonds displayed before he picked his Fishing Boat over a burgeoning Test career. 
As well as being able to be in the role of a true all rounder. Where his bowling has been arguably the best of all the Australians. Certainly one of the few of the bowling corps that is a true master of on of the greatest threats to batsmen in reverse swing that has seen him take 17 wickets at an average of 23.76 in the previous two years. As well as being defining in many of the Teams victories in that time

There are a lot of 'If, Buts and Maybes' in this article, but if they become a reality...

Australia could find away back to the top of the Test tree on the back of Shane Watson's game defining potential

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