Cricket: Is this the end for Shane Watson?

As often happens in sport, Shane Watson has sat on the side lines injured during the present test being played at Centurion in South Africa and has seen his replacement, Shaun Marsh, and the new number 3 batsman picked to replace George Bailey, Alex Doolan, both score runs against the bowling attack touted as the best in the world. 

These runs for Doolan and Marsh have come despite both players seemingly being out of sorts in the domestic long form of the game in Australia and whilst Watson has succumbed to a calf injury for the, at least, 4th time in recent memory.

The question for the Australian selectors must now be: what do we do with Shane? I know it is only one test match and I know that I am most regularly at the front of the queue when it comes to defending my fellow Ipswichian: but off the back of another injury and limited productivity with the bat over the course of hit career the question must be asked.

For me it actually comes down to what happens when Australia bowl for the win at some point today.  Australia only have 4 front line bowlers to share the burden of getting the South Africans out.  If they struggle to do so (Adelaide 2012 comes to mind) and start to tire then we will all be looking around for the 5th bowler who can churn through some overs: which is the other string to Watson’s bow.  If the quartet of Harris, Johnson, Siddle and Lyon do what they did to England during the summer almost gone in Australia then we may well be asking: Shane who?

For me the balance of any cricket team (forgetting my position firmly as a fan of Shane Watson) is always at its best when it contains 4 front line bowlers with an all rounder who can trundle down some overs when needed.  So to me Australia needs to find a place for an all rounder and the best in the country at the moment is Shane Watson. 

Unfortunately, that would mean one of the new men in the line up would have to drop out which would be a shame given their form.  If that does not happen and the selectors remain keen to select S Watson then I have a real fear the man to go could be the oldest man in the team , Chris Rogers.  This would not just be a travesty it, it would be a monumental slap in the face for one of the most popular cricket men in the country.  That said, in terms of longevity he would have to be the one in doubt.

Of course this is a good problem to, suddenly it feels, have for Australian cricket administrators and fans: a clamour for seats on the test match bus that has seemed to arrive from nowhere.

Then again though, I may be getting a bit ahead of myself … afterall: we have not won this test yet. 

Cricket: In defence of Shane Watson

I enjoy the banter on social media about cricket and its players and I am a strong defender of everyone’s right to have an opinion. I have read, often with dismay, vitriol on my time line directed at one particular cricketer, Shane Watson, for some time now. After last night’s DRS fiasco I have decided that enough is enough and it is time come out swinging in defence of Watto.

Some background: Watson is from Ipswich, as am I. We went to the same school albeit he was a few years behind me. We played in the same junior club competition. We have some mates that knocked around in the same circles and way back when we knew each well enough to say g’day to.

The school connection and running in some of the same circles does not mean that I know the bloke personally and I do not claim to. What it does mean though is that I do know what Shane went through, at least anecdotally, even to get to first class cricket. I remember the news of the back stress fractures: some kids stop playing after having them once but I know Shane went through them at least twice before he was 16 and maybe more. From a young age he was targetted, as kids are when they are playing with men, for more vitriol than most are required to take in a lifetime of sport. Cricket in Ipswich was no charm school and he did not wilt.

Since he has been playing first class cricket and for his country he has had problems with injury of that there can be no doubt. Indeed, one of the main complaints of those who attack him seem to be that because he has had those injuries he is somehow weak. That hypothesis ignores the fact that where others probably would have quit, Watson has rehabbed, made himself stronger and redesigned his whole bowling action just to keep playing. Having to do that as many times as he has smacks of a person with a strong character who preserveres doesn’t it? Not of someone who is inherently weak?

It is also postulated by those who attack the most that he is selfish and not a team man. To those of you who are in the camp I pose this question: would someone who is not a team man keep coming back to bowling because the team needs him to despite the real and present danger of another injury? Is that not the epitome of being a team man? Putting his own health ahead of the needs of the team would seem to be right up there I would have thought. Similarly, resigning as team vice-captain in the wake of “homeworkgate” must also be seen from the perspective of that act’s benefit to the team rather than the act of someone, allegedly, throwing the toys out of the cot.

I can’t say I have agreed with all of his decisions: moving away from Queensland is a hard thing for any Queenslander to swallow but I can understand the premise behind it. In his position would any other first class cricketer in the country have made a different decision? Show me one who suggests that he would have and I will show you a liar.

I have no cavil with people commenting on the form of players and whether that form warrants a players place in the team. If Watson is out of form or if there is a better alternative to him being in the team then I will be at the head of the queue in making that statement. Like many of Australia’s players at the moment I think he would benefit massively from a season of Sheffield Shield cricket. That said, can anyone tell me who a better option is at the moment from the current pool of talent in Australian cricket? If you argue that the Australian cricket team would be improved by his removal from the team then you are entitled to your opinion but tell me who is around that would improve the team in his absence?

I am an unabashed fan of Shane Watson, in part because everytime he walks out with a baggy green on his head I see the pain he has gone through to be there and in equal part because he is patently in the top eleven players in the country.

If he is out of form and warrants dropping and that is your opinion you are entitled to it. If you believe he is weak, selfish, not a team man or anything else to do with assertions you have about his character then, again, you are entitled to your opinion, but you can expect me henceforth to test that opinion because such statements warrant reply in the strongest possible terms. To date I have chosen to ignore them but I can not countenance that approach any longer. If you do not like that, then use the unfollow button. If you want to have a genuine debate: then I am ready, willing and waiting.