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: An Open Letter to Shaun Marsh fans

Dear Shaun Marsh Fans,

What else can I say but I got it wrong. I am variously on the record as decrying the originally selection of Marsh in the squad for the South African tour, being dismayed at the resurrection of Marsh’a tour, suggesting that he was batting at number 4 because of some “goat” photos and noting that I would rather clean old paint brushes than watch him bat.

I repeat though: I got it wrong and Shaun Marsh delivered up 122 reasons as why I was. I only watched until Marsh hit into the 90s and then promptly fell asleep on my lounge but until that point Marsh constructed an innings that reminded me of his hundred on debut. Assured and confident whilst eschewing the “big shots”, this was an innings that Australian fans have been looking for from the “new blood” in the top 4.

I remain a staunch critic of not selecting players based on solid first class form. That was my principal objection to Marsh’s selection. Begrudgingly though I also have to concede that Inverarity and his merry band of consorts pulled the right reign with Shaun Marsh in this test match.

I am now looking forward to tonight’s play at Centurion to see just how far Marsh can push on in this innings.

Yours humbly and apologetically,

Shumpty

PS: it has been pointed out to me that I am oft negative about players I “don’t like” but positive about those that I “like”. I reject the premise outright: it has nothing to do with “liking” a player. How can I like or dislike someone that I do not know? The nature of debate is that there will always be a proponent and an opponent and whilst I may fall on the opponent side often my argument is only about an issue which vexes me: nothing more nor less.

Australia names it squad for South Africa and Sheffield Shield form counted for nothing!

I wrote this morning about the selection of the Australian Squad to travel to South Africa for the test series commencing on 12 February 2014.

George Bailey has been dropped from the squad.  The new batsmen selected are Shaun Marsh and Alex Doolan.  The reserve bowlers selected are James Pattinson and Jackson Bird.

As I noted in the post this morning and reaffirm in the title to this post: form in Australia’s first class competition, the Sheffield Shield, has counted for nothing at the selection table. The top run getters in the domestic game in this country have not been selected. Rather, this series of scores has seen Shaun Marsh return to the test squad:

  • 6 and 47
  • 4 and 13
  • 127 not out
  • 42 and 4
  • 1 and 4

How does one regain a place in the national team when scoring only 248 runs in 5 matches at an average of 31.00? Is scoring two half centuries against a mediocre English bowling attack at the end of a shattering season really enough? That is all that Shaun Marsh has done this season.

On the side of the bowlers: am I alone in being completely lost by the strategy of the NSP here? Jackson Bird has not played in a first class game, test matches included, since he played for Australia in August at Chester-le-Street.  His season thus far has consisted of T20 games and one List A fixture for Australia A.  James Pattinson has not played the longest form of the game since he was injured at Lords in July.  He too has played some T20 games and has now appeared for Australia in an ODI.  How can either player be match fit and, more importantly, match hardened if they are called on in South Africa?  With Ryan Harris’ knee a match by match proposition, isn’t it too much to expect the replacement fast bowlers to step in and bowl, potentially 25 overs a day, with only very limited limited overs cricket under their belts?  I just don’t get the thinking!

Cricket Australia needs to have a significant look at the Sheffield Shield competition in this country if the best that is coming from it is a player who averages 31.00 and no one with the ball.  That is really what the NSP is saying with this team isn’t it: no bowler in first class cricket is good enough to be in the squad so we will select two players who have not played in the long form for over six months instead.  Or am I missing something?