Australia in South Africa 2014: Australia’s 3rd test selection conundrums

Much has been made in the media over the last 24 hours of who will play for Australia in the 3rd test at Newlands starting on Saturday.

To me it is simple: if Shane Watson is fit, and by fit I mean able to bowl a minimum of 15 overs a day, he must play and he must bat at number 6. Shaun Marsh must come out of the current side. Two reasons for this: first, he was an injury induced replacement for Watson in the first place and second, Michael Clarke MUST bat at number 4. Marsh’s hundred at Centurion was a great knock but a pair at St George’s seals his fate.

There are broad grumblings about changing the bowling attack. I can not countenance such a move for these reasons:

1. The inclusion of Watson will release some of the workload on the core fast bowling trio how were, understandably, tired by the end of the 2nd test.

2. Pattinson and Bird have not played in a red ball cricket game (other than a centre wicket practice) since their injuries in England over six months ago. We can not expect them to step up into this last test off no significant bowling.

So for me there is only one change: Watson for Marsh. If Watson is not fit by the criterion noted above I would be tempted to play Henriques in Marsh’s place but would only do so after looking at the pitch.

Anymore changes than those posited here would just be a knee jerk reaction to a single loss and would be neither good for the balance of the team nor its harmony.

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. 

Ashes 2013/14 Countdown: Watson injury confirmed and Australia’s terrible preparation continues!

Alex Kountouris, the Australian physiotherapist, has confirmed that Shane Watson has a low grade strain to his left hamstring. The injury was sustained during the last ODI in India.

Cricket Australia, based on Kountouris’ comments, will be giving Watson all the time he needs to prove his fitness.

The preparation for Australia for the first Ashes test just gets worse doesn’t it with this news? That preparation has included:

1. The travesty of the ODI series in India being agreed to by Cricket Australia before one of the most important series of the decade (in my opinion).
2. The shocking schedule that has been put in place by Cricket Australia that sees the test team named after some players have had only one opportunity to play first class cricket before the side is named.
3. The ongoing injury concerns surrounding Michael Clarke and the fast bowling ranks.

Now we have one of Australia’s most important players (forget what the haters say about him: the fact is he is) in serious doubt to play in what will be a vital test match for Australia to win if it is get the Ashes Urn back.

I would like to hope things will improve from here but one senses, looking at the score presently at Bellerive Oval, that is may not.

The Ashes: So you want Watson dropped? Are you drunk?

The 5th and final test of the Ashes Series is imminent and thus selection speculation for the Australia team is rife. The usual phalanx of former players and commentators (including those of the armchair variety) have come out of the woodwork to demand the dropping of Shane Watson. In reply I ask: are you drunk?

I know that question is inflammatory and condescending, and on that basis I withdraw it in order to pose it in a different way: on form, in comparison to the other batters in the team, explain to me why Watson ought to be dropped?

Here is the exercise I would like all those calling for such a change to the Australia team to undertake: set aside your irritation at his use of the DRS as well as your irrational hatred of his, alleged, personality traits (and look at his actual form.

Some number to assist with that exercise are as follows:

· Watson is Australia’s 3rd highest run scorer in the series after Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers.

· Watson has a better batting average in this series than Messrs Khawaja, Cowan, Smith, Haddin and Hughes.

· If one broadens the scope and includes England batters in the equation then the following batters have also scored less runs than Watson despite having played the same number of tests: Bairstow, Trott and Prior. It is also worth noting that his 180 runs aside at Lords, Joe Root has only scored 80 runs in 7 innings at an average of just over 10.

Forget the Australian batters for a moment, are the people suggesting Watson be dropped also lining up to suggest that Jonathan Trott be sacked? Are they also suggesting that Joe Root be dropped? I think not.

Steve Smith and Uzman Khawaja are obviously in worse form than Watson and whilst Khawaja’s name has been mentioned in dispatches as being a prime target to have been dropped, Steve Smith’s name has not been mentioned. Shouldn’t he, Smith, be ahead of Watson in the dropping stakes?

I am all for debate: debate is the cornerstone of intelligent discussion. That said, I would really like it if the debate was based on the actual numbers and actual form of the players rather than issues, imagined or otherwise, one has with the person.

If Watson is to miss the 5th test at the Oval, as sad as it is to say, I hope it is due to injury because if he is dropped on form it makes a mockery of the selection process given the form of other players with lesser claims to being in the team.