Posts Tagged ‘Bowling’

Shane Watson’s vice may be his saviour

Shane Watson has been called many things in his injury-riddled career. I have heard him called a pea-heart, a legend, a “sometimes” team man, a little ‘c’, a big ‘c’ (a fact related to me by a rather prominent figure in the Australian cricketing media), a top bloke, a terrible bloke, a Queenslander, a Tasmanian and everything in between.

He’s a divisive figure who, for someone who doesn’t seem to say, and sometimes even do, much, inspires the scribbling and yelling of a lot of words fair and foul. Who am I kidding, mostly foul.

But there’s one attribute that seems to have wriggled through the crammed door of adjectives about Shane Watson to stand proudly on its lonesome, seemingly enshrined as fact by the public: Shane Watson is a selfish cricketer.

The perception is that he relishes playing for himself, his average and for the betterment of his bank balance and reputation. Whether this is fair or not, it seems to just be taken as fact by many punters.

So the elevation of Watson to the position of Australian vice captain didn’t sit well with people who thought that he was a guy who cared more about the angles of his ferociously-gelled spears of hair than the results of an Australian cricket team fighting to remain relevant with the big guns.

After so many years of indomitable characters and out-of-this-world success, the Aussie public had come to expect victory. Victory was wrongly associated with a whole-hearted commitment on the part of the players, and the 1990’s Aussie team had its history rewritten as a unified ball of cricketing godliness, rather than several smaller, once-in-a-generation balls names Warne, McGrath, Waugh, Ponting and Gilchrist.

When results started to worsen, as they tend to when your team doesn’t consist wholly of the best players in the world, people started to ask questions of players’ commitment. And so we have Shane Watson’s predicament.

This isn’t to say that Shane does himself all the favours he could, or is a shining beacon of selflessness ala Peter Siddle. He’s not likely to re-injure himself for the coat of arms.

But people tend to look at you differently when you’re winning. Flaws are puttied up with the Selleys of victory, and the joiners of success lacquer the hell out of that old, decaying timber giving it a pleasant, if thoroughly artificial, gloss.

Unfortunately for the Aussies, there was no structural integrity to the extremely fine looking footstool that was the 1990’s, early 2000’s cricket team, and as all the crucial legs started retiring, citing reasons of getting old, cantankerous and grey, the stool simply fell apart due to the hairy, sweaty feet of public pressure.

If you didn’t understand all those carpentry analogies, neither did I. Basically the Aussie cricket team now ain’t what she used to be, but people’s expectations haven’t changed accordingly.

But back to Shane Watson. He came to the fore during a time when the Aussies had been towelled up by Andrew Flintoff. What’s a strapping, blonde, fast-bowling and hard hitting allrounder to do in a time like this? Be selected for Australia because we want one (a Flintoff)? You betcha!

And so we had our own Flintoff, except his name was Shane.

He was pretty good. Then he got injured.

Then he started to get really good. Then he got injured.

Then he started to play consistently, and really well, scoring lots of runs and even taking some very handy hauls with the ball. He did this at a time when he was at the peak of his physical powers, and had no other role but to go out there, opening the batting, and pound bowlers around the park.

Similarly, he succeeded when he was thrown the ball and told to take wickets. He bowled at the stumps, catching batsmen LBW with late-swinging deliveries. LBW and bowled were his key modes of dismissal; Watson was doing it all himself.

Then we picked him as vice-captain and the runs dried up, and he got injured again so he couldn’t bowl. We moved him all around the order. People started to turn on Shane, blaming him for the failings of a team that isn’t nearly as good as the one ten years ago.

He didn’t look overly compromised as a cricketer. He was never compared to the aesthetic nightmare that is Phil Hughes, for example. Watching Shane Watson never made one want to gouge one’s eyes out with a hot, blunt pot handle.

He still looked good. The complaint was that he was thoroughly unconvincing when he got past the ‘see ball, hit ball’ point of his innings.

Can you see that Shane might have made the connection between the responsibility-free role he enjoyed before he had the vice captaincy run with his own success? This was a time when he was opening the batting every time, given the go-ahead to get out there and do what he willed to the bowlers, and bowling when he was tossed the ball.

It was a simpler time. It was a better time. He only had to focus on his own game; not engaging in cricketing frivolities like fielding positions, batting orders and media conferences about team morale.

Catch ball. Hit ball. Bowl ball. Simple.

Selfish? Maybe. But this formula was the most successful in this very talented individual’s career.

And if Shane Watson starts playing like he did before he was elevated to the vice captaincy, which is not beyond the realms of possibility, then I for one would be a happy Aussie cricket fan. He was our Allan Border Medallist for 2010 and ’11 on the back of a couple of years of domination in all formats.

Sure, he couldn’t quite figure out how to hit a century, but there were more than enough 70’s, 80’s and wickets to make up for it. If giving up the vice captaincy triggers an immediate return to form, then all power to him.

The only problem is that it leaves Australia in a very awkward position of having one guy who should be captain, another who probably should be vice but isn’t, and nine other guys who aren’t guaranteed a spot in the side.

So while Shane may have done the right thing by himself, he’s certainly stumped me about what to do about the vice captaincy.

But it’s an honorary position anyway right? Who really needs a vice captain?

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