When the National Selection Panel get together in the next couple of days to pick replacements for Michael Clarke and Glenn Maxwell for the upcoming tests against India, they will pick Shane Watson. It seems Watson is considered a permanent part in the test team.
The question must be asked: why?
His recent test record is not good. Since January 2012, Watson has played 20 tests for Australia. In this time he has averaged 33 and scored two hundreds.
Similar records have led to the end or questioning of several test careers. Ed Cowan was dropped for averaging 31 over his 18 tests. Rumbling about Michael Clarke’s form are due to him averaging 42 over his last 19 tests. Chris Rogers has endured nearly permanent questioning of his place in the team for averaging 36 and scoring 4 centuries in his 16 tests. The first time that Phil Hughes was dropped he was averaging 52 in test cricket. He was still averaging 41 in test cricket the second time he was dropped. The third time he was dropped he was averaging 34 in test cricket.
But Shane Watson will walk back into a team he only left due to injury.
Watson has an exemplary record in the shorter forms of cricket but one cannot claim this of Watson’s record in test cricket. Over his 52 tests, Watson has averaged 36 with four hundreds. One cannot presume it’s because Watson is currently in exemplary form – he had averaged below 30 across all forms of cricket this season before last night’s 82. He hasn’t played long form cricket since the tour of South Africa. His last ten innings (all forms): 40,11,13,5,30,47,83,34,8, 82. Much starts. So failure. Very Watson.
Is there a death of middle order talent in Australia?
Callum Ferguson averaged 56 in Shield cricket last season, and has started this season with two centuries and averages 106 for the year. Joe Burns is averaging over 54 in test cricket this season, with an impervious 180 against NSW. Nic Maddison debuted in first class cricket and scored a century in the same game. Chris Lynn has been injured much of this year but averages over 43 in first class cricket (the same as Watson). Poor Phil Hughes hasn’t scored runs in his last two matches but has an impressive 243* this season against South Africa A.
So if it’s not his form, not his record, and not a lack of other options, then why does Shane Watson keep getting selected?
We’ve beaten this horse until its glue at this blog. Our view is straightforward – when Watson is flowing, when he’s gorgeous to watch. No one drives the ball with such authority. Essentially – he looks like a cricketer. And because he looks good; because he plays across three formats and occasionally can succeed in front of the NSP, he is picked despite his output never meeting his talent levels.
Maybe we’re wrong. Maybe this time the NSP will pick someone based on their first class form. But if we’re not and Watson is picked to play test cricket again, just remember we all knew it was coming.