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The paradox of Shane Watson

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Oliver Brett | 08:14 UK time, Thursday, 18 November 2010

How England fans sneered when they saw a familiar blond all-rounder walk out to open the batting for Australia in the Edgbaston Ashes Test of 2009.

Here was a man who had produced one solitary fifty in 13 previous Test innings. He apparently had few credentials as an opener, and was more adept, surely, at batting at six or seven and bowling a few overs of fast-medium. Besides, he seemed to be injured most of the time.

Shane Watson, for he was the man in question, ignored the naysayers, striking 62 and 53 while James Anderson and Graham Onions were swinging the ball sideways. He has played every Test bar one since then, forming a formidable opening partnership with the crab-like Simon Katich, hitting the ball merrily here, there and everywhere with little ceremony spared.

Watson pictured at a function with wife Lee Furlong

Watson and wife Lee Furlong are one of Australia's top celebrity couples (Getty)

Katich has been Australia's top scorer in all Tests since Edgbaston 2009, but only by five runs. Watson has amassed 1,261 runs in that time at an average of 50.44, leaving Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey trailing in his wake. Whatever your allegiance, it is easy to admire Watson's second coming.

He could have been a hero in the 2006-07 Ashes, when England were swept aside 5-0, but coulda, shoulda, woulda appeared to be Watson's story.

His was then a career mired in uncertainty, notably because of injuries afflicting every part of an ironically powerful physique, with hamstrings, calves and hips taking a battering.

So inevitably he was unfit and missed Australia's glorious summer. Even though he enjoyed the considerable consolation of appearing in the 2007 World Cup-winning side, his Test career appeared in danger of remaining forever unfulfilled.

Now, at 29, he is one of the first names on the Australia team sheet, filling a dual role as Katich's more effusive foil, while sending down some handy overs as the fourth seamer. He proved particularly effective with the ball in the Tests against Pakistan at Lord's and Headingley last summer.

The oddity is that many Australian cricket fans find it difficult to admire Watson. More on that later, but one person in the pro-Watson camp is former captain Ian Chappell, whose no-nonsense punditry can be picked up by Test Match Special listeners this winter.

There is a view that Watson should not open the batting, despite his success in that role. Chappell bombs that theory out of the water, saying: "He might have become an opening batsman by accident but he's quite happy opening and I look upon him as a very effective opener."

Shane Watson batting during the tour of India

Watson rarely fails to score his runs quickly in Test matches (AP)

An old-fashioned see-ball, hit-ball biffer without the finesse of others, Watson nevertheless possesses a sound enough defence. The overall package suits Chappell fine.

"If you have an opener who can score quickly, as Watson does, it's worth gold and makes him very effective," he said. "There are two types of opening batsman, the type that gets a start, makes the most of it and makes a big score, then you have the type who doesn't get out early but doesn't get big scores too often. Watson's in the second category, but if you can't have the first category I'm happy with the second category.

"The flaw is that he doesn't get a lot of hundreds, but he makes up for that in other ways. So long as he doesn't get out quickly, the guys batting around him are never under pressure to score quickly themselves."

Chappell is not keen to see Watson increase his bowling workload, however, adding: "The more bowling he's got to do the more it means the Australian attack isn't performing as well as you would hope. Watson should be used the way he's been used in the last 12 to 18 months, purely as a change bowler, a few overs here and then he's off.

"Anything you do with him that takes him away from opening the batting effectively would be counter-productive."

When he picked up the Allan Border Medal in February, the annual prize awarded to Australia's top cricketer, Watson fought back tears. His partner Lee Furlong, a TV presenter who he has since married, beamed in the audience as her man, clad in a designer suit and with his hair perfectly coiffured, thanked a range of people who had helped rebuild his career.

Shane Watson takes a wicket during the tough tour of India

Watson's bowling could be an important option for Ponting (Reuters)

Among them was Victor Popov, the Brisbane physiotherapist who transformed Watson's training regime. No more pumping weights in the gym to make those rippling muscles even bigger, instead a gentler schedule of Pilates and stretching was ordered. Where there was once an occasional beer or two to unwind, now there was a strict teetotal regime.

To the unreconstructed Australian sports fan, Watson is thus something of an anomaly - and it helps explain the paradox that he does not meet with universal approval in his own country.

The Australian blogger Jarrod Kimber really sticks the boot in, writing recently: "It takes real talent to be hated when you are pathetic and just as despised when you are good. Even those who have the talent to get to this level of hatred could never do it as well as Shane Watson.

"When not in front of the mirror, he seems to be able to move 95% of cricket fans into a frenzy of hate, pure detestation, clear revulsion, and a general uneasy sickness of rage."

So he continues, belittling his bowling action by likening it to the movements of "an elderly man getting out of a car".

England's bowlers will have all sorts of strategies lined up for him when the first Test starts at his home ground, the Gabba. Whether they fall into the camp of being admirers or haters of "Watto" is not strictly relevant.

Nevertheless, the renaissance of Watson, and the manner in which it has been received, provides a fascinating backdrop to a potentially fascinating series.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Oliver! "Could of, should of, would of"?
    Don't you mean "could have, should have, would have"?
    That is a disappointing distraction from an otherwise interesting article.

  • Comment number 2.

    Otherwise interesting article?? Do me a favour. Picking some obscure blogger in an effort to define the thinking of a Nation is , dare i say, questionable at best. Pop into a few pubs in Brisbane next weekend and see just how much we love Shane Watson. Top bloke, top cricketer. QED

  • Comment number 3.

    Yeah, what the hell is "Could of, should of, would of" all about?!

  • Comment number 4.

    Agree with post #1 - tut tut Oliver!

    I will admit that I am a grudging Watson fan. He still irritates me because, I think, he seems to have such a smug, arrogant look that makes him so damn punchable! However he is extremely pleasing to watch bat, unfurling gorgous cover drives etc, and annoyingly seems to get 50s more often that not. He is also the perfect partner for Katich, who contrastly is ghastly to watch and does habitually score at a snails pace (good though).

    In my opinion, Watson is perhaps the most dangerous Assie batsmen, along with Katich as his partner will make the England bowlers work hard. Being English and naturally therefore pessimistic, I believe England can win the series, but they need to be on top of the openers, particuarly Watson.

    Good article though Oliver - nothing has really been said of Watson so far in this pre Ashes hype.

  • Comment number 5.

    1 and 3. I'm sorry the subtle and intentional non-perfect grammar distracted you. I've tweaked it slightly now to "coulda, shoulda, woulda" more directly similar to Beverley Knight's "Shoulda Woulda Coulda". I've probably confused you even more...

    2. Jarrod's blog is not all that obscure, and besides I'm not quoting him for the sake of it. There are many Australians out there who don't like him, I could have quoted others. It wouldn't surprise me if in Brisbane (which is where he's from) there might be a majority who support him, however.

  • Comment number 6.

    Agree with post #1 - tut tut Oliver!

    I will admit that I am a grudging Watson fan. He still irritates me because, I think, he seems to have such a smug, arrogant look that makes him so damn punch-able! However he is extremely pleasing to watch bat, unfurling gorgeous cover drives etc, and annoyingly seems to get 50s more often than not. He is also the perfect partner for Katich, who in contrast is ghastly to watch and does habitually score at a snail’s pace (good though).

    In my opinion, Watson is perhaps the most dangerous Aussie batsmen, along with Katich as his partner will make the England bowlers work hard. Being English and naturally therefore pessimistic, I believe England can win the series, but they need to be on top of the openers, particularly Watson.

    Good article though Oliver - nothing has really been said of Watson so far in this pre Ashes hype.

  • Comment number 7.

    As an English fan, i am always pleased to see Watson opening the batting against us, not an opening batsman, shows the current weakness of AUS that they have to open the batting with an (average) all rounder.

  • Comment number 8.

    With regard to 1 and 3 - this is an article about cricket rather than a homework assignment of which Oliver has submitted to you for marking.

    "In consideration of the first and third comments I found they were fairly well structured yet lacked substance and seemed to drift from the point. Overall a very pointless and boring pair of submissions. D- "

    My father lives in Australia and he too is slightly confused by the reduced love for Watson - not that he is hated though - just not appreciated. You can kind of see where the Aussies are coming from though as they have a history of pretty heavy scoring openers - probably a bit spoilt by the pomp of Hayden who scored both heavily and quickly.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think Shane Watson is one of those players who will never be idolised because he is such a jack of all trades. He is not a great opener, just a batsman with a good eye who sticks about for a bit and can do it under pressure when the going gets tough. He doesn't ever seem to post totals which set up victory - in recent years that has been done by Ponting, Clarke, Hussey and to an extent North. But a useful contributor who adds a lot of value with the bat.

    His bowling is in the same mould - he is a very useful bowler to have to break up play a bit and change the mindset of a batsman who is already 'in'. He'll pop up with the odd wicket (usually quite an important one) and then get replaced by Johnson. Again, extremely useful and important to the side.

    However, he rarely sets up a win with either bat or ball and so the fans who are steered by the headline-grabbers (Ponting/Johnson/Hussey) struggle to fully accept him.

    Very good player. I imagine upon his retirement he will be remembered in the same way that players like Nathan Bracken are - good on their day but nothing more - as opposed to a Langer or Hayden, even if he boasts an average amongst the very best in recent years.

    I just hope that he doesn't hit scintillating form this winter!!

  • Comment number 10.

    Could of? Would of? Should of?

    Dear oh dear! GCSE English!!!!

    Watson isn't particularly great/talented, but people don't get him out often and people get out to him. A nice skill to have as a cricketer.

    His bowling is no better than Jon Lewis' and his batting is overly reliant on the pull and drive. If someone (BROAD) can get the ball to nip back from a full length he'll be in bother! (As Onions did in 2009!)

  • Comment number 11.

    I think it is great when a player like Watson does well and defies the critics. Here is someone who is not a player in the classical mode and is following in the footsteps of a great in Matthew Hayden, so it is hardly surprising perhaps that some look at him as a lesser player. You also have to take into account that the Aussies were hoping that Phil Hughes would be the next big thing for them as an opener and it just hasn't happened so far. England have a player similar to Watson in Collingwood, a player who 5 or 6 years ago no one would have believed could get to 60 odd Tests and counting. What they both have in common is that they have raised their game to perform with a consistancy at Test level that often eludes more technically gifted players. Of course, having said all that, as an England supporter I hope that Watson has a miserable series against us, but I wouldn't be surprised if he proved to be more of a thorn in the side of England then some of the more higher rated Aussie batsman.

  • Comment number 12.

    Hardly an unusual thing actually to see a guy like this disliked (not hated, more like envied). And we as Brits are the best in the world at doing it.

    We decry the lack of talent available in all sports but then as soon as someone comes along who not only has the talent to succeeed but the temerity to make it look easy at the same time we lay into them like hyenas attacking a lame buffalo.

    Kevin Pieterson, Andrew Flintoff, Wayne Rooney, Lewis Hamilton, Andy Murray, Ronnie O'Sullivan and a host of others have all suffered at the hands of out press and public. KPs nay-sayers pathetically having a go at him for every dismissal regardless of the number he scored is the epitomy of this. Any wonder if his confidence and desire falls when he is derided for getting out for 90-odds while averaging over 50 in a series?

  • Comment number 13.

    I am a bit confused. Ian Chappel says "If you have an opener who can score quickly, as Watson does..." and then in the next sentence he says "There are two types of opening batsman, the type that gets a start, makes the most of it and makes a big score, then you have the type who doesn't get out early but doesn't get big scores too often. Watson's in the second category..." which seems to imply that Watson doesn't score quickly.

    So, does he score quickly or not?

  • Comment number 14.

    You never properly explained why people dislike Shane Watson. From what I have seen he is an exciting player who has served Australia well. What's not to like? He is one of Australia's in form batsman.

    You have to admire him for recovering from constant injuries, move up the order,open for Australia and become one of their best batsmen in the last year.

  • Comment number 15.

    Shane Watson is always going to be, "One of the first names on the Australia teamsheet."

    He opens!

  • Comment number 16.

    13. At 10:11am on 18 Nov 2010, worduphomes wrote:
    I am a bit confused. Ian Chappel says "If you have an opener who can score quickly, as Watson does..." and then in the next sentence he says "There are two types of opening batsman, the type that gets a start, makes the most of it and makes a big score, then you have the type who doesn't get out early but doesn't get big scores too often. Watson's in the second category..." which seems to imply that Watson doesn't score quickly.

    So, does he score quickly or not?

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    Your post confuses me.

    1. The successful opener who builds an innings from a start and gets hundreds
    2. The successful opener who gets the start of 50 or 60 and then gets out before making a hundred

    Chappell already states that Watson scores quickly and he then says that Watson is the second type of successful opener.

    What's difficult to understand about this?

  • Comment number 17.




    The first time I saw Shane Watson in person was at Cardiff two summers ago. He was on the outfield practising his bowling and delivered the ball with caution. He looked totally uneasy with his latest bowling action. At the time, the all-rounder tag was something Australia were chasing and I wrote a few times on 606 and on blogs that Watson was someone with a huge amount of batting ability, averaging well over mid 40s in first class cricket, and that Australia's determination to get him bowling as well as batting might were depriving them of a top class batsman.

    Since that day in Cardiff, the guy's averaging 50.44 with the bat, has clocked up two centuries, formed an opening partnership with Katich that averages 56.50 (versus the Hayden-Langer average of 51.53) and taken 26 wickets in 14 Tests. You'd think some people would be happy. Instead, the love of dismissing Watson drives people like Jarod Kimber into writing a blog piece that reads like the work of a man who has spent 48 hours injecting chemical effluent into his head.

    Why the Watson hate? It's true he isn't the greatest self-PR man. His moaning about Saeed Ajmal in the past was hilarious, not least because I agree with him and a trip to Youtube to see just how creaky-bent the Ajmal arm was is well worth your time. What is apparent is that Watson gets dissed in a way Andrew Symonds still doesn't. Many Australians like their players to be 'proper men'. Symonds turned up drunk to an international fixture and arguably did plenty that was disrespectful to the Baggy Green alongside an international record at Test level that was disappointing considering his skills. He doesn't get the same verbal jibes because he's more in the role of a typical Aussie guy, one who likes a drink, one who is prepared to flatten a streaker, and one who isn't going to do pilates.

    If you compare the two, the facts are simple. In four fewer Tests, Watson has more runs than Symonds, the same number of hundreds as Symonds, one more half century than Symonds, and more wickets than Symonds.

    As Jarrod seems to be the man in vogue today, let's allow him to speak about Symonds.

    http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/06/05/sayonara-symonds-there-will-never-be-another-you/



    "So that is it for Roy, I cannot see a way back for him now.

    Cricket loses another character, professional attitudes prevail, and a man loses his international career whilst falling deeper down the drain.

    Take this time to raise your glasses.

    Roy, we have followed you throughout your entire career. You have entertained us all, off and on the field. Your drunkenness, big hits, rude way with fans, freakish fielding and your mild abuse to the press has been a breath of fresh air in this age of professional robot cricketers.

    James Sutherland will never allow us another you, Roy. You are it; a dying breed of drunkard cricketer, a throwback to a time when getting drunk and being good at cricket went hand in hand.

    You had the misfortune to be born in the wrong era; in the 70s or 80s there would have been no scandal if the odd bus was missed, or if you rocked up to the odd game with no sleep. Those days are gone old chap, and your story is testament to that. You’ve had your fun though; you played for your country, hit a streaker, appeared half naked in ads and lived the lifestyle of a rock star.

    When you sit down in the Drunkard’s Valhalla, you can do it proudly: as you seemingly pissed away your career with stunning masculinity and brutish charm."



    Says it all really. Compare that to Jarrod's opening stanza about Watson:


    "It takes real talent to be hated when you are pathetic and just as despised when you are good. Even those who have the talent to get to this level of hatred could never do it as well as Shane Watson."


    Nice! Let's all praise a man who drank his international career away whilst tearing down a guy who has reinvented himself after many injuries and who is now one of the few Australians to show any decent form over the last year. And they say English sports fans are fickle...

  • Comment number 18.

    Unfortunately Shane found himself opening the batting because Australia couldn't find an opener that wasn't a walking wicket (Phil Hughes etc.). At this level it's not about being pretty, it's being effective and an average of 50+ counts as effective to me, Alistair Cook eat your heart out.

  • Comment number 19.

    So...is it get again a case of a sports personality being disliked because he's perceived as living a glamorous lifestyle and an attractive wife?

  • Comment number 20.

    Worthwhile blog, cheers. As a very simplistic explanation of the lukewarm at best regard of Watson in Oz, generally when people develop an irrational dislike for someone it boils down to jealousy. The guy's an international cricketer doing well for himself after overcoming a great deal of frustration earlier in his career. And, to be a bit crass, just take a look at his wife! People will get jealous.

    Its sad really, almost like people who wish they could have become journalists deciding to post dull grammatical critiques of a blog written by someone who actually managed to get such a job!

    Either way, there has been a great deal of talk about the Aussie batting frailties so it is pertinent to have a look at their batting strength. They have an opening partnership of two batsmen who are both in decent nick and comlement each other well. People may deride Watson's batting, especially as an opener, but the bottom line is his current record which is none too shabby. It is crucial that our seamers can make the Kooka ball talk early and deal with Katich and Watson. The middle order are out of form and the best way for them to get their form back is arrive att he crease with an opener who is well set and scoring comfortably. It will be one of the key challenges for England to address if they are to retain the Ashes.

  • Comment number 21.

    Good article, Oliver; As we all know by now, with each and every biannual ashes build up and hype, that all form coming into the series can often be irrelevant.

    However, I have always been wary of players with a point to prove. Something for english fans to be worried about (myself being one of them)is that if a man still feels he has a point to prove after averaging consistently highly as one of Australia's most valued batsmen and getting in on the wicket tally to boot, what more can we expect?

    I have to agree with post no.6 that there is always something so very punch-able about a number of the australian team, past and present, as they do seem to strut with head held high - or is that supreme confidence in their own ability and something that the english players have lacked over the years? I honestly believe it's a positive reaction when Shane Warne writes that the english team need to reign in the arrogance that is spreading throughout the team.

    As englishmen/women, I think we tend to shy away and cringe at the mere hint of arrogance. Bring it on! Needless to say, I don't have supreme confidence going into these ashes but then again who cares? As long as the team walking out onto the pit on the first day doesn't feel the same way.

  • Comment number 22.

    People who genuinely love cricket at whatever level will do what they can to help the team. Watson was not an international quality all-rounder but when called upon has been an effective opener. Other less determined cricketers have just retired from international cricket.

    The Australian public have caught the British disease of knocking sportsmen that they loathe domestically even when they pull on the national shirt and represent the country.

    Sad really...

  • Comment number 23.

    I met the lovely Mr Watson at the Rosebowl international dinner last year.

    Effective Cricketer (I enjoyed watching him at Hampshire) and a very nice man. Why does off-the-pace bowling come in for such criticism when it can be so effective?

    (Can I also mention that he's stunningly gorgeous and phwoaaaaaaar he smells really good)

  • Comment number 24.

    I still remember listening to that Test (finally) get started on TMS, and hearing Jonathan Agnew describe Watson as "the nightwatchman".

  • Comment number 25.

    Right, so, a point or two.

    Shane Watson just... gets it wrong. It's like a thing he does. He's a big, strong, talented guy... but he just seems to do the exact thing that makes you cringe at exactly the wrong time.

    Like angling for the opening spot through press conferences and the media while his teammate Phil Hughes was struggling in England. It looked like he saw a chance to get in the team and elbowed his way in despite a domestic opening average of 5, and no tests at all as opener.

    Like repositioning yourself to please whatever the selectors are looking for. Switching from seam to swing, moving from six to four to opening at domestic, depending on how the national team looked.

    Like sending off Chris Gayle, one of the coolest men alive, and the only centurion (off 72 balls!) in the match in Perth like this:
    http://www.sportpost.com/video/view/Shane+Watsons+crazy+celebration
    That was *after* the Benn/Johnson incident too...

    Like holding a pose at the end of every shot.

    And even when he does things right, it's just... off. Like getting his name right at the start of the new honours board for neutral games at Lords, with five wickets against Pakistan in the Summer of Spot Fixes. Just ahead of that other supreme bowler, Marcus North.

    He just doesn't have the X-Factor for likeability, which is fine, and every sport needs all types of character. Makes it fun for the bloggers, like Kimber, who makes no attempt to be PC or balanced, but is never mean or nasty either. In fact, he even says :
    "There has never been a real doubt over Watson’s general level of talent, just his personality, temperament and jelly bean body...He is good though, and right now, probably Australia’s gun player."

    Anyway, he's someone to talk about, which is nice. Now do an article about Dancing Doug Bollinger!


  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    Jarrod Kimber is the best Aussie blogger out there.

    Shane Watson is no where in the class of Langer/Hayden. Australia have struggled to replace them and if England do not win the Ashes then something is wrong with English cricket.

  • Comment number 28.

    Interesting comparison with Michael Clarke, who took plenty of stick in the Aussie media for being in the gossip pages with his celebrity fiancee Lara Bingle. By the way, Queensland and the Gabba is Watson's former home. He was batting for NSW at his new home the SCG earlier today.

  • Comment number 29.

    "And so, inevitably, he dislocated a shoulder and missed Australia's glorious summer."

    This is not correct. He re-injured a hamstring in a domestic one-day match for Queensland just after the 1st test squad was names. His dislocated shoulder was sustained while fielding in a test for Australia in the 05/06 summer.

  • Comment number 30.

    Why has my comment been removed?
    Is Mr Brett above criticism?
    What's the point of having a comment area if we are not allowed to take a contrary position to Mr Brett?

    Dear BBC - shameful

  • Comment number 31.

    post #7 is spot on! - his record at Brisbane is poor and he'll be under pressure in this average Aussie side, won't have the greats to hide behind. He is a good biffer in one dayers, miles off being Test Class opener.

  • Comment number 32.

    You have to give Watson grudging praise for the way he has turned himself from a body made of glass to a successful test match opener who bowls serviceable military medium. But you are right Oliver, he isn't that popular amongst cricket fans. Here's why we are not too keen http://thereversesweep.typepad.com/blog/2010/09/zeroes-shane-watson.html#showToolbar

  • Comment number 33.

    EoinSmith002:

    Why is his send off to Chris Gayle so bad? If people are going to dislike him for that, then I'd expect to see people hate Viv Richards for his arm-waving appeal and jig that got Rob Bailey dismissed. I'd expect people to lambast Shane Warne for some cringeworthy moments on and off the pitch (and getting banned). I love the big send offs. I miss the days when a quick bowler could point to the pavilion and give the batsman a proper farewell.


    "Like angling for the opening spot through press conferences and the media while his teammate Phil Hughes was struggling in England. It looked like he saw a chance to get in the team and elbowed his way in despite a domestic opening average of 5, and no tests at all as opener."


    Open up the context a bit. Yes, Watson hadn't been a Test opener. Yes, he may have had a domestic opening average of 5 (I'll take your word for it). What Watson did have to back up his claim to opening were 17 ODI matches batting between 1 and 2, 754 runs at 54, and with two centuries to his name. Phil Hughes got found out very quickly in England, as anyone who remembers his performance against the Lions at Worcester could testify. There were no other obvious openers in the Aussie squad (Hussey or Haddin maybe), Watson was a regular ODI opener by this time, and so it made complete sense for him to push for that opening slot. If he'd gone in there and failed dismally, you could understand him getting grief but he hasn't failed at all, not as a batsman alone and not as an opening partner with Katich.

    Here's Watson ODI record as an opener leading up to the 30 July 2009 Test where he came back as a Test opener. Not bad now, is it? As he started opening in ODI games in 2006, it's a fair call to make that the Aussie selectors had pencilled him in there a long time before he started opening at Test level.

    http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/player/8180.html?batting_positionmax1=2;batting_positionval1=batting_position;class=2;filter=advanced;orderby=start;spanmax1=30+Jul+2009;spanval1=span;template=results;type=batting;view=match



  • Comment number 34.

    Hmmm, grammar discussions on a cricket thread, happy days. (Do flow and readability mean nothing in a world of rules and regulations? Language isn't an ancient relic passed down from the 16th century, it's a flexible evolution to be played with and enjoyed surely).

    Seems that the Watson paradox isn't too dissimilar to the Lampard/Gerrard paradox, or the Andy Murray paradox, we write off/ abuse/ dislike our top sports stars just as much as anyone.

  • Comment number 35.

    Thereversesweep:

    I don't remember Colin Miller being hated for loving the hair dye.



    SimplyZola:

    "Jarrod Kimber is the best Aussie blogger out there."

    The competition must be fierce.

  • Comment number 36.

    "I don't remember Colin Miller being hated for loving the hair dye"

    That is true AndyPlowright, but Miller's was blue - so he just looked crazy rather than vain like Twatto

  • Comment number 37.

    Thereversesweep:

    Watson dyes his hair. At least his is real, unlike certain leg spinners and quick bowlers past and present... and talking of leg spinners who got banned for diuretics, got a bit too close to bookmakers, had a few flings in his time, didn't he once dance with a stump at Trent Bridge? Warne was brilliant but there's a feeling that people accepted the stupid moments, whereas Watson will never get such leniency.

  • Comment number 38.

    It's remarkable how quickly he took to opening. Never looked out of place and frustratingly difficult to get out. I like him.

  • Comment number 39.

    Hi Andy #33,

    Just a quick reply...

    With the Gayle send-off, I think it's the groin thrust followed up with child-like jumping up and down that seals it. Send offs are great, and hostile fast bowlers are for sure great, but Gayle had spanked them, Watson is little more than a pie-chucker these days, and it just looks... silly. As for Warne and Richards, yes, absolutely, they were thrilling, entertaining, box office, and every now and then, disgraceful on the field. Keep characters in the game, but don't be afraid to call them on downright silliness.

    With the opening, what I meant was, he could certainly have been an opening candidate. Those are some good ODI numbers. But it's just... the way it happened didn't look super. Calling press conferences, telling the world you're doing Pilates and ready to open in tests. Don't talk about doing it, just do it.

    He's definitely talented, no question. He scores fast, and has been a success at the top. He's done his job. And yet, and yet, he's disliked by a disproportionate amount of people, inside his own country. It's a weird thing, and you see when you start to dissect it how frivolous each individual argument is, but it's still true that he's not perceived like a Lee or a Warne or a Gilchrist. Anyway, roll on the first ball!

  • Comment number 40.

    There is little left for me to add, a number of well argued points here representing both sides of the debate. Thanks very much for those comments.

    Just a handful of pick-ups:

    22. "The Australian public have caught the British disease of knocking sportsmen that they loathe domestically even when they pull on the national shirt and represent the country."

    This calls to mind the notorious booing of England's footballers when they appeared at Wembley in their first international after the World Cup debacle. Expensive, those tickets, and you start booing before anything happens. Really clever. Watson won't be booed by Aussie fans in the Ashes, but there will be the odd sarcastic comment.

    29. That was a genuine error by me, and I have now tweaked the original. Thanks for spotting - far more astute than the initial comments about grammar.

    31. If Watson repeats his current Test stats as an opener he will average 50 in the Ashes, which translates as 500 runs in the series. In that event, England might have a few problems on their hands.

  • Comment number 41.

    During a visit to Australia last winter, I was fortunate enough to meet a number of members of the Australian cricket team when in Melbourne (I missed the Boxing Day test as we had to fly out on Christmas Eve).

    One of the players I met briefly was Shane Watson and he came across as a thoroughly decent, likeable and - unusually for a modern-day sportsman - humble bloke. I have a picture of him grinning from ear to ear and I would challenge anyone not to like the guy.

    I certainly don't hate anyone who plays international cricket. It is a ridiculous stance to take against people you do not know. I don't want them to win, but I'd settle for Mr Watson scoring a ton in the first test and England winning by 9 wickets!

  • Comment number 42.

    Watson, on the limited times I've seen him open tests, is a one day player. You'd never imagine him batting through the innings with 145* off 330 deliveries. I think the top 3 have to all be capable of this sort of innings

    Aggression wins test matches, but there will be times more often than not when hitting a nice 50 before getting out with a careless shot causes more damage to the team than just playing for 3 1/2 hours - especially as an opener, where you run the risk of exposing your middle order too early.

    The best batsmen have this aura that when they walk out into the middle, you're already thinking "how on earth am I gonna get this guy out?" before they've even faced a ball.

  • Comment number 43.

    Kapnag:

    "Watson, on the limited times I've seen him open tests, is a one day player. You'd never imagine him batting through the innings with 145* off 330 deliveries. I think the top 3 have to all be capable of this sort of innings"

    Two words to test that argument: Virender Sehwag.

    Also, you might have missed Watson's 126 at Mohali earlier this year. 338 balls, 461 minutes, out of a total of 428. he then top scored in the second innings with 56 out of 192, eventually finishing the two Test series behind only Tendulkar in the run scoring stakes.

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/464526.html

    http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/records/batting/most_runs_career.html?id=5935;type=series




    Eoinsmith002:

    Evening!

    Undoubtedly with the Gayle incident, Watson overdid it. Lots of players have done similar things. Flintoff taking off his shirt, Ganguly dancing, Warne dancing, Richards jigging around, Merv Hughes offering choice words to Graeme Hick, and McGrath ripping Sarwan's ears off come to mind. Watson's act was daft but I wouldn't say it's a reason to hate him just as I defended McGrath over the Sarwan clash.

    "Calling press conferences, telling the world you're doing Pilates and ready to open in tests. Don't talk about doing it, just do it."

    ...and he did it. Australia came to England with Katich (not always an opener) and Hughes (a rookie) and no other obvious replacement. I'm positive that Watson began the tour knowing form the management that he would be the replacement opener if fit and needed. With Hughes being shown up so quickly, then I don't mind Watson saying that he thinks he's got a chance. It is somewhat brash but it's also showing a belief in his abilities and he hasn't failed to deliver.

    The pilates thing interests me as I stopped playing cricket after a serious knee injury. Watson's rebirth came through a change in his physical regime. I've often wondered if Simon Jones actually spent too much time in the gym as part of his rehab and that alternative regimes may have been better for him.

    It is odd how disliked he is. Brett Lee captured hearts with his personality more than his actual onfield performances in my opinion. Absolutely top bloke, lots of time for him, but would you say he was that much better than Watson as a player? Maybe the Rupert Murdoch influence so belived of the Sun over here has now turned a lot of Aussies into tabloid critics.


  • Comment number 44.

    I'm not from brisbane, so i'm feeling fairly unbiased here, but the bottom line is Watson on form is one hell of a cricketer. The trouble is (and why people may get so frustrated with him - note frustrated and not dislike) is the fact he clearly has so much potential yet is constantly injured. Most Aussie fans will admit they would like to see him in the side fully fit and in form over many other potential players, but it is a case of which Watson you get as to how much we all "like" him! I dare say he is similar to many England cricketers who may shien for their counties but struggle to gain the overall positive support in the national side due to regional differences and poor consistency! Pieterson anyone??

  • Comment number 45.

    Two words to test that argument: Virender Sehwag.

    Also, you might have missed Watson's 126 at Mohali earlier this year. 338 balls, 461 minutes, out of a total of 428. he then top scored in the second innings with 56 out of 192, eventually finishing the two Test series behind only Tendulkar in the run scoring stakes.


    ==

    I was worried that Watson had actually done one of those innings when I posted, although I did say it was only from what I have seen. And Sehwag yes is the most destructive opener, but he is also the exception not the rule (however I'd love there to be a few more Sehwag's, but more often than not it's not going to work in a test match)

    But fair enough he played well that series, although I can't see him as Australia's opener in 3 years time

  • Comment number 46.

    @43

    Too be honest, having met and been around Brett Lee for a long time through different circles I can honestly say the guy was a muppet when he was younger. Arrogance personified. Having said that the guy really did change over the years and I think that had alot to do with how he put some heart into his game and gave his all.

    Now onto Shane Watson. I think the guy is seriously misunderstood by most Australian's. Let's be honest, the guy is what the ladies are after and many guys are jealous of the fact. He also is amazingly gifted both physically (sp) on a cricket field with both bat and ball. I think alot of aussies take the fact that he is on the quiet side and like his private life to remain that as being a sign of arrogance but it is just the way he is.

    Also, alot of people put all their faith and hopes in him as the future of Oz cricket but injuries wrecked it for him. Hardly something he can be blamed for me thinks.

  • Comment number 47.

    40. At 3:31pm on 18 Nov 2010, Oliver Brett wrote:

    22. "The Australian public have caught the British disease of knocking sportsmen that they loathe domestically even when they pull on the national shirt and represent the country."

    This calls to mind the notorious booing of England's footballers when they appeared at Wembley in their first international after the World Cup debacle. Expensive, those tickets, and you start booing before anything happens. Really clever. Watson won't be booed by Aussie fans in the Ashes, but there will be the odd sarcastic comment.

    .................................................................................

    Oliver I hardly think it's fair comparing Watson to the English football side for many reasons!

    People criticise Watson for the Gayle incident but at least he showed passion.

    As you keep saying Shane Watson has had a very impressive year so far. In comparison the English football team have been shambolic. They were rightly booed as they are being paid to perform well at their job which is football afterall.

    Remind me who England played in that "friendly" was it Hungary? Seriously who cares about dead rubbers against countries they should be beating comfortably?

    Why should Watson be criticised? The only comments on here of people who have actually met Shane Watson are praise for the guy. He has actually put in quite a few important knocks for Australia yet is bashed.

    Do you actually have any proof that Watson is disliked in Australia or are you basing it on one Australian's opinion? You don't even give a proper reason why he dislikes him.

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 49.

    Davico:

    "Also, alot of people put all their faith and hopes in him as the future of Oz cricket but injuries wrecked it for him. Hardly something he can be blamed for me thinks."

    I agree. The selectors knew he was good so kept giving him the chances. The public didn't see the performances and so turn on this apparent wonder guy. All of his injuries actually put his stats into a different context to most people, just like Flintoff. Both guys were on and off the treatment table so regularly that international appearances for their respective team were part of a rehab programme. When both fully fit and at top form, both are/were superb players. The injuries affected that and so many times they'd be coming into their sides not at top form as they were still striving for full performance after injuries.

    Beshocked:

    Dude, go to Google, type in 'I hate Shane Watson' and have a blast. Check some of the Aussie newspaper sites and see some of the comments people post about him.

  • Comment number 50.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 51.

    I hate Shane Watson and here is the most infuriating reason.

    When this idiot bowls, after EVERY ball whether he beats the outside edge or is smashed for a massive 6, he acts like he was so so so so so close to getting a wicket.

    His over the top ooooohhhhssss and aaaahhhhhhhhhs and the oh so hammy facial reactions, after EVERY ball, absolutely spoil watching the game for me.

    You're an innocuous medium pace bowler for goodness sakes, get over yourself and get back to your mark!!!

    He puts sub-continent spinners to shame with his overacting nonsense, "almost-appeal" after EVERY goddamn ball.

    I hope he averages 5 with the bat and 100 with the ball in the upcoming Ashes, Go ENGLAND!!

  • Comment number 52.

    The article focusses on the boy's popularity, but the key issue is his effectiveness.
    All, I believe agree the key Ashes figure is Swann. I believe Watson's recent record entitles him to be Australia's key figure - not as powerful an influence as Swann (which is one reason why England are highly likely to retain the Ashes, quite comfortably, if not a lot more convincingly than that (4-1 anyone?)). The correspondent who likened him to Collingwood is spot on, except he scores more runs, in his recent reincarnation, and takes a heck of a lot more wickets - look out for their comparative averages come January.

    He will cause England more trouble than anyone else Down Under.

  • Comment number 53.

    interesting blog, thanks.
    I liked your coulda, woulda, shuda. Short and pithy, it got the point across.

  • Comment number 54.

    Watsons story is almost similar to India's Sehwag's (barring injuries). Sehwag started out as a bit and pieces all rounder in one dayers, a hard hitting middle order batsman and a useful bowler. he forged some success there and started out opening. When India was struggling to find a decent opener, he was drafted into the test side as a makeshift opener. The fact that he scored a century on debut against South Africa in SA let him stay as an opener and he has been successful so far. But I dont think Indians dislike him because he is not a genuine test opener. He is reasonably successful as an opener and he himself said he stayed there because he couldnt not make it into the Indian test middle order.
    Watson is not a geunine test opener but he has made the most of the opportunities that he got as a test player opening the batting. He may not be as solid but he has enough technique and shots that has enable him to sustain an average of over 50. I think this is a great average for an opener and he is very effective at the top of the order. like Sehwag, he scores quickly and put the opposition in the back foot very quickly if he gets going. At the moment he is one of the inform Aussie batsman. I cant see why people cant admire him for his determination. he has made the most of his abilities and i am sure he shall be one of the top scorers for Australia in the Ashes. If England doesnt get him out cheaply . he can do a lot of damage as he tends to score quickly.

  • Comment number 55.

    bijusportsfan^^^

    How dare you compare Watson to Sehwag, if Watson ever scores a test 300 I'll eat my hat

    Laughable

  • Comment number 56.

    Dang,

    I will make you a deal. If you can construct a valid argument I will eat my hat.

    Why can there be no comparison made based on style of play and averages. Not taking into account bowling as......

    Actually, if you can prove that you have made a park 50 I will eat my hat.

  • Comment number 57.

    Get the salt and pepper ready, start eating Dav, pleanty of "park" 50s here, a few tons thrown in!!

    But hey, that unproveable so forget about it...

    If you can't see what is crazy about your comparison, there is no hope for you

  • Comment number 58.

    Yeah your right there is no way to prove that you can play.

    But getting back to my first point.....

    Saying that I am crazy is not a valid point.

    I may well be, but that does not change the fact that you still have not made a valid point or argument to suggest that Watson can't be compared to Sehwag.

    If your SO brave I can organise for you to stand at the other end while Shane bowls seeing he is just a medium pacer. You surely won't need a helmet seeing he is so average.

  • Comment number 59.

    "He could have been a hero in the 2006-07 Ashes, when England were swept aside 5-0, but coulda, shoulda, woulda appeared to be Watson's story." Oliver Brett.

    To those picking Oliver Brett's grammar, first, he never used --could of, should of, would of, just look at the quote above.

    You folks are only showing your own patent lack of literary savvy. The author used "slang" to make a clear point.

    I'm sure, he knows grammar better than most of you "scholars".

    The art of writing is to use language, appropriately, to make a point, to engage the reader, the audience to maintain intrigue, interest, suspence etc.

    BTW, did you also notice Brett's usage of "biffer", "rennaissance", "effusive", "coiffured" in his essay and did you bother to look them up?



  • Comment number 60.

    Can't help but pick up on some of the reasons put forward for not liking the fella in this blog....

    #25, Eoinsmith002:

    Gayle's send off - have seen many, many worse send offs than that from bowlers of all paces.

    Positioning for the opening slot during the last Ashes: Eh? Why on earth shouldn't he. He felt he could do a job for the team and he was prepared to put himself on the line in that way (an even bigger step for someone with his public profile). It is actually quite an Aussie trait to be quite happy to override the needs of an individual with little sensitivity - Hughes in this case - for the needs of the team. And he was proved right. This kind of attitude would normally be welcomed in Australia.

    Adjusting his game to fit what the selectors where looking for: Surely this is what any crcketer trying to break into a 1st XI should be doing. Again, I think its testament to the guy that he had the commitment and the ability to do this. Several cricketers have tried to do the same and been found wanting.

    And #51, Dang: Watson tries to make every ball look like it could've taken a wicket. C'mon fella, this is the default position of pretty much every test bowler. Even Warne and McGrath could throw down a fair number of pies in a session but they always tried to make the batsman think they'd got away with something. Panesar goes even further and would probably actually appeal for a full toss chucked two foot wide of leg. Swanny has clearly studied Warne's contemplative chin-rubbing stance while wincing that was always used after a full toss had been dispatched to the boundary, as if to say "bloody hell mate, you got away with that one by the skin of your teeth." Mate, this is just standard.

    Despite all the above, I'm no particular fan of Watson - nor do I hold any irrational dislike of him - but I just find the attitude of many cricket fans in Oz and beyond mystifying. Here's another possible explanation: The guy has always had potential in all forms of the game, whilst Australians are notoriously intolerant of weakness. Its not hard to imagine that their frustration at Watson not being able to stay fit combined with their frustration at what they were missing to create this hostility. And then he went and married the blonde...

  • Comment number 61.

    Waton is a key player for Australia. He has been playing really good recently and its important he continues to play very good during the ashes that now starts in under a week!

  • Comment number 62.

    Watson is a counterfeit Collingwood - thankfully we've got the real thing!

  • Comment number 63.

    Dang, if you cared to read what I wrote, I was just comparing the fact that both Watson and Sehwag are not genuine openers but batting (middle order) all rounders who were made to open and found reasonable success there. Of course, Watson hasnt played as many tests as Sehwag and hasnt scored as many centuries but he still boasts a healthy enough average. What is the use of having oodles of talent if you are not putting it to good use a la bell.

  • Comment number 64.

    On form, his driving and placement can be as good as anybody in the game, and can score quickly. I can see him chipping in a lot of runs this series.

  • Comment number 65.

    I'm one of those who cannot stand Shane Watson. I have to admit I am not 100% sure what it is about him that I dislike but he rubs me up the wrong way.

    I think it was his arrogance before he had really established himself as a regular in the Aussie team. I know some people may say it is an Australian thing but there are plenty of Aussie cricketers I like (Katich, Ponting, Hussey, Hilfenhaus, Lee, to name a few). Some of his celebrations when bowling at Pakistan in the summer would have got you thinking he was knocking over top quality opposition. I hope our boys smash his medium pace all over the park.

    I also don't like the way he always looks as though he's got a rough deal from an umpire despite the fact he's generally plumb lbw (a prime victim).

    My hope is that Strauss and co take 4 an over off him when he is bowling and that Anderson traps him in front half a dozen times. Maybe he'll use up some referrals in the process!!!

  • Comment number 66.

    I could have been a test cricketer and might have played for England in the 70s and 80s had it not been for a shoulder injury. Of course nobody remembers me now, and no doubt nobody will remember Shane Watson in 40 years time if, for some reason, this proves to be his last season at the top.
    And yet there the similarity ends. I very much doubt if Shane Watson will spend his twighlight years writing about what might have been, about missed opportunities, about misfortune and disappointment.
    Not with a wife like that. Good God... if I'd not had that shoulder injury I might have ended up on a date with, say, Agnetha Fältskog.

    In the meantime, let's not beat about the bush...I hope England go on to win the Ashes and that Shane Watson (along with some other Aussies) has a terrible series. There's an end on it.

  • Comment number 67.

    Watson's the type of bloke who'd bowl an underarmer.....nuff said.

  • Comment number 68.

    Re the deliberate "could of" mistake, I think the reason several people did not realize that it was intentional is that the normal way of writing "could have" if you want to convey a more "could of"-like pronunciation is "could've". So I respectfully suggest (but with no expectation that the suggestion will be taken up) changing "coulda, woulda, shoulda" to "could've, would've, should've". After all, this is cricket we're talking about, not baseball.

  • Comment number 69.

    Bull S***! He does not need to change a thing!

  • Comment number 70.

    I think Shane Watson is quite beloved as a member of the Rajasthan Royals IPL team. There must be some solid reason why he's hated in Australia so much.

    I think he's quite good.

  • Comment number 71.

    I wish people would stop picking up on people's grammar when reading these blogs, its so pointless. Does it make you feel big??? We all understood what had been written and it was clearly a use of slang so get over it and try commenting with something relevant (just make sure you word it correctly or I will notice).

    I personally can't (that is the shortened version of cannot for all you over sensitive to imperfect grammar) stand Shane Watson, mostly because of his demeanor but his record opening is pretty good so credit where credit is due!

    Good article Oliver.

  • Comment number 72.

    Watson's a quality player, I don't know why so many people seem to have something against him. I'm sure we could slip him in somewhere in the England side!

    PS Just seen the TMS team, looks good, can't wait. Naughty of me to say this but is there any chance you could leave Simon Mann behind and try someone new? Someone whose background is dripping in cricket, rather than just an adequate BBC hack? (I'm sure Simon is great at other sports, but perhaps not suited to cricket). I'll be listening in the middle of the night and don't want to fall asleep. Alternatively what about Henry Ernst Blofeld for a bit of style? An old favourite and the Aussies particularly love him.

  • Comment number 73.

    On reflection I apologise for referring (above) to Simon Mann as an “adequate BBC hack”, very unfair of me – not true – he’s better than that. Well informed, well meaning etc. It’s just that I find him a badly discordant note in an otherwise wonderfully balanced Test Match Special team.

 

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