IMRAN GASHKORI | Sports Journalist | [email protected]
WHEN IT COMES to representing your country in test cricket, the physical demands of competition can completely dominate one’s life… If you pair those pressures with dressing room politics and the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ that exists in just about every Australian living room – it becomes clear that only the fittest survive. The Darwinism of the Baggy Green.
One batsman that has had to fight, both tooth and nail, is the majestic Shane Watson.
A controversial beacon of the game, one who still carries a stampeding presence onto the pitch against India this year, despite the some of the worst statistics in the history of Australian cricket.
Born and raised in the Queensland backwater of Ipswich, by the year 2000 Watson was an AIS Cricket Academy scholarship holder at 19 years old. During the golden age of Australian sport in a pre-Sydney Olympics ante-up.
In a bold career strategy, Watson decided to begin his first-class cricketing career in Tasmania where his all-round excellence had local cricketing identities turning both of their heads to pay attention to this handsome young thing from the slums of Queensland’s Western Corridor.
Shane Watson’s Test Cricket HIGHLIGHTS – 15 Minutes of brilliance!
However, despite the praise he recieved in his days of state cricket for both Tasmania and his native Queensland… Watson’s international career has been highly criticised from the 1st ball bowled, right through to the 4,855th.
Despite this, he has found support from right across the board with his former captain Steve Waugh stating that Watson could possibly be Australia’s first genuine all rounder since Keith Miller and Alan Davidson in the 1950s. Watson expressed joy at being selected in an Australian team with Waugh, whom he cited as his idol.
However, his commendations didn’t extend very far out of the change rooms, with many armchair crickets stating they would rather watch former-Wallabies prop Matt Dunning don the baggy green over the “waste of space” known as Shane Watson.
Remarks like this are not often argued against. The criticism, while harsh, doesn’t seem to be undeserved:
Since December 1979, There have been only seventeen Batsmen to play over 50 test matches for Australia – Shane Watson has managed to do this despite his dismall average of 4 centuries at 35.87 – the next worst average out of the aforementioned list of seventeen, is Mark Waugh who had 20 centuries at 41.81.
The darkest hour for Australian selectors came in 2010, when Shane Watson managed to land a test spot over seasoned international Simon Katich.
An icon of the game, Katich was slashed to make room for a younger Watson, despite a career average of 45.03 with 10 hundreds in 99 innings and 4188 runs. Critics still compare these numbers to Watson’s current numbers: an average of 35.87 with 4 hundreds from 100 innings and 3480 runs.
The initial upset and subsequent protests from the cricketing elite was countered by selectors (including Katich’s infamous rival, Michael Clarke) who stated that Katich couldn’t bowl – a defunct argument considering Katich had a bowling average of 30.23 with the best figures of 6/65 – compared to Watson’s Average of 32.32 with best figures of 6/33.
All in all, it seems on-field performances aren’t what’s important when it comes to test cricket. For someone like Watson to rise to fifty-three test’s despite the worst stats in the history of the Australian game, shows a man who’s never-say-die attitude is what selectors want. It’s what selectors look for when trying to rally together a side that is ready to fight.
When asked about his last big score, Watson showed his true colours as a player that just makes the numbers, more of a cultural presence than a physical one. The inspiring ‘old man river’ of test Cricket.
“Jeez, I can’t remember the last time I nabbed a ton, it’s not my job to score runs anymore. These days I’m just there, Boof knows what he’s doing with me,’
“But I’m due to do a hamstring in the next couple of games which means I will come straight back into the team when I’m ‘fit’ no matter what the circumstance [laughter]”
Despite all that is said and done both on the field, in the change rooms, in the pubs and in the living rooms. It is clear that Watson serves a purpose. He may talk himself down, his stats might show him to be a sub-tier cricketer, he might be getting old… But it is clear that last years Ashes depended on him. Injured or not, Watson is the WD40 that greases the cogs of Australian test cricket.
His ability to keep moving forward in the face of criticism and injury is inspiring stuff. Pair that with his longevity in the Baggy Green – despite being somewhat of a low standard batsman, an average all-rounder and a severely boring personality – is inspiring stuff.
The Betoota Advocate asked Watson what he thought about his unexpected knighthood in Australian cricket:
“I have no f**king idea why they love me so much, my numbers aren’t good enough to warrant a career this long, let alone being remembered as a great. I don’t fit the iconic cricketing stereotype either… I can’t drink for shit.”
Needless to say, despite not once batting above his average this series: the selectors, fans and the man himself have confidence in the “Cult Of Shane Watson”.
It looks like the ‘Old Man River’ of test cricket has at least three more summers left in him.
Imran Gashkori is a former lecturer at Brisbane’s Shaftson College, the same university that guided him through his PHD in Sports Science. He has worked and lived in many different parts of the world, including ten years as a pearl diver for the Paspalley’s out of Broome. A former prospect of the QLD Reds development programs, Imran decided instead to to follow his fathers dreams as a state wicketkeeper with Brisbane Bulls. A vocal supporter of Brisbane’s LGBTI community, David lives in the inner-city suburb of New Farm with his wife, Xiaou and their five daughters.