Shane Watson is an old Plymouth. There’s a scene in The Simpsons just prior to Homer having a massive heart attack where he’s relieved to find out that there isn’t a problem with his car (the irregular thumping sound he thought was the transmission is coming from his chest). The mechanic explains away his imminent death to his son by saying ‘Billy, remember that old Plymouth we just couldn’t fix’.
Shane Watson is probably out of the next test with yet another calf strain. Since debut, he’s been an automatic selection, when fit, for roughly the same timeframe as Mike Hussey. Watson has 38 caps, Hussey 78. There have been public rumblings from within the Australian camp recently of dissatisfaction with Watson’s fitness record.
This is the same Australian team that refused to skewer an overweight Doug Bollinger who was too unfit to get the ball through to the keeper in the last Adelaide Ashes match, which should give you the idea of the exasperation currently being felt.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, already annoyed by his constant injuries, the Australian physio nipped out to Flemington Racecourse to borrow one of those big white screens that are employed with scandalous regularity during the jumps race on Melbourne Cup day.
I’m not sure the cricketing public would cry as loudly as when they see a fine thoroughbred put down either. A slight gasp would probably be heard just after the gunshot, and they would have to limit the spillage of blonde hair dye so it didn’t get on the wicket, but apart from that I really can’t see the bother.
You see, Shane Watson has never been popular with the general public. He was fast tracked into an incredibly strong Australian team that didn’t need him, and well before he was ready. He was snuck into the 2005 New Years Test in Sydney, which is a popular yearly trend whilst the public is too hungover to be outraged, (Andrew Mcdonald, Peter Taylor, Glenn Maxwell). His first delivery that day could be a microcosm of his career. All potential, excitement, hustle, bustle and huff and puff, followed by an innocuous legside delivery easily turned away and the sound of Watson’s Rugby player frame crashing into the dirt. (footage; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7bCxoA2fDXI )
His unpopularity with the cricketing electorate is mostly his own doing. Whilst scoring 88 is not that different, overall, to 100, scoring centuries and taking wickets is what he is judged upon. Watson doesn’t do either often enough (although his bowling has recently improved). His maddening habit of getting out between 50-100 is enough for even his most ardent fan (himself) to tear their frosted-tipped hair out. Coupled with his Stuart Broad style penchant for constantly abusing batsmen who are getting the better of him, and you have a public with little sympathy for his injury curse.
Where do we go from here? He may well benefit from a lack of real replacement options, and from his own nomadic definition as a cricketer. His bowling, with decent pace, control, and swing, could be pretty handy in England, especially if Australia deploy 1 or 2 Mitch’s as frontline quicks.
But, if Australia are willing to eschew somebody with the undoubted talent of Ryan Harris due to his inability to play more than 1-2 consecutive tests, how long before a 32 year old Watson is turned into Dog/French food?