It’s increasingly fashionable for captains and coaches to talk about building culture within their team – shared values and working together and all that crap.
Mitchell Johnson’s autobiography, Resilient, features a colourful anecdote from his time at the Cricket Academy in Adelaide which sheds light on every aspect of the culture that underpins Australia sides.
“Every night we’d pile into the common room and watch Neighbours before dinner. I was always a bit willing as every time there was an ad break there would be an all-in wrestle on the floor until the show started again.
“In one wrestle I was dragged through the door and into the bathroom by a heap of guys and somebody pushed my head into the toilet. I wasn’t impressed and the red mist descended. Somehow I managed to break free and I grabbed whoever it was by the front of the shirt as I got up and someone grabbed mine.
“I raised my right fist and he did the same. Then we looked at each other. It was Watto.”
Hopefully the red mist isn’t the product of a very severe urinary tract infection in this story.
Assuming it isn’t, what we’re left with is: watching Neighbours, wrestling like children who’ve spent too long cooped up indoors and faecal peril.
And afterwards all you’re left with is Shane Watson’s fat face staring back at you as he threatens to hurt you, but doesn’t.
Photo by Sarah Ansell
You’re surely already aware of this, but Shane Watson’s front leg has many magical powers. It emits a peculiar kind of leather-specific magnetism that draws cricket balls towards it and it also clouds the mind of its owner, persuading him that nothing that collides with it could ever have gone on to hit the stumps.
Twice in this Test Watson was hit on the pad and given out LBW; twice he asked for a review; twice the decision was upheld. On both occasions everyone other than him knew it was out.
Watson has been given out LBW four billion times before and he’s asked for a review on each and every occasion. It’s a mindless reflex, like a plant turning towards the light. He probably makes the ‘third umpire’ gesture every time he feels his trousers gently brush against his shin.
Watson was one part of a rather wonderful afternoon collapse from the Australians which was seemingly precipitated by David Warner’s departure on the stroke of lunch. To be fair to Warner, it was a shit innings. It wasn’t like he threw his wicket away. His dismissal was merely a successful example of what he’d been attempting to do all morning.
That was when things got a bit easier for England. That’s when nearly-getting-batsmen-out turned into actually-getting-batsmen-out and once that process was underway, it never really seemed like Watson would be the man to arrest the slide.
Over the four days, it all went disconcertingly smoothly for England. Before Shane Warne arrives brandishing his broken record, it’s even worth noting that Alastair Cook had a perfectly acceptable game as captain. Whatever next?
Technically, Shane Watson won this particular duel by surviving, going on to hit the winning runs. But if it really was a victory, it was one characterised by looking like a complete div for a prolonged period.
Wahab Riaz’s mistake was that he left himself reliant on the woeful catching ability of his team-mates. Waqar Younis never made that mistake. He focused on the stumps. Fewer links in the chain, you see. If you hit them, you don’t even need the umpire.
But for all that it was ultimately unproductive, Wahab’s spell was memorable. We’ve documented it and some other stuff from that match for the Mumbai Mirror.
One of the reasons why it’s been so enjoyable to watch Shane Watson’s hapless summer is because he generally looks like the kind of batsman who can rifle a long series of chanceless fours. Yesterday, he actually did this. His drives were crisper than neglected bacon blackening under the grill and his pulls were as percussive as Stomp.
There were a couple of wobbles. He was given not out LBW early on. If he had been given out and it had been reviewed, it would have been ‘umpire’s call’ and he would have been on his way. It’s odd to think that moment could just as easily have further contributed to his general air of front-legged uselessness. Instead, things turned out rather differently.
Later on, Broad hit him with a bouncer.
“I got lucky, because it hit me on the muscle, not on the skull.”
Those were the only two options.
Legal documents associated with Mickey Arthur’s ludicrous AUD 4 million compensation claim against Cricket Australia are said to detail deeply felt emnity between Michael Clarke and Shane Watson. This is, apparently, news.
A fairly large proportion of the Australian population has always hated Michael Clarke, seeing him as an image-conscious metrosexual who’s been given an easy ride. An even greater proportion of the Australian population hates Shane Watson for being an image-conscious metrosexual who whinges a lot, throws away promising starts and who is forever getting injured. Being as both Clarke and Watson are Australians, OF COURSE each is going to hate the other.
It’s basic statistics. Chances are most of Clarke and Watson’s team-mates hate both of them. Why wouldn’t you? The rest of us do.
Just because one person’s a bit of an arse, it doesn’t mean they’re necessarily going to be great mates with other arses. In reality, people are generally most irritated by the negative qualities in others that they themselves possess. Clarke and Watson share plenty of irritating qualities with which to rub each other up the wrong way.
This is the impression we’re getting.
‘Come up with three ways in which we can improve’
People keep using the word ‘homework’ and it’s because of the way the task was given to the players. It’s the kind of school assignment where the level of difficulty has been carefully gauged to ensure a response. ‘Come up with three bullet points – everyone can do that. No excuses.’
But a coach shouldn’t have to lead the players by the hand like this. Working out how to improve should be second nature to them. How have they got into the national team if they’re not continually evaluating their own performance and by extension that of the team?
This is, quite genuinely, one of the minor indiscretions described by Mickey Arthur that apparently contributed to the decision to suspend players. ‘Giving attitude’ was another. We’re not sure we’ve ever heard of an adult ‘giving attitude’.
Viewed against this sort of a backdrop, the suspensions smack of a teacher reclaiming control of the class via an almost arbitrary show of power.
Shane Watson ‘weighing up his options’
What’s a decent reason for retiring from one form of the game? That you’ve been struggling with injuries? That you’re worried you’re not up to standard any more?
Both of those might apply to Shane Watson, but strangely they weren’t what triggered his sudden urge to ‘weigh up his options’ with regards to his cricketing future. No, instead Watto has decided to take stock of things at the exact moment when he’s just been told off.
He’s threatening to take his bat in and doesn’t want to play any more. It is, quite simply, a massive great strop.
One answer would be ‘because Michael Clarke’s injured’. If you’re wondering what’s wrong with Clarke, a Cricket Australia spokesman said:
“Michael Clarke has had his right hamstring assessed by team medical staff following the game and the team physiotherapist has confirmed that Michael has stiffness in the right hamstring.”
There’s a joke in there somewhere. Something like: “How many Australian medical professionals does it take to diagnose a stiff hamstring when someone complains that their hamstring feels stiff?”
Anyway, this isn’t the point. The point is that Shane Watson will become captain. We’ve said before that we have no real clue about captaincy. It’s a management job really and thankfully most of the tasks involved aren’t televised. We’re therefore somewhat in the dark about players’ suitability for the job.
But still. Shane Watson? Captains should be strong and resilient, yet Watson can’t even bear to retain his own body hair. Maybe that’s right though. Maybe Watson truly is the embodiment of contemporary Australia: Blonde, metrosexual, fragile, no longer troubling the speed gun and not especially good at Test cricket.
If you want to be taken seriously as a batsman, one of the worst things you can do is bowl. Every team is desperate for all-rounders, but the label gets misapplied so much it tars those who actually warrant it.
Shane Watson probably just about qualifies as an all-rounder – maybe not in Tests where you wouldn’t really want him as a key part of your bowling attack, but certainly in one-day cricket.
However, calling him an all-rounder partially masks the fact that he’s got a strong case to be regarded as Australia’s best batsman at the moment. Being Australia’s best batsman in 2011 is a bit like being the world’s most attractive deep sea fish, but it’s still an achievement of sorts.
Even if no-one cares about a Bangladesh v Australia one-day series that’s come hot on the heels of the World Cup, Watson’s 185 off 96 balls was some innings.
185 off 96 balls against a bowling machine set to ‘friendly’ and without any stumps to defend would actually be pretty decent, so don’t everybody start belittling Watson’s performance simply because he’s a titanic knobhead.
Australia might have had a better chance in the first Twenty20 international if 10 of them hadn’t been shit.
The 11th player, Shane Watson, has suddenly found a world where hitting fifties and bowling straight medium-pace is quite handy. If he’d have found a competent team mate, Australia would have won.
They might also have won if they’d bothered catching anything in the first couple of overs of England’s innings. Our mate says they’ve been spending too much time with their hands in the boxes of chicken provided by Australian cricket’s official ‘restaurant’, KFC.
Anyway, England win again. It was exciting, but five minutes later we’re more interested in how our own chicken’s getting on in the crock pot. Only six hours to go…
Why DOESN’T Shane Watson always get out in the 90s?
Would it be unfair to suggest that for some players personal milestones bring more pressure because the player in question is – how shall we put this – massively self-involved with an overinflated sense of their own importance?
It is funny that Watson always gets out in the 90s, but this one wasn’t anywhere near as funny as the run-out against Pakistan last year.