Reviewing Watson

December 18, 2021

Shane Watson’s ESPNcricinfo profile is smiling at me. It shouldn’t be. It should be looking sheepish. It should be apologising. It should be trying to show me that he’s changed, that he’s learnt and that in the future things will get better.

I don’t know how you convey that in a picture, but Shane Watson needs to learn it. But Shane Watson doesn’t learn, does he.

If he was a learner, he might not put his front foot in the exact same place every single delivery. If he was a learner, he might not continually fail to turn starts into bigger scores. If he was a learner, he would not decide to review decisions based on no actual evidence.

There is no current player in world cricket who should understand the Laws of lbw more than Shane Watson. Shane Watson is a walking lbw against seam bowling. That massive trunk he calls a leg slams down in front of off stump and dares bowlers to hit it. And they do. Even in a game where he goes out in another way, or dominates the attack, they hit his pad repeatedly.

He should know the Laws inside and out. He should, just by feel of where the ball hits him, now know whether he is out or not. I mean his leg never moves, so he’s more reliable than the blue stripe on the pitch or any weapon technology that a TV company can pay for. He is the constant.

And yet, he never seems to believe it is even possible for him to be out lbw. This was his sixth review of such a dismissal. That is six times Shane Watson has believed he will overturn the umpire’s decision on a form of dismissal that he is out to almost 30% of the time. Does he think his pad is being picked on, or does he really just not understand the Laws of the game?

Or is it the playing conditions of the game?

Thanks to Charlotte Edwards, even the Queen now understands DRS. Yet it seems that to Shane Watson it is a mystery. To get a decision overturned on an lbw, the ball needs to be missing the stumps completely, hitting 100% outside the line of off stump or to have pitched outside leg stump.

Being that Watson’s kind of lbws never really include the leg side, he has picked the two 100% rules of the DRS to overcome. That is stupid. And to do it more than once, twice or even thrice, is unprofessional and egotistical. We’ve all seen the Hawk Eye, it’s like that digital ball always nicks the stumps, no matter what the situation. So taking that on seems joyless.

And as for being outside the line of off stump, Watson should know that the chances are if you put your foot in the same place every single time, your leg isn’t about to be outside off stump that one time. Watson could even just look at the hole on the pitch he has made from the repetitive footprints to double check.

Now even if, as Darren Lehmann has said, that Chris Rogers told Watson to review it – that may have happened, even if it didn’t look like it when watching the incident happen – none of this changes the fact that Watson clearly wanted to review it, he’s a senior player who was hit dead in front, it is his responsibility to the team to choose the best option.

If you’ve never seen a batsman use a review based purely on his own ego, you’ve not watched modern cricket. But to do it so often and recklessly with so little chance of redemption in a team with more managers and staff than a Tina Turner gig is nowhere near good enough. Australia should be better, Shane Watson should be better.

When you have a weak batting side, you need to use your reviews smartly. Overturning lbws that you haven’t smashed onto your pads is not smart. The follow on effect from a shockingly idiotic review is that the next person doesn’t want to use the review for fear of using both of them. So Chris Rogers, who could have gone about his quiet quirky accumulation on his home pitch, was instead sent off the field confused having missed one of the worst balls to get a wicket in Test cricket history.

All the reviews were gone by the time Michael Clarke came in.

This pitiful batting performance reminds us again just how ordinary Australia’s batting line-up is. It doesn’t need a batsman using a review based on the fact that he simply cannot believe he might be out lbw.

That was the review of a petulant child not a 32-year-old veteran of world cricket.

Some ex players leapt to his defence when Pat Howard said: “I know Shane reasonably well – I think he acts in the best interests of the team – sometimes.” Those same players would find it hard to defend Watson on grounds he was acting in the best interests of the team. He was hit plumb in front of the stumps. Rogers seemed to tell him not to refer it. The English players openly laughed at him as he referred it. Yet, Watson still did.

This is a man who has dominated world tournaments. Who can bowl immaculate dry spells. Who has a safe pair of hands. Who can change the shape of a match in so many ways.

But Shane Watson is a Test opener with an average of 35. He regularly gets out in the same way. He has tried to retire from bowling a few times. He was suspended while vice-captain. He has issues with his captain. He bowled in the IPL after stating he wouldn’t bowl in Tests. And he uses reviews in a way that does not help his side.

It’s hard to be on his side.

Shane Watson may have the natural skills and confidence to win Australia Test matches, but he has the behaviour and results of a man who virtually never has.

Since I first heard his name, I’ve wanted to believe in Shane Watson. But in Test cricket he’s a myth. And he can review my findings if he wants, but right at this moment, I’m pretty sure the evidence backs me up.