Ashes 2013 could make or break Shane Watson's international career

Shane Watson’s form has been a cause of concern for Australia and he has not scored a Test century since October 2010 © Getty Images

Australia need Shane Watson to come out all guns blazing like never before. But Watson has to exorcise inner demons to bring an end to his miserable run in order to help his cause and that of his team, writes Devarchit Varma.

If Mickey Arthur, the former Australian coach is to be believed, then captain Michael Clarke has dubbed Shane Watson as a cancer within the Australian team. Watson has done no good to his credentials as an opening batsman by going for 21 Tests without a hundred — that’s exactly half the number of Tests he has played thus far. His last Test hundred came in his 21st Test in 2010. He scored 46 in the second innings of the Trent Bridge Test, but his scores prior to that innings read 28, 17, 23, 9, 17, 5 and 13. His Test career average which was once 42 plus has slumped to 35.18. And he hardly bowls these days.

Darren Lehmann has placed his faith on Watson to open for Australia in the Ashes 2013. It’s essential for him to come good as this series may make or break his future in international cricket.

Watson’s poor run in Test cricket has lasted for several seasons — it was against India in 2010 at Mohali when he last got to the three figure mark. And if Australia are to bounce back and win this Ashes, Watson will need to play a huge, positive role. At 32 years of age, neither his current form nor his conduct is helping his cause.

Coach Lehmann had sounded out the need of batsmen getting at least two centuries in each innings in the Ashes, and it will do Australia a lot of good if Watson is among those who get to the three-figure mark. He showed form with the bat when he smashed 100 not out off just 94 balls before lunch on Day one against Worcestershire in the Ashes warm-up match, and Australia hoped that their senior batsman continues the good run. But he failed to create a strong impact in the first Test at Trent Bridge against England, getting scores of 13 and 46, which puts greater pressure on him.

Australia have so far persisted with Watson’s innumerable failures — on as well as off the field. His poor run with the bat, his near-zero value as a bowler, fitness issues, failure to adhere to management’s requirements, presumably his differences with Clarke and former coach Arthur, and his complaints of the increasing workload while featuring in Twenty20 leagues such as the Indian Premier League does not speak well of him as a team-man.

Arthur’s recent claim of Clarke calling Watson a ‘cancer’ in the Australian team does no good to the maverick all-rounder. Watson has had his share of controversies and now it is the right time to answer back his critics. Watson hails from that generation of invincible Australian cricketers who put winning for their nation above everything and he won’t get any better opportunity to bounce back with a bang, than in the ongoing series.

Keeping in mind their chances in the Ashes 2013, Cricket Australia have put on hold their policy of promoting the youngsters and have backed the seniors to bring them glory. Watson is among the experienced ones who have been entrusted with the responsibility of bringing back the urn, but if they fail to do so, one can expect sweeping changes in the Australian side.

It is for good, under the circumstances, that Watson relinquished the vice-captaincy job after Australia’s disastrous tour of India, with his dodgy fitness not allowing him to feature in many of Australia’s recent Test matches and the workload taking a toll on his body. But as a senior player in the squad, Watson now has the opportunity to play with greater freedom and prove to be a guiding light for the young guns with his rich experience.

Watson did roll his arm over in the first Test, but his services as a bowler might not be needed — Australia’s bowling department is far more settled than their batting. If he continues to fail with the bat, Watson would risk his place, as the likes of David Warner and Ed Cowan have already done more than enough to prove their mettle as openers.

(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)