Friday, February 27, 2015

An Open Letter to the Australian Cricket Selection Panel: Why the F%&k Do You Love Shane Watson?!

The National Selection Panel
Cricket Australia
60 Jolimont Street
Jolimont  VIC  3002

Dear Sirs,

I have felt the need to contact you personally on this matter on a vast number of occasions over the past few years in regards to this situation - a situation that has been brought on by successive National Selection Panels, and not just you fine members of the current Panel. Finally, following the decision made in selecting the team for this current match, I realise I have wavered too long, and I am now rectifying this by addressing this correspondence to you.

As you will be well aware, the Australian cricketer Shane Watson has long been the debate of selection amongst both the media and the long time supporters of the game of cricket in our country. Despite a promising start to his career, his constant injury battles caused him to miss possible selection on a number of occasions, though when doctors pronounced him available again, he almost always moved straight back into the fold. Then, in recent years, as his performance on the field has failed to deliver the expected riches that his many chances should surely have cultivated, he seems to have received favourable treatment at the selection table, often at the expense of someone who may not have set the world on fire in regards to runs or wickets, but has certainly performed better than, or at least the equal, of Watson himself.

Now, I completely understand that your combined experience both on and off the field at the highest level of representation is a bit higher than the 30-odd years at country club level with half a dozen representative caps at junior level that I can offer as my expertise on the subject of National Selection. I know that every one of you has represented our country in Test cricket, and are more qualified in that regard compared to myself.
However - and you may dispute this if you wish - I don't believe any of you fine gentlemen has watched as much international cricket over the past 40 years as I have. I have spent my days and nights glued to the television and at various grounds around Australia, through the Centenary Test, through World Series Cricket, through countless Ashes tours, tours of the sub-continent, World Cups of various descriptions, and now almost every Test match, one day international and Twenty20 match that takes place around the globe. I have lived and breathed cricket like few others have since the age of five, to the annoyance, amusement and ridicule of friends and family alike. And the reason I have now felt the need to correspond with you is this:

In bringing Michael Clarke back into the ODI team for the World Cup match against New Zealand, your decision to drop captain George Bailey and retain Shane Watson in the final XI is the last in a long line of selection decisions involving Watson that goes against every logical method used in the selection of a team. It is perhaps the most damning proof that selection in the Australian cricket team no longer hinges on the evidence of form and statistics, or even potential, but instead is based on an old boys club where the people who use the media to their best advantage are the ones who get selected, while those that don't whinge or complain but just try to get on and perform their best on the field get the raw end of the prawn.

It is a ludicrous position that, despite a batting average that has seen countless numbers of other similarly-qualified batsmen being demoted from national teams, and a bowling average and wicket rate that wouldn't sustain any bowlers place in the squad, Watson's position in the team never seems to be in question. In fact, has Shane Watson ever actually been dropped from a national team? Is it possible that, since he was wedged into the Test team in England in 2009 at the expense of Phillip Hughes, he has never actually been dropped from the national team, and that he has only ever missed out due to his constant barrage of injuries - and that the second he is "fit" again, he waltzes straight back into the side? I have a terrible feeling this is completely accurate. For goodness sakes - you left out Steve Smith to fit Watson in for the first ODI of the summer last November. Don't you recall what a blunder THAT turned out to be?! How different would the summer have been if Michael Clarke had not been injured in that same ODI, opening up a place for Smith in the following game? You dodged a bullet there, no question.

I have no real brief for George Bailey. But he is a man you have entrusted the ODI captaincy to in Michael Clarke's absence over the past two seasons - and that has turned out to be a job that he has filled a LOT. And what has he done for you as a result? Averaged over 40 with that bat at a strike rate over 80. Won the majority of ODI games for Australia that he has been in charge of. And how have you chosen to repay that achievement? Good bye George, take a seat on the bench, Shane "Superman" Watson is back.

Since January 1, 2014, Watson has played 10 ODI's. He was "rested" for one of the England ODI's in January. He was injured before the tour of Zimbabwe, meaning he missed 5 ODI's there, and also missed the tour of Pakistan in the U.A.E, missing another 3 ODI's. He was also injured in the recent tri-series with India and England, and played only two of a possible five matches. So that is 10 of a possible 22 matches Watson has played. Not a good start.
In those 10 matches, he scored 222 runs at an average of 22.20, and took 2 wickets at an average of 135.50. Bloody hell!!! Quick!!! Get him in my team!!!
Are George's figures better? Well, Bailey played every single one of those 22 ODI's, captaining Australia in 15 of those games. He has scored 478 runs at 23.90. In case you missed that, his batting average is better than Watson's, over more games. And also, HE HAS BEEN CAPTAIN OF OUR COUNTRY!! And captain of a winning team as well! So where should your loyalty lie? To a man who, as of last Saturday, is the captain of our team, or a man whose form with bat and ball does not entitle him to play as either a batsman or a bowler?
Oh, you judge Watson as an all-rounder?! Really? Well, let's stack him up against the current crop. Does he deserve his spot in front of Glenn Maxwell, who is scoring double the number of runs, stops everything in the field, and bowls his odd number of off spin overs? Does he deserve his spot in front of Mitch Marsh, who is scoring more runs, taking more wickets (two and half times just last match than Watson has taken in a year) and is a far better fieldsman? Does he deserve his spot in front of James Faulkner, who has won matches on his bat alone and whose bowling economy rate is better than Watson's?

You know what? I know you know all this. You are the National Selection Panel. You have the stats, you've seen the matches, you know the score. And yet you continue to choose this bumbling almost-34 year old, because you plainly believe he is a match-winner, a game-breaker, a player too invaluable to ever leave out of any team. This despite the facts and stats to the contrary, that his fielding is close to abysmal (old age does that), and that he rarely influences a game positively with either bat and ball anymore. His younger all round counterparts have gone past him, and made him obsolete. And yet, you continue to choose him. When does it become enough? Does he ever become accountable for his form? How many more chances do you give him? 5? 10? 50?? Is scoring 20 a pass mark, enough to say he's safe? It seems to have been so for the past five years.

Watson may score a century in this match. He may take a five wicket haul. It will be seen as a genius call by the selectors, and this letter will appear bitter and biased and irrelevant. So be it, if it comes to pass. These are pent up feelings from five years of torment as an Australian cricket supporter, watching as so many players have had their careers stymied or halted for performing better than one player who just continues to be the golden child, chosen on selective talent rather than solid performance. And to be honest, I couldn't sit by one moment longer without venting these frustrations to the four men who currently have the power in their hands to do the right thing, but have chosen not to.


Bill Peters
Cricket Tragic & Frustrated Australian Supporter.

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