Sunday, September 02, 2007


Australia Sweat Over Langer's Replacement

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The Australian team has almost been forgotten after not being involved in a serious cricket match since the completion of the World Cup. It has been an almost perfect setting to allow them to plan for the absence of Shane Warne, Glen McGrath and, to a lesser extent, Justin Langer in their future.

The replacements for Warne and McGrath are already in the system and have tasted success at some level. Players like Shaun Tait, Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus will be tried over the next few series to find a long-term replacement for McGrath. Stuart MacGill will do a reasonable job in place of Shane Warne.

It is the role of opening batsman that will be trickier to fill. The drawback of having a steady and consistent opening partnership over a number of years is the lack of knowledge pertaining to the relative quality of the bench-warmers. Phil Jaques was dropped after scoring 96 on ODI debut against South Africa. Chris Rodgers hasn't showed us his face in an international.

These two players, along with wildcard Shane Watson, are tipped to replace Langer as Australia's second opening batsman. Personally, I do not believe Watson has what it takes to be a Test match opener. A handy late order batsman, maybe, but not an opener. Mark Taylor has a point when he opines that Australia need wickets from Watson, more than they need inconsistent runs at the top of the order.

Asking Shane Watson to open may send him the way of India's Irfan Pathan, whose bowling fell away to such an extent that he lost his confidence in dramatic fashion. From the little he has shown us, I do not believe Watson's bowling is of a level that will rip through good international batting line-ups. Until he manages to develop a couple of balls that move off the straight at pace and with control, he will only manage to hold up an end for a few overs, at best.

The experience of Andrew Symonds has proven the size of the leap from ODI to Test cricket. I don't believe, and I don't think anybody else does either, that Shane Watson is a better cricketer than Symonds. If Symonds struggled so much after being given a consistent run, what fate awaits Watson if he is able to string together a few matches?

Keeping all this in mind, why not give him the best possible chance of success by playing him in a position where his is most comfortable - at seven or eight. We must remember that McGrath and Warne are not around any more to save the day.

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