Sport Cricket Heartbreaker: Watson on the outside looking in

Heartbreaker: Watson on the outside looking in

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There’s a bit of Angelina Jolie about Shane Watson – attractive in so many ways, yet almost guaranteed to break your heart.

Fully fit, Watson is a tempting proposition for any skipper, with a bludgeoning blade recalling a prime Matthew Hayden and, with the ball, a propensity for swing that would make Ron Jeremy blush.

But he’s had more setbacks than Obamacare: a litany of hamstring strains, calf problems, hip complaints and back stress fractures conspiring to curtail his influence.

Now, after missing out on Australia’s thumping first Test win over South Africa with a calf problem, and the terrific pay-off on a couple of high-stakes bets in Alex Doolan and Shaun Marsh, Watson is on the outside looking in.

It remains to be seen if Australian selectors – who have so far made all the right moves – have faith in the 32-year-old Queenslander.

His bowling has been important in series past, but is becoming less so by the match, with Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle showing no signs of needing the help.

Of the 100 English wickets to fall during the recent Ashes whitewash, Watson took just four, and he claimed only two in the preceding series in England, although he was incredibly frugal, going for just 2.09 runs per over.

Watson supporters argue that his control and economy free up Michael Clarke to use Johnson in shorter, more destructive spells, but Australia didn’t seem to miss him at Centurion.

Similarly, Watson’s batting over the past two Ashes series has been solid but unspectacular and, for a man who has spent large portions of his career just staying afloat, he needs to be putting big runs on the board.

Casting further doubt in selectors’ minds would be his form the last time he played in South Africa in November 2011, with knocks of 0, 3 and 4, salvaged only by an 88 in the second Test.

People will debate Watson’s pros and cons, and his skill set presents a unique conundrum for the selectors and fans, which he seems to polarise into pro-Watto and anti-Watto camps.

There has been talk of a move down the order to keep him involved, but it must be getting increasingly difficult to fit him in the side, no matter how attractive a proposition he is.

For all his attributes, Shane Watson’s latest calf problem may just have him on the way to becoming Australian cricket’s heartbreak kid.

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