London, July 27 (ANI): Australia should be cautious about including all-rounder Shane Watson in their squad for the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston in place of out of form opener Phillip Hughes, believes cricket columnist Peter Roebuck.
While admitting that the selectors do not have many options, Roebuck says in an article for the Sydney Morning Herald that Watson, is really an all-rounder who bats in the middle order. But he adds that the worrisome factor is that he averages just 19.76 in Test cricket.
Roebuck believes that skipper Ponting has his task cut out for him-The Ashes can be saved, Ponting needs to win the toss and find bowlers capable of taking 20 wickets.
The spotlight, he says, has been on players whose places are under threat and their possible replacements.
"That the cricketers concerned are the two most imposing performers from the recent series, a batsman and bowler (Hughes and Mitchell Johnson) whose breakthroughs were so startling that brilliant careers were promptly forecast, adds piquancy," he says.
"That the candidates to take their places include an old warhorse and an ill-fated crock complicates the issue. It's tough for Ricky Ponting because this is the side he has been building. It's fun to fashion a fresh team but it can go wrong. There's much less to fall back on," he adds.
Hughes has scored runs in the second innings at Northamptonshire, and has scored a stack of runs for NSW, Middlesex and Australia. So, according to Roebuck, there is no reason to change anything.
"It is no small thing to walk out with no runs on the board and face a rampant opponent armed with a new ball. All the more reason to retain the newcomer as long as possible. Only those in the rooms will know his state of mind. Provided morale has not been damaged, Hughes ought to play," Roebuck says.
Watson can challenge for the No.6 position. The attack does need a boost. Obviously it'd be hard on Marcus North, but he also failed twice at Lord's and lost his wicket badly on both occasions. His pull shot in the first dig was rash and in the second innings he left a gap between bat and pad. Although steady, he does not look like taking wickets. By rights he ought to be more vulnerable than an opener, he adds.
Whether Australia would be significantly strengthened by Watson's inclusion is debatable. The selectors have faith in him and their reason is simple - he can bowl at 140km/h and is a highly regarded batsman. However, he is 28 and promise has so far outstripped performance.
Unsurprisingly, Australia is reluctant to omit its leading bowler of the past nine months. Loyalists argue he's only had one bad match and deserves leeway. They add that he is still getting used to the Duke ball.
"To put it mildly, it is a generous interpretation. Johnson has had a bad tour. He's been in England for months. His action has gone to pot and his confidence is in his boots. Perhaps too much was expected. Like Steve Harmison, he needs lots of work," concludes Roebuck. (ANI)