The Sixth Sense
The number six spot in any cricket team is very debatable; do you go for a sixth batsman or a genuine all rounder? Come the 8th November, when Australia and Sri Lanka line up for the first test match of the summer, we will see what the selectors think.
The number six in the past for Australia has normally been occupied by a sixth batsman. Names include Darren Lehman, Simon Katich, Damien Martyn and more recently Andrew Symonds. Andrew Symonds was given yet another chance against England last summer and he didn't fail to make his mark. That 156 against England was the turning point in his short Test Match career. But recently the Australian selectors have been pushing a big blonde Queenslander, Shane Watson. Australia hasn’t had a genuine all rounder like England’s Andrew Flintoff or the great Keith Miller. The other person Australia has looked at is Victorian Brad Hodge. Hodge has played a handful of Tests for Australia and is surely in the pecking order for another recall soon, who can forget that double hundred at the WACA against South Africa.
Let’s have a look at the two all rounders who are contenders for the number six spot this summer’s Tests Series against the Sri Lankans and Indians:
The Case for:
Is the current choice for the position. His maiden Test century against England at the MCG was the turning point in his career. Coming in at number 5 for not many he was under the pump against a pumped up England bowling lineup he was slow to get going but once he got past 50, he was able to push on and open his arms and score freely. This was the first time we saw Symonds play comfortably in Tests.
The selectors surely couldn’t drop him after such a breakthrough series. Another thing going for him is the fact that the selectors have already stated that they are looking at Symonds to be a “Spin Twin” to Stuart MacGill. This means the selectors are still thinking about him, and have him in their plans.
The Case Against:
He is an ageing all rounder whose medium pace bowling isn’t that effective in tests. This makes him not as ideal as an all rounder as the selectors may want. Also, he is not a consistent batsman who can be looked upon to make hundreds and fifties on a regular basis. With the selectors no doubt wanting Shane Watson in the line up somewhere, Symonds’ spot could be under threat if he doesn’t perform straight away.
Symonds on his way to his maiden 156 during last years Ashes series
The Case for:
Shane Watson is the Australian selector’s dream if he can get his body in shape. Last season he was in the mix to make his Ashes debut and make his mark on Test cricket. But as always, he injured himself at critical times. It started in 2003, when he was sure to feature in Australia’s World Cup defence, then it happened right before the selectors were going to give him a chance at number six to establish himself as Australia’s “Freddie”.
He is a batsman who is capable of scoring double hundreds at state level. He is a bowler capable of claiming 5 wickets in the next innings – what more can the selectors want?
Watson has had the advantage of playing in England conditions while on duty for Hampshire, and also playing in a successful team at the Queensland Bulls. Normally, when Watson plays well the team plays well. His bowling can be a little one dimensional at times, he doesn’t seem to have much variation, but he seems to still claim wickets for Australia and the Bulls. His big hitting is valuable, but he is more effective when he plays his strokes at the top of the order, and builds big innings.
The Case against:
He has age on his side. That is the most important thing. He is only 26 but… has the body of a 36 year old it seems. Hamstring, back, stress fractures have all featured on his medical records. These injuries - particularly the back injuries - have threatened his cricket and it seems that there is nothing pointing to a change in the future. He has tried changing his bowling action back in 2003 and this has sorted out the back injuries for now.
For the selectors to really push for him to be Australia’s fourth seamer he must add to his bowling, preferably the ability to swing the ball or get some sort of movement off the pitch. This combined with a good batting technique and surely the selectors can’t say no.
Shane Watson's batting technique is second to none
Australia will start the summer off with Symonds at number six, hopefully continuing on from his form in the Ashes whilst teaming up with Stuart MacGill with his Off Spinners. The selectors will have Shane Watson playing well in the Queensland team. So that when/if Symonds doesn’t perform, Watson can slot straight into the number six position as another solid batsman and the fourth seamer.