Like Rohit Sharma, Australian all-rounder Shane Watson also seems to be travelling in the same sinking boat as of now. Both have been getting starts and getting out, and that too to frustratingly soft dismissals. Unlike Rohit, who is a part-time bowler, Watson has an additional talent that of a medium pacer, who can chip in with wickets. But, considering his injury woes, Watson cannot be given a long enough bowl else he might end straining some part of his injured body. He did get Rohit out in the first innings, but that was more to do with a poor stroke than a good delivery. Considering his limitations with the ball, it is all the more pertinent that he delivers with the bat.
As of now, Watson is the most experienced player in the side, with skipper Michael Clarke having been ruled out of series with multiple injury problems. In that sense, he will be expected to play the role of mentor to some of the youngsters in the side. He definitely might be doing so. But, at the same time, it is also important that he leads by example being the seniormost player in the side. Before guiding the upcoming players, he himself needs to perform so that he can earn the respect of his younger teammates. So far, he hasn't been doing that, and the fact that he has been failing while batting at number three has hurt the team in a big way.
Looking at the inexperience in the batting order of Australia at present, minus Clarke, the hosts need Watson to perform with the bat more than ever. At the top, David Warner has flourished, but Chris Rogers continues to impress and disappoint in equal measure, as a result of which Watson often gets exposed early in the innings. The reason for Watson being sent at number three is to see off the new ball and carry on to anchor the innings. But, what his early dismissal does is expose the inexperienced middle-order. With Clarke not following him, a majority of the responsibility falls on to Steven Smith. He has been performing fantastically as of now, but what when he fails?
If you look at Australia's batting order after Smith, there are the Marsh brothers --Mitchell and Shaun -- followed by wicket-keeper Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, and the rest of the bowlers. While both Shaun and Mitchell are talented, they are still very much in the early days of their career, and hence cannot be expected to deliver all that consistently. When they do, it will make Australia's batting look solid, but until then teams can expose the chinks in Australia's batting order, if they are good enough. The reason why Australia have Watson at number three is so that he can anchor the innings along. So far against India, he has failed to do so.
Cricket expert and former spinner Stuart MacGill has suggested that Watson must bat lower down the order. And, while that is a suggestion the Aussie think tank can consider if Watson continues to fail, as they would find it difficult to drop him, the big question is, who will bat at that crucial number three position? The only alternative is current skipper Smith, who is in the form of his life. It must be considered though that Australia would be taking a major risk by exposing their best batsman so early in the innings. Smith is primarily a solid middle-order batsman, and if he gets a great delivery against the moving ball, it would be a waste of their most important wicket. Clearly, Watson's failures have put the team in a major quandary.
--By A Cricket Analyst