Leading questions: Watson not committed enough to take reins
Dan Quayle was once a heartbeat from the presidency. It seems no less disturbing that Shane Watson is just a bulged disc from the Australian captaincy.
Incredibly, as Michael Clarke's back buckles under the strain of his underperforming team, there is a prospect Watson - who left the tour of India after being punished for a lapse in discipline - will take his place. Surely the only selection issue surrounding Watson should be his entitlement to play at all.
Watson's consideration for the captaincy is symptomatic of the malaise that has gripped a team whose only hope of bringing anything back from India is a case of amoebic dysentery. A team caught between the need to impose discipline on recalcitrant and underperforming players, and a dearth of experience, ability and leadership.
Shane Watson: Captain material? Photo: AP
The pompous rhetoric of those who claim the Australian cricket captaincy is the second most important office in the land speaks more of our reflexive contempt for politicians than our worship of sportsmen. But Watson's elevation so soon after his hissy fit would still constitute the greatest backflip since Nadia Comaneci's perfect 10.
This without even considering Watson is now a non-bowling all-rounder with a mediocre recent record; not the latter-day Ian Botham he once promised to be.
When looking at Watson's suitability to captain Australia, consider Ricky Ponting; not as an unlikely alternative - although his recent contributions for Tasmania have erased memories of the ugly strokes that led to his Test retirement.
Rather, Ponting's unexpected post-career image makeover has provided a valuable counterpoint to the strange dynamics at play within the Australian team. Particularly, his devotion to the sport, and the team, that seem in direct contrast with Watson's recent display of individualism and selfishness.
A two-part Australian Story on Ponting portrayed another side of a player revered for his ability; but often considered aloof, even prickly. Not even Justin Langer's grandmother warmed to him, despite her grandson's testimony.
''If Ricky Ponting asked me to run through a brick wall, I'd run through a brick wall,'' Langer said. ''Not because I'm an idiot, but because he wouldn't ask me to run through it unless he thought I could get through it, unless he'd go through it himself.''
No doubt some of the misgivings about Ponting were entwined with three painful Ashes series losses as captain, and allegations of poor sportsmanship during the tumultuous Indian tour in 2007-08. Steve Waugh's dour facade was considered a sign of incredible mental strength. Ponting was often cast as defensive, taciturn, even sulky.
Ponting said he deliberately shielded himself from the harsh spotlight the captaincy, and his individual brilliance, invited. ''Putting on the helmet'', he called it. But as much in international retirement as during his wonderful career, Ponting's devotion to the game shines through. If the predictably glowing accolades of Australian Story do not convince, then the manner in which he has applied himself for Tasmania, and even club side Mowbray, this summer - perhaps even next - speaks volumes.
For Ponting, swallowing his pride upon retirement has been a small snack; not the feast that it would be for players who have achieved far less. Watson's abandonment of the Australian tour - albeit to be at the birth of his first child - is an obvious comparison.
Team sports must tolerate, and embrace, different characters. Australian team members tell an anecdote about a poolside party at a team hotel during a tour of the West Indies. Music was played, but not at unbearable levels. However, the hotel staff arrived several times saying a guest had complained.
Puzzled, they asked who was making the complaint. The reply: ''Well, sir, it's a Mr Bevan''. The individual - in this case fitness fanatic Michael Bevan - was tolerated, but he did not set the tone.
As much as Australia miss Ponting's runs, they desperately need his attitude - the sense of privilege and obligation he clearly felt when playing for his country.
Clarke has been intuitive and creative as a captain. He could not have done more to inspire with the bat - even if some critics, who have clearly never had a bad back, bemoaned his failure to appear at No.3 in the second innings in Mohali. But there is a hard edge missing to the Australian team. Elevating a player, who has already failed a test of commitment, to the captaincy will not bring it back.
Poll: If a back injury rules Michael Clarke out of the fourth Test who should captain Australia?
- Shane Watson
- Ed Cowan
- Brad Haddin
- Matthew Wade
- Peter Siddle
Total votes: 3239.
You will need Cookies enabled to use our Voting Feature.
Poll closed 31 Mar, 2013
These polls are not scientific and reflect the opinion only of visitors who have chosen to participate.