Nothing polarises Australians more than Tony Abbott.
After him, it’s probably Shane Watson that causes the most fights at the dinner table.
This week saw the country’s whipping boy dropped from the World Cup side against Afghanistan, followed by a miraculous resurrection not seen since the days of Jesus on Easter when he played against Sri Lanka.
It is almost impossible to get a read on Watson.
Although flushed with emotional reactions to everything that happens on a cricket pitch, you never know what he will produce next.
Here’s the statistical stuff from his ODI career to date:
Batting Average: 40 odd
Strike Rate: 91 ish
Bowling Average: 31 ish
Economy rate: Under 5
Strike Rate: 38 and a bit
It’s a brutal human being who picks fault in Watson’s record. This is a reflection of over 180 ODI matches and a 13 year career.
Believe it or not, his batting and bowling stats almost mirror those of Jacques Kallis.
When we dig a little deeper and look at Watson’s World Cup record, things still look OK.
In fact, his batting average rises to over 50. His bowling is less receptive to the tournament, with an average at nearly 60, an economy rate over 5 and a strike rate over 70.
This is surprising, as it is Watson’s bowling that is usually the more reliable of his skills. It is up there with his use of the DRS.
So, if Watson is primarily in the team as a batting all rounder, why does he cop so much flack from cricket fans when his record is undoubtedly world class?
There’s HomeworkGate, the cancer comment from Clarke, his Test under achievements and that wretched walk from the crease when he is dismissed. That probably all counts for something.
The facts show he is only out this way 10% of the time in ODI’s. Surprising, isn’t it?
There’s also this run out which probably sums up how people perceive him.
But here’s the kicker.
You are doing Shane Watson wrong.
Your misguided animosity is all for naught.
The clever cricket watchers, those more astute than the average couch potato, are actually Watson fans.
They include gentlemen by the names of Ponting, Warne and periodically, the Australian Selection Committee.
With this knowledge in hand, you should be coming to the same logical conclusion that I am.
Shane Watson is the key to Australia’s World Cup success.
There, I said it.
Sorry Xavier Doherty fans. It’s no longer him.
The masterstroke, although obvious to many, was to drop Watson. No, not from the team, but down the order.
This Aussie side now looks more balanced than a ballerina performing a pirouette. Ok, it is still missing Nathan Lyon or Fawad Ahmed, but we can now let Aaron Finch become the new poster boy for underachievement at the top of the order. If he hasn’t earned that title yet, it is not far away.
At 6, Watson provides a backstop for when Maxwell makes 12 (4) rather than 122 (55).
In fact, positions 5 – 8 in the Australian line up now reads Maxwell, Watson, Faulkner and Haddin. No team has a better group of finishers.
Bundle this with his bowling and Watson now is the batting glue, the finisher, the handbrake when the quicks are leaking runs and the partnership breaker.
Who doesn’t want a guy like that?
You can have your Glenn Maxwell sideshow, Steve Smith masterclasses, Mitchell Starc yorker lessons and Xavier Doherty bench warming.
The truth, painful as it might be to some, is that Shane Watson will be the reason Australia win the World Cup on March 29th at the MCG.