The glorious thing about predictions is that if you make enough of them, people tend to forget the ones you got wrong and just recall those you got right (such as that MS Dhoni run-out on 99 that we called a while back). Or very nearly right. You don’t even need to put much effort into them; including such stuff as ‘evidence’, or ‘facts’ usually just tends to confuse the issue. Instead just adopt an air of detached interest, as if what you are saying is so clearly obvious it oughtn’t be of surprise to anyone of decent intelligence, and watch everyone fall into line. Too afraid to argue otherwise for want of being identified as one of those lacking in decent intelligence. We usually call such people ‘James’.
Our latest prediction is likewise suitably lacking in any sort of reasoned working. We think logic can be taken too far these days, particularly in the case of an enigma like Shane ‘Shirley’ Watson. When dealing with such a character, it’s best to leave rationalism at the door, and operate purely in the field of hunches. Works for us. Well, it might. And if doesn’t barely anyone will remember anyway so what’s the problem?
The nature of our hunch (well, should probably say ‘my’, since I doubt anyone else will agree with me) is that Watson will be Australia’s best player in the upcoming Ashes series. He may well even just about win the series for them, as long as enough other players bother turning up to help him along the way. But success or otherwise aside (Australian cricket tends to treat success as a vague concept these days anyway), he will be the outstanding performer in the series, probably from either side. Expect him to make mountains of runs and, whilst not exactly snaring bagfuls, grab enough wickets here and there to make him a real threat with the ball.
What basis is there for this hunch, other than the fact the gin supplies have run low and we are once again resorting to mixing turpentine with Toilet Duck (which tastes just like juniper berries)? Well, not much. That’s the beauty of it. If it all goes pear shaped we can just plead insanity, and who wouldn’t believe us? But there are a few titbits here and there that have helped us reach this conclusion (some would say ‘state of mind’) so for interest’s sake it’s probably worth listing a few of them.
Firstly, it should never be forgotten that in 2009 and 2010 Shane Watson was clearly Australia’s best Test player. In fact he was as far ahead of everyone else as Michael Clarke is now (apart from Devereux that is, we honestly can’t split the two). What has happened since? Buggered if we know. Hubris most likely. Watson certainly never seems to be one lacking in self confidence. Injury is another of course. There hasn’t been any change in how Watson plays, he’s still that same player of a few years ago except, of course, in terms of performances. Obviously our hunch is predicated on Watson miraculously turning back the clock a few years. Shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. Einstein managed to figure it out, and he wasn’t even a Queenslander.
Our (again, my) conviction that this can occur is helped enormously by the fact that Watson appears to be in top form at the moment. Those who watched the series in India are probably laughing themselves silly at that idea, but it’s true. Honest, it is. Watson failed in India for reasons other than form. It was mostly because of issues rattling around inside that big old head of his that we’ll get to in the next point. But Watson is in form in the same way Michael Hussey was in form in 2009 and 2011. Sure his numbers were awful, but he never looked a bad player, and eventually everything clicked again. Watson is in the same position. He still looks as good at the crease as anyone. It’s just that he doesn’t spend enough time there. His form in the T20 World Cup, the latter part of the Australian ODI season and now in the IPL suggests he’s not that far away at all from his best.
The third, and perhaps most convincing, point (if any of these are in anyway convincing) is that Watson will tour England with no demons. He isn’t captain. He isn’t vice-captain. He isn’t even one of the senior players anymore, not with Chris Rogers around. All he needs to concentrate on now is himself, which is what Watson seems to be best at. The rest of the team doesn’t need to rely on his batting so much anymore now that he is bowling again (yes, he is bowling again). Everything is ideally set up for Watson to shine.
We could go on further, adding that his technique of batting with an open face and playing the ball as late as possible ought to help him in English conditions (although his Test average there is an underwhelming 33.7). But to do so would really only undermine our original argument, based as it is on a complete lack of factual evidence, or indeed anything even approaching common sense. However the lingering perception remains that Shirley is about to burst out of the blocks. That or throw a strop over something trivial and be replaced in the team by James Faulkner. Either way something spectacular is about to happen. Just remember who told you about it first.