There are a couple of Australian all-rounders gunning for Shane Watson’s spot in the World Cup team, and the big, blonde stalwart is doing himself no favours with his recent form.

james_faulkner

James Faulkner

James Faulkner is an automatic selection when fit, and he’s well on the road to recovery. His incredible batting at the death is vital for Australia whether trying to score fast runs at the death, or chasing down a total, and his bowling is a huge bonus to an already top quality attack. That leaves Watson battling it out with Mitch Marsh and maybe George Bailey for a spot in the team.

It’s just one game, and there are still a couple to go before Faulkner will be ready to resume action, but Watson needs to address his own form to keep his spot in the team. After being caught behind for a golden duck in game one, the first nought scored by an Australian number three in World Cup history, Marsh duly scored 23 (from 20 balls) batting at number seven before taking 5-33 with the ball. In the same game Bailey made 55, but will probably make way for captain Michael Clarke’s return as it’s highly unlikely the selectors will move Watson on after one World Cup batting failure.

Shane Watson

Although Watson has primarily been picked for his batting prowess at the top of the order, he has been more than a handy bowler picking up crucial wickets and keeping the opposition run rate down throughout his career. However, his recent form hasn’t been anything to write home about, scoring one 50 and taking just one wicket (at an average of 200) from his last eight one day internationals. His last 12 months don’t make better reading, averaging just 27 with the bat and 85.5 runs per wicket with ball in 17 ODI’s. Also, he bowled just three unremarkable overs for 13 runs against England, with others preferred with the ball instead.

But it’s a common argument we’ve heard before, with Watson’s place in the line-up constantly questioned, only this time there are other members of the squad ready and more than capable of stepping into his place. Marsh, the most likely benefactor of any decision to drop Watson, still thinks there’s a long way to go before he steps into the side on a full-time basis.

“All of us know how important he (Watson) is for us. To be fair I think most blokes (would have) nicked that ball (from Broad). It was a cracker,” said Marsh.

“It’s the one ball you don’t want when you go in there first ball. It’s obviously going to be a tough selection for the selectors this week but I think it’s a good one.

“All the batters are in form which is great for us. This best thing about this squad is that we’ve got 15 blokes who don’t really care what the XI is, we just want to win and build momentum.”

That last comment isn’t quite true, but indicative of what a player would almost always say when a teammate is struggling. There’s no doubt Marsh wants to be in the starting eleven rather than just a member of the extended 15 man squad. And should Watson continue to falter, he will be there waiting to take full advantage.

What may play into Watson’s hands is the lack of specialist number three batsmen available should the selectors decide to make a change. Steve Smith is in red-hot form and could assume the mantle, while George Bailey showed he has all the fighting qualities needed to step into the breach with his return to form against the English. Or perhaps Clarke could fill the void himself? Or Marsh?

Watson does have a fine batting record at World Cups, he averages 62.14 from his 12 innings at a strike rate of 109.02, and with the Bangladeshi’s next up on Saturday, there’s every chance he will smash a huge score and make this argument null and void. After all, he has plundered 185 from 96 balls and 72 from 40 balls in his last two innings against them.

But make no mistake, the heat is on Watson like never before, and he will need to produce a big knock or two in the next few games to cement his place in the team for the rest of the tournament.