Pakistan v Australia Test - Men's

Watson's plea to national selectors

No more horses for courses says Watson ahead of Test series against Pakistan

Sam Ferris

10 September 2018, 12:00 PM

Former Test allrounder Shane Watson has implored Australia's selectors pick and stick this summer, starting with No.3 Usman Khawaja for next month's Test tour of the UAE.

Khawaja all but assured his selection for the two-Test tour against Pakistan with a century for Australia A in the first four-day match against their Indian counterparts in Bengaluru last week.

It was the 31-year-old's maiden first-class century in India and a timely boost ahead of Australia announcing their Test squad for the UAE.

While Khawaja is a certain starter on home soil where he averages 59, he has been sporadically selected in Asia, dropped partway through series in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and overlooked entirely in India last year.

Last October, he aired his frustration about the way Australia's selectors had chopped and changed the Test XI, saying it is "very hard to develop your game and play some consistent cricket if you're not getting consistent opportunities overseas, which I haven't been getting”.

But with Steve Smith and David Warner suspended, Khawaja and Western Australia's Shaun Marsh are now the most senior batsmen in the country and Watson wants the Queenslander to be a constant figure moving forward, regardless of the conditions, opponent or format.

"I hope 'Uzzie' (Khawaja) gets a really good run," Watson told cricket.com.au. 

"He's one of our world-class batsmen, across all formats. He just needs to have the confidence instilled in him by the selectors and by the coaching staff, to let him play with the freedom he does when he's at his best.

"We don't have a lot of world-class batsmen at the moment around Australian cricket and he's absolutely one.

"But when he's not getting selected all the time, he's worried about failing. Then you can see him going into his shell and that's not when he's at his best.

"When he is at his best he's one of the best ones we've got.

"So they need to look after him. If they keep playing him for one or two Test matches and then dropping him, that's not getting the best out of him."

Khawaja looks set to play in the first Test in Dubai // Getty
Khawaja looks set to play in the first Test in Dubai // Getty

While Watson called out Khawaja specifically, the Sydney Thunder skipper wants to see the same selection philosophy applied to all national players.

During his playing career, Watson felt the surgeon's knife more than the selectors' axe, but he knows better than anyone the mental strain playing international sport can have on top-level athletes.

It's why he wants to see the selectors - Trevor Hohns, Greg Chappell and coach Justin Langer - to show faith in their players and resist making knee-jerk reactions after one or two poor performances.

"When you're not performing in any walk of life, then you can sense when the heat is starting to come on," Watson said.

"The biggest challenge, mentally, is not letting that infiltrate when you're playing at your best.

"Because when you're playing at your best, you're not thinking about needing to score runs, you're thinking about how and where I am going to score my runs.

"That's where they need to get back to in Australian cricket. Give them the confidence that they have got time, they can play their natural game, not play someone in one Test match and then drop them.

"Because then it's not just the player that gets dropped, the other players around then go 'if they can drop him that, quick I better score runs'. And then the person coming in would be thinking 'if I don’t score runs in this first game, then I might be out as well'.

"They just need get a lot more consistent with selection. Trust their instincts on who they pick and also trust they've picked the world-class players we've got and stick with them.

"Just because you don't score runs for the first couple of games it doesn't mean you're done and there's someone waiting in the wings ready to take off and kill it."

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