Apr 212013

Cricket Australia has announced that Shane Watson has stood down from his role as Australia’s vice-captain.

Shane Watson

Shane Watson will relinquish his vice-captaincy across all formats of the game as he attempts to improve on two years of modest Test form. Source: AP

Shane Watson

Australian batsman Shane Watson cuts the ball away from the West Indian bowling in their one-day cricket international played at the SCG this year. Source: The Daily Telegraph

SHANE Watson’s decision to jump before he was pushed as Australian vice-captain is the start of his journey to redemption not the end of it.

It ends the fanciful notion that he and Michael Clarke, Australia’s least compatible leadership combination in 30 years, could have successfully worked together at the head of a team desperately craving stability.

Despite all the predictable denials, they were never close to the point that their suitability to each other was discussed by concerned members at Cricket Australia board level.

Most teams can afford to carry a teammate or two who are not on the same page but if a captain and a vice-captain strike out the whole system becomes fractured.

Once Clarke sacked Watson for failing to fill out a team document in India, the thought that Watson could have continued as a long-term vice-captain was untenable.

His resignation spares Australia the embarrassment of having to take the job off him before the Ashes.

Perversely, the best vice-captains are often those who never want to be captain, men born to serve, not lead, givers rather than takers like Geoff Marsh who never wanted skipper Allan Border’s job but luxuriated in guarding his back.

This is what Clarke needs a stoic, reasoned deputy like Ed Cowan or Matthew Wade, who can sniff the mood of a volatile, insecure team while Clarke’s back is turned.

Australia has a mini-leadership crisis because, as Australian Cricketers Association chief executive Paul Marsh points out, the modern self-centred generation is so concerned about their own game they are not keen on the potential distractions of leadership.

High-quality vice-captains are rare and special because they get no credit for their good deeds when the plaudits go to the skipper.

Watson, pressured by the demands of being an all-rounder in a fragile body, was always too self-absorbed for the role.

Watson’s claim that part of the reason he resigned was to allow Australia to groom a new leader for life after Clarke is difficult to fathom.

Australia has two Ashes series in the next 10 months. Nothing else matters.

With Clark expected to be around for at least another four years the post-Clarke years from 2018 onwards can look after itself. Humans might have landed on Pluto by then.

As a consequence of Watson’s resignation, Australia can now breath easy about the Ashes team announcement.

Instead of a cringing, downbeat start to the campaign with Watson’s likely sacking as vice-captain overshadowing everything else on team announcement day, there will now be much sweeter vibes flowing as we focus on the new vice-captain or a lucky inclusion such as spinner Ashton Agar.

Australia’s dream scenario for Watson will be for him to open the batting in the Champions Trophy in England and gain momentum which flows through the Ashes.

Despite two years of modest Test form, he is likely to start in the Ashes but if he fails he may not last the series and his Test career could be over.

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