The Australians may have to ponder over their top-order combination just as the Indians would ahead of the four-Test series. As the saying goes ‘Well begun is half done.’
With news emerging that Shane Watson would not bowl, at least in the first two Tests, the Aussies would seek balance in their side. The big question is – Where would Watson be slotted?
Ed Cowan, who has formed a fairly successful opening combination with David Warner, sounded confident about retaining his place after a rigorous practice session at Chepauk here on Sunday. “I do not think there is any uncertainty about the openers,” he said.
Australia had a well-settled opening pair, the 30-year-old Cowan added. This left-hander might, rightly, ask what all the fuss was about?
After all, he and Warner possessed a healthy average of 44.59 as an opening pair in Tests. And Cowan, with his rather dogged style of batting that complements Warner’s explosive ways, had notched up a creditable 722 runs in 13 Tests at 32.81 with a century against South Africa at home.
But then, Watson, who can dominate the bowling at the top of the order, can be a game-changer. The attacking batsman has 1878 runs in 24 Tests at 43.67 as an opener; more than what he has made in any other position. In the 2010 tour of India, he conjured a dominant 126 as opener in the Mohali Test.
Queried about Watson’s batting role in Tests a few days ago, Aussie pace legend Glenn McGrath had answered, “I think Watson should open the batting.”
When Watson was dropped down the order, the intension was to reduce his workload considering his contribution as a paceman in the side. Now that Watson is unlikely to shoulder bowling responsibilities, would not Australia be better off with Watson forming a right-left opening combination with Warner.
And Watson’s elevation could open up a place for a pace-bowling or a spin-bowling all-rounder in the side. The move would also enable skipper Michael Clarke, the finest present-day Aussie player of spin with his footwork and range of strokes, bat at No. 4.
This is a pivotal position from where Clarke can control and guide the innings. Coming in at No. 5, particularly in the absence of the reliable Michael Hussey, might not enable Australia extract the most from Clarke’s immense ability.
Phillip Hughes, another attacking top-order batsman, is in the mix. But then, he could be persisted with at the No. 3 slot where he made 233 runs at 46.60 in the recent three-Test series against Sri Lanka down under.
“It is interesting we have so many men who have opened the innings in the top four,” admitted Cowan. He has been a good, honest competitor who strives to make the most of his ability. His batting is underlined by resilience.
Cowan is looking forward to the challenge in India. Although, he is a different player, “the sweeping success” of Matthew Hayden is his thoughts. While stressing the needs of the situation, Cowan also spoke about attacking the bowlers, spinners in particular, to knock them off their rhythm.
The opener is confident too that Warner would recover in time for the first Test, beginning here on February 22, from a thumb injury.
“Actually, the time he spent resting because of the injury could freshen his mind for the series,” he said.
Cowan would surely not be lacking in spirit. Will the Aussie team-management persist with him at the top of the order during this demanding campaign in India?