Former Australian wicketkeeper Ian Healy says national selectors are right to axe Shane Watson for the second Ashes Test because the enigmatic allrounder looked as lost on the field in Cardiff as a schoolboy looking for lunch money.
On the flipside, former Test teammate of the pair and fellow Queenslander Matthew Hayden has rallied behind Watson, saying the 59-Test veteran should be given one more chance to prove himself.
In backing the call-up of Mitch Marsh for the Lord’s Test starting on Thursday, Healy said he could understand why selectors had opted for the security of Watson’s bowling for the first Test in the absence of retired paceman Ryan Harris.
“So they went with Watson but then didn’t use him,” Healy told Sky Sports Radio on Thursday.
“He looked like he was looking for his grade-one lunch money, like they were forcing him to play.
“When you’re a senior player … you need to show some inspiration and really bounce out there. Watto just didn’t do that.
“So I don’t think we’re going to lose anything with Mitch Marsh. Everyone rates him extremely highly and Peter Nevill (who is replacing wicketkeeper Brad Haddin) is very capable.”
Watson’s relegation – which was reported by Australian media on Wednesday but wasn’t confirmed by skipper Michael Clarke – could mean the end of his Test career.
The call has divided opinion as Australia get ready for a fight to level the series after being hammered by 169 runs inside four days in Cardiff.
But former Australian opener Hayden believes 34-year-old Watson deserves a chance to bounce back at Lord’s.
“I still maintain that experience counts in England and also team solidarity and unity counts,” he wrote in a column for News Corp Australia.
“That is why one more Test – with the knowledge it was make-or-break – would have been a good option.”
Hayden acknowledged the Australian cricket team needs to move forward and bring through younger talent, but worried about the incredible pressure on 23-year-old Marsh in such a crucial match and tough conditions.
“It’s very different blooding someone when you’re successful as opposed to blooding someone when you’re under the pump,” Hayden wrote.
“I’m not convinced this is the right time. The other downside of dropping Watto is the opposition now know they’ve picked us apart.”
Healy conceded Nevill faces a big test on debut on a difficult Lord’s surface following 29-year-old’s bittersweet promotion to Australia’s XI.
Nevill’s call-up came at the expense of mentor, good friend and fellow NSW gloveman Haddin, who withdrew due to family reasons.
“He’s got a good idea about his technique as a wicketkeeper, he’s going to really feel the challenge of this,” said Healy, who played 119 Tests.
“Lord’s is not an easy ground to keep on – it’s uphill and downhill when you’re moving sideways, and the ball wobbles a lot so that wrecks your timing.”