One of the areas of concern for the Australian team in the ongoing Ashes series is Shane Watson's inability to convert starts into big scores. One of the issues that is plaguing him of late is his rise in falling LBW to the English bowlers.
Although, the official reasons for the stationing of Watson and Chris Rogers at London were given as 'rest and recovery', even as the rest of the Australian squad is on England's south coast at Hove playing a practice game ahead of the third Test starting August 1 at Old Trafford. Australian batting coach Michael di Venuto it seems is doing overtime with the burly right-hander and his opening partner Rogers.
Watson is trying hard to work on his game and is practising behind closed doors, trying to stop becoming an easy scalp to James Anderson and co. The 32-year-old Queenslander has scores of 13, 46, 30 and 20 in the Trent Bridge and Lord's Tests. He has been getting off to starts and timing the ball handsomely.
However, what is going against him this time around is that his premeditated defensive lunge, just as the bowler is about to deliver, has exposed him of being trapped LBW more often than not. Dismissed in this manner three times in four innings in the current Ashes has created a sense of urgency about finding a quick solution.
England's bowlers, most recently Anderson, have managed to cut short his stay at the crease by targeting his pronounced front pad. Sure, Watson and Di Venuto would be working out a tactic to solve the issue but former Ashes hero of the 1989 tour, Dean Jones, has a solution in mind.
"He's got to counteract this with some real positive thinking and say 'OK, I've got a bit of a problem here, how do I get around it?' " Jones said. "I think he's got to have a little dance just before the ball is bowled, a little shuffle, that will allow his bat to come through straight.
"I would just say, just a little two-step dance - right foot towards point, left foot towards the bowler - and for him to be just slightly open at ball release. But it takes a bit of a while to get used to that because he's done this all his life, what he's doing," Jones was quoted as saying by the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday.
Interestingly, Watson's susceptibility to LBW has been a bane for him, especially against England. In the past, he was out leg-before wicket three times each in the 2009 Ashes in England and the 2011 series at home - making it a total of 9 LBW dismissals against England in 10 Tests.
Jones, who worked briefly worked with the Australian team last summer, argues there is a clear correlation between Watson's issues with posting big Test scores and the flaw in his technique. Watson has only two hundreds in 43 Tests and not one since 2010.
Like a boxer vulnerable to a big hook, Jones feels Watson's style leaves him with a "glass jaw" to the very best deliveries bowled to him in Tests, which a world-class operator like Anderson is regularly capable of producing.
"I like Shane and we've spoken about it," Jones said. "But at the same time it's about 'is his technique good enough to keep really good balls out?' If you make a Test hundred, I reckon you've got to try and keep 10 really good balls out and it's up to whether or not your defence is good enough.
"If there's a bit of room outside off stump he'll smash it through point or cover but if he gets one straight - almost like the Graham Gooch situation we had in 1989 - he's in trouble."
A match winner for Australia in his own right, Watson has five more days to rectify this imperfection.