Shane Watson Must Fix Rajasthan Royals' Batting, Starting with His Own Role

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Shane Watson Must Fix Rajasthan Royals' Batting, Starting with His Own Role
Mahesh Kumar A

The margin of defeat of just seven runs flattered the Rajasthan Royals.

In what was the third one-sided match in as many days in the Indian Premier League, Shane Watson's Royals were soundly beaten by a solid, if not perfect Chennai Super Kings' performance. 

The Super Kings have now won two from three and are beginning to find their trademark habit of digging out a way to win.

The Royals, meanwhile, have lost two from three, and although their bowling is proving frugal and probing, their batting is yet to function cohesively, and if things don't change, then the Royals' season could implode far too soon.

Last season when the Royals reached the play-off stage, Watson was integral to their success, scoring 543 runs and bringing the level of performances that an international player of his calibre should. There is no doubt that heading into this season Watson has been short of form, and indeed since it began, he has scored just 60 runs.

Yet there is certainly an argument to be made that he should be batting higher than No. 4 for the Royals. Last season his success came at No. 3, and Rajasthan's top three certainly lacks international experience and quality with his absence. 

Thus far the Royals' top three has been made up of Abishek Nayar, Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson.

Rahane and Samson are two players of immense quality, the first of whom has played for India, the second who almost certainly will. Nayar's inexperience has been a problem, however, and he has struggled to make an impact, scoring just 32 runs in his three innings so far. 

Of course, it seems harsh to jettison Nayar on the premise of three innings, but rarely do franchises without a regular international star in their top three succeed. 

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Watson should, as captain, and as the most obvious candidate—let alone their highest-quality player—move to at least No. 3 and preferably to open.

If he were to shift up to open the batting, that would prevent the immensely talented Samson having to move, and with Samson still a precocious and young talent, it would be advisable to make his season as stable and regular as possible.

Watson joining Rahane at the top of the order immediately is more imposing; however, it leaves the question as to who could possibly move into Watson's slot at No. 4?

The Royals are fortunate in this regard because they can certainly claim to bat deep, with No. 10 Dhawal Kulkarni top-scoring with 29 in Wednesday's defeat to CSK.

Indeed, they could simply shift Staurt Binny to No. 4, then allow their order to continue as it currently does (Steve Smith, Rajat Bhatia, James Faulkner and Tim Southee) with either Nayar slotting back in somewhere lower down or young and promising Unmukt Chand having a go. 

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This order would lack a bit of firepower at the death, but with the order as it is, Watson is neither here nor there; and at least in promoting him, it may allow the likes of Binny and Smith to accelerate the innings later on.

Rajasthan are normally good at making the most of a small talent base, but Shane Watson as the captain of the team needs to take responsibility. It's time he took charge of their season before it's too late.

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