Watson adds sweep shot in bid to clean up

Clean sweep … Australia’s Shane Watson plans to add to his repertoire.SHANE WATSON has gone back to the classroom and added the sweep shot to his arsenal as he prepares for his first Test series as a specialist batsman next month in spin-friendly India.

The Test vice-captain, who returns to the state scene in a one-dayer for NSW against Western Australia at the SCG on Wednesday, has made the most of his latest injury-enforced layoff by working with his batting mentor Mark O’Neill.

The two men have worked closely in the past fortnight to help the batsman adjust for the conditions he is likely to face on the subcontinent during the four-Test series.

Chief among their priorities was to find methods to combat the turn on the spinners’ wickets and the likelihood of a reverse-swinging old ball.

”There’s no doubt that is one of the key factors to have success over there,” Watson said. He made one of his two Test centuries in India, where he averages 40 as opposed to a career mark of 37, but that was in the role of opener.

This time he will face the Indians batting at No.4 and therefore more likely to face the spinners than his preferred quicks.

Watson is not a noted sweeper but, like Ed Cowan and Phillip Hughes, has worked hard to add the shot to his repertoire in order to succeed on the subcontinent.

The stroke was a valuable part of Matthew Hayden’s armoury when he turned his career around during the fabled 2001 series against India.

O’Neill has told Watson to improve his footwork by shortening his front stride, which will allow better weight transfer and reduce the likelihood of being dismissed lbw.

”If you step to the ball and your weight stays back that’s when you have to push with your hands and your pad gets in the way,” O’Neill said.

”If you take a measured step you end up with better access to the ball. If you’re doing it properly you’re letting the ball come to you.

”He’s modified his game with little tweaks here and there which will hold him in really good stead to play.

”Most of the technical work has been done and now it’s just maintenance sessions. He’s got into a position where all he has to worry about is watching the ball and hitting the ball,” he said.

Watson said the changes were not dramatic but rather a means to simplify his game which would enable him to play long innings.

O’Neill and Watson joined forces about 12 months ago after being introduced by Australia’s fielding coach and former Test wicketkeeper Steve Rixon. O’Neill, who has coached Michael Slater and Adam Gilchrist and mentors the rejuvenated Brad Haddin, said Watson had a great work ethic. ”If anybody could see how hard Shane Watson works on his game and fitness they would be absolutely surprised,” O’Neill said. ”He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve come across from a batting perspective, he loves playing cricket and deserves every success that he has.”

Watson returned to competitive cricket last weekend for grade club Sutherland. However, the intensity will rise when he wears state colours on Wednesday.

”It was good to be able to get through the grade game with no issues,” said Watson, who could be headed back to Sutherland this weekend.

”It would have been nice to get a few more runs but in the end to get out there and spend some time in the middle was a lot of fun. I’m really looking froward to tomorrow’s match if the rain goes away.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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