ALLAN Border believes that Australia's batsmen are an embarrassment to their country and that the selectors need to take decisive action to avoid an Ashes whitewash. The former captain offered a blunt assessment of his fellow countrymen's failings in the wake of the heavy defeat to England in the second Test at Lord's, picking out the opening batsman Shane Watson for specific criticism.
Australia have 10 days to sort themselves out before the third Test begins on Thursday week at Old Trafford, where defeat would condemn them to a series loss. There was, however, further bad news for the tourists when it was announced last night that fast bowler James Pattinson will play no further part in the Ashes series.
Cricket Australia confirmed that Pattinson was diagnosed with a stress fracture of his lower back following Sunday's conclusion to the second Test defeat and will return home to Australia after the third Test.
The veteran batsman Mike Hussey has also ruled out a return to the squad, saying he was "glad" not to be involved with the Test side, while the exiled squad member David Warner was forced to distance himself from tweets posted by his brother attacking Watson. Cricket Australia's dispute with the sacked coach Mickey Arthur also refuses to go away, with the South African now claiming that he is the victim of a "deliberate campaign" to undermine him.
Border, who led Australia for nearly a decade from 1984, wrote in an email newsletter to Cricket Australia subscribers that the national selectors needed to decide what their best team was - and fast. "Our major concern right now is the performance of the top six. I could honestly say the nine, 10 and jack [No 11 batsman] looked more competent than our one, two and three. If that was me in the top three I'd be embarrassed. We need to settle on our best XI and stay with it. I'm a believer in the pick-and-stick method, so we need to find our best XI suited to the conditions and stick with it."
On the under-fire opener Watson, who has now been dismissed lbw a record 24 times, Border wrote: "We all know what a wonderful player Shane Watson is. He looks like a million bucks when he's firing. What is worrying though is that he keeps getting out in the same fashion. Now who is to blame here? Is it Watson for not adapting? What about the coaches? In an era where we've got a thousand coaches and psychoanalysts and dieticians and sport scientists it defies belief a player can be making the same mistakes."
Watson's latest leg-before dismissal was on Sunday when James Anderson trapped him for 20, and Steven Warner, brother of David, tweeted: "F***ing selfish Watson sooner your out of the side you great pretender the better."
Warner on Monday moved to distance himself from his sibling's comments, saying he did not endorse the comments and fully supported Watson.
The chances of Warner replacing Watson are narrowing and the batsman will return from Australia A duty in time for the third Test. There have been calls for Simon Katich and Hussey to return, but Hussey - the so-called "Mr Cricket" - has ruled himself out, saying on Monday he was "sort of glad I'm not really in that pressure situation."
No replacement for Pattinson has been called up ahead of this week's warm-up game against Sussex, though Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Coulter-Nile and the in-form Chadd Sayers could, if required, be brought in from the Australia A squad currently playing in South Africa. Before that option is considered, the selectors could opt to recall Mitchell Starc after he was left out at Lord's, while James Faulkner and Jackson Bird are also available.
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