He was once called the backbone of Team Australia. And he wasn’t just the best all-rounder in Australia but also among the best in the world. In a sport that’s so handsomely warmed up to star all-rounders like Gary Sobers- a legend of the game- and, Jack Kallis- the Protean rock referred to as the best in business since Sir Sobers- Shane Watson was more than just the glue that brought Australia together.
He was a superstar. He was meant to go places. And yet, despite obvious talent and burning potential, there’s been this twinge of sadness about Watson’s Australia career, so often damned and eventually, truncated by injuries.
With this coloured background, where there was marvellous talent but not quite the longevity, when Shane Watson debuted for the CSK- his brand new and eventually, victorious IPL outfit- there were concerns as to what might Shane Watson actually achieve.
And now that not only has been part of the title-winning outfit but has rather driven his team to the verge of its massively successful (albeit comeback triumph)- there’s no one pointing a finger at Shane Watson. And it’s not hard to understand why exactly? He was ebullient. He was bullish on CSK’s chances and ultimately, emerged as the raging bull who empowered the Dhoni-led side to arguably its greatest triumph.
Where no other cricketer managed to strike a single century from Chennai Super Kings apart from the Australian and his opening teammate Ambati Rayudu, the Ipswich-born struck 2 hundreds in this same edition. His final hundred, coming off 51 balls, massacred what was arguably called the best ‘bowling-unit’ of IPL 2018. So emphatic has been Shane Watson’s return to the familiar rich vein of form, previously associated with him in 2012, 2013- his most successful years as an all-rounder- that it’s earned him praise from contemporary Australia team.
The retired veteran was praised warmly for his heart-wrenching and successful IPL 2018 campaign where he also gathered a few wickets and looked sharp in the outfield. What was interesting, however, about Watson’s special CSK hundred in the final against SRH was that at one stage, he just wasn’t able to break loose. From as many as 10 balls, he gathered not a single run. But that was at the start. The next 41 balls would see him implode and touch nearly every corner of the legendary Wankhede.
Striking sixes akin to the ease of shooting a target from a point-blank range, Shane Watson was quite like the grizzly that mauled what seemed quite a shocked Hyderabad, seemingly stunned and overwhelmed by the onslaught powered by the muscular right-hander. So what exactly are the current generation of cricketers saying?
One of the current members of the Australian side, Marcus Stoinis actually feels that “Shane Watson is still fit enough and good enough to play for Australia”. Not that on current form, this seems like willful, wishful conjecture. But it seems that for that to happen for real, it might take a lot of strenuous work by the belligerent right-hander specifically in the fitness department.
While on the one hand, a slightly weighty presence marked by a muscular presence puts more effort on his limbs and bones and overall physical chassis, to maintain proper rhythm and to watch his body and safeguard it from injuries- Watson being most susceptible to stress fractures and ligament tears- may superimpose an onerous task on the handsome cricketer to look after himself.
CSK were clearly the team to beat this season. And in effect, this prevalence in the IPL can be attributed to the attacking style of cricket exhibited by among the most valuable names for any team across formats. That’s Shane Watson, without a doubt. But it is one thing to score in cricket’s briefest format and that too, in and beside a carnival-like setting and quite another to pull in consistent performances for Australia. Is Shane Watson prepared for the latter at all?