It’s perhaps right to call it the end of an era as Shane Watson retires from all forms of cricket. In the Indian T20 League, Watson has forever been a massive presence, featuring in all editions of the tournament till date. An all-rounder who shaped up into an opening batsman, the Australian has made telling contributions for the franchises he has represented.
Watson’s final message perhaps speaks of a passionate, lovable cricketer who made a massive career over the years through his strong will and incredible skills:
"It all started out as a dream, as a young kid, saying to my mum as I watched a Test match as a five-year-old, 'I wanna play cricket for Australia.' And now as I officially announce my retirement from all cricket, I feel crazily lucky to have lived out my dream, and then some. It really does feel like the right time. Knowing that I've played my last game of cricket, ever, for my beloved Chennai, who've been so incredibly good to me over the last three years. To think that I'm finishing up my playing days as a 39-year-old after all of my injury setbacks that I've had along the way, I feel so ridiculously fortunate,” Watson said on his YouTube channel T20 Stars.
So, what areas made Watson the magnanimous player he was in the Indian T20 League? What forced teams to back him until the age of 39? Let’s take a glance at his impact points.
Scoring rate: Consistency over 12 years is hard to find in a format that is fickle. But Watson has managed it brilliantly as evident from the progression of his strike-rates over the years. From a complete dasher that he was in 2008 and 2010, his first two years in the league where he struck at 151.76 and 162.28, Watson donned a more responsible avatar and scored over 300 runs in a season a lot of times. His career strike-rate of 137.91 is the fourth-best in the league’s history (min 2000 balls faced) by an overseas player. In the middle overs of a game, if he did manage to get past the powerplay, his impact is too good, striking at 155.35 across his Indian T20 League career, the second-best by anyone ever.
All-round showing in early years: While Watson has primarily become a batsman over the years, his initial few years involved a lot of bowling too. He picked up more than 10 wickets in a season on three occasions and even had one year (2016) when he picked up as many as 20 wickets including a best of 4/29. His best all-round year was still perhaps 2008 for Rajasthan when he made 472 runs and picked up 17 wickets in a title-clinching season for the franchise. He scored a half-century and picked up three wickets in a game twice – vs Delhi in 2008 and Mumbai in 2011. He also has a hat-trick for Rajasthan in the 2014 edition of the Indian T20 League.
Big knocks: Watson’s major value comes in his impact knocks under pressure. He has played some outrageous knocks under pressure, with quite a few standout ones, most notably the 117* in the final of 2018 Indian T20 League season against Hyderabad that saw Chennai win the title. His century for Rajasthan when playing against Chennai also features among his most impactful performances. In the final of the 2019 Indian T20 League, Watson once again stepped up only to see his team lose by a run.
Feature image courtesy: APF / Noah Seelam