Colombo: It was a special morning yesterday for Australia’s top all-rounder Shane Watson, who visited a government school in Colombo to inspire children to read books. The visit was also an opportunity to peep into Watson’s life outside cricket.
Room to Read is an international non-profit organisation supported by the International Cricket Council which aims to promote literacy and gender quality in education. Watson is one of the promoters of this initiative along with India’s Virat Kohli and Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews.
Watson took time off from training to visit the Prince College in Kotahena just before his team’s practice session. Though it is called a college, it is essentially a primary school with classes up to Grade 11. Watson interacted with kids aged between nine and 11.
“It is nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the World Cup,” said Watson, who was cheered by more than 500 children at the school.
“Once I started to understand exactly what Room to Read is doing in trying to get as many young kids as possible to be able to learn how to read, I was totally committed to the cause because I know how important it was for my development as a young kid and also my development as a person growing up to read. I would like to help out as much as I can to give young kids the same opportunities,” added the all-rounder, who sat alongside the children. He then read a book and participated in a colouring exercise involving his own illustration.
The kids then turned into journalists and asked questions, which were entertaining but informative.
“Who is the most difficult bowler he has faced?” asked one child.
“Dale Steyn is the most difficult. He is fastest and very skilful and he has got intimidating eyes. He does many things to get you out. He is my least favourite player to face.”
Another child asked what his favourite book was.
“My favourite is one I recently read on Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple. It is a great read.”
Then a youngster asked who his favourite Sri Lankan cricketer was.
“Quite a few, but Kumar Sangakkara is the most impressive cricketer to watch, be it Twenty20, one-dayers or Test cricket. He is a very intelligent person and every opponent respects him.”
Who inspired him to take up cricket?
Watson said: “My father. He always loved watching Test cricket. It is due to the love and passion for the game from my father that I took up the game.”
What is his favourite subject?
“Maths wasn’t my favourite subject. I found it too difficult. In school we had a subject called health and physical education. It taught us a lot about the human body. As a cricketer I wanted to know more about how the human body functions, and this subject helped me, as a cricketer, to know my body.”
Who is his best friend?
“Brett Lee. Unfortunately he retired recently from cricket. We used to travel a lot together. We both loved playing the guitar. It is unfortunate he is not travelling with me anymore,” said Watson, who was then asked who was his favourite batsman.
“India’s Virender Sehwag. He can play shots which others can only dream of doing.
“He is absolutely carefree and he does not care about the score. All he is interested in is hitting every ball for a six. I make sure I turn the television on whenever he is batting. However, my idol is Jacques Kallis, of South Africa. To me, he is the greatest all-rounder to have played the game.”
When Gulf News asked whether he is planning to write books for everyone to read, Watson said: “I wrote a book last year [Watto]. It was just about my experiences in my career up to that point. A big reason for it was me trying to give something to younger people, to help them learn from my experiences from the books that I have read. I spent a lot of time on it and put in a lot of effort to make sure it was exactly like how I love reading books. So hopefully people found that too and they read it.”