Dubai: Shane Watson is a typical Australian cricketer: a big man with bold strokes, hurling fast balls and athletic fielding in the slips and the deep. The T20 leagues of the world will be poorer by the allrounder’s retirement from all forms of cricket.
When Watson struggled with injuries, the shorter duration games helped prolong his career. And he lit up T20 games all over the world: the Big Bash League in Australia, the Indian Premier League, Caribbean Premier League, Pakistan Super League and the Bangladesh Premier League. And he left his imprint everywhere. The blazing strokes and the big broad grin will be missed.
For an immensely talented player, Watson has a modest Test record mainly due to a spate of injuries. He’s been with the Australian side since 2002 but made his Test debut only in 2005. During his 10-year Test career, Watson’s body never consistently stood up to the rigours of a five-day game. So his Test record doesn’t do justice to his talent. He scored 3,731 runs from 59 games, including four hundreds, and claimed 75 wickets. His finest moments came in 2009 and 2010 when he led the Australian batting averages and was named Player of the Year in 2010.
Limited-overs cricket was right up Watson’s street. It suited his hard-hitting style, and it was no surprise when he played an integral part in Australia’s World Cup triumphs in 2007 and 2015. And he lorded over the Champions Trophy finals in 2006 and 2009 and was adjudged the Man of the Match in both the finals. An aggregate of 5,757 runs for Australia, including nine centuries, and 168 wickets are adequate testimony to his impact in One-Day Internationals.
If the ODIs allowed Watson to give full expression to his cricketing talents, T20 brought more fame and riches. A key player for Australia, he held several records and was the No. 1 allrounder when he retired after WorldT20 in 2016. That raised his stature. Even after retirement, Watson continued to be in demand in the T20 leagues as an icon and a marquee player. He repaid the teams with a bushelful of runs and wickets.
Some of his finest T20 moments came in the IPL where he won two titles: one with the Rajasthan Royals in 2008 and another with the Chennai Super Kings in 2018.
In the inaugural year of 2008, Watson contributed heavily with the bat and ball when the Shane Warne-led Rajasthan walked away with the trophy humbling the heavyweights. Along the way, he picked up four Man of the Match awards and was named the Player of the Tournament. He went on to play for Rajasthan for seven more years, becoming the Player of the Tournament in 2013 and captaining them in 2014. During that spell, Watson became the first overseas player to score a century and take a hat-trick in the IPL.
All these exploits helped raise his wages. Watson was the highest-paid non-Indian cricketer in the world for five consecutive years between 2011 and 2015, according to Forbes. He was worth every paise since he could open the batting to score quick runs in the powerplay and return to open the bowling in the search for quick wickets. He was indeed one of the IPL greats.
A two-year stint with the Royal Challengers Bangalore followed before the Chennai Super Kings signed him up in 2018. That was another fine year for Watson, who struck a century in the final to help Chennai clinch the title. Last year, Watson blazed to an 80 despite a bloodied knee in the final which Chennai lost by a run. So he’s adored equally in Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan.
As Watson, 39, walks away after 20 years of international cricket, he leaves behind some wonderful memories. It’s been an amazing career. Take a bow, Shane Robert Watson.