Shane Watson: the man with the plan
The single-greatest Australian all-rounder in business today is a frustrated man. The Indian tour has snowballed from bad to worse, and the light at the end of the tunnel could well be that of an oncoming train.
To start with, Shane Watson and his partner are expecting their first child in a couple of weeks and it’s bound to be messing with his focus. Second, he got sent lower down the batting order for the sole reason of accommodating a ‘specialist’ opener, when he has repeatedly professed his love of opening the innings himself. Then, there have been persistent bouts of injury-scares ever since the calf/hamstring cataclysm a few months back. And yeah, he isn’t allowed to bowl throughout his ‘recovery-period’, that’s three more months of suppressing the “itch”; a job that’s only getting harder by the day. Even as he hung around in the field for over 150 overs watching the Indian middle-order devour the Australian bowling department in the first Test, the bowler in him was straining at its leash.
“That was a time that reaffirmed to me that I do want to bowl,” he said later, “If I hadn’t have made the decision not to bowl for this tour … I could have had some input on the game at a crucial time in the match.”
Australia is a side in transition. With a whole bunch of youngsters looking up to the remnants of the Ponting-Hussey era, namely Michael Clarke and himself; the pressure to perform has never been greater. The most experienced of the current side in subcontinental conditions, the way he got out both times in the first Test must have been maddening. He has been going through a lean patch for almost a year now. The fact that Chennai had been a dustbowl from hell did not help matters.
But then, Watson has always been a frustrated cricketer. He was born with a brittle skeletal framework, which has made him prone to injuries all through his life; the single biggest reason why he was kept off the coveted Test side for 7 whole years after he made his international debut. Watson’s greatest strength has been his resilience; the ability to channel his frustrations into aggression. It’s not uncommon to see him lose his cool after being hit for a boundary, and express is displeasure in the worst possible terms with the batsman. With the bat he is a bully, adept at getting quick starts and converting them to match-winning knocks. His massacre of Bangladesh in the summer of 2011, when he scored 185 off 96 balls is arguably the most brutal innings in the history of ODI cricket.
The defeat at Chennai was a blow, but Watson wants his team to throw in everything they’ve got in the next Test. “We need to win this Test match. There is no doubt. We need to be certainly at our absolute best to beat India,” he was quoted saying,” We really need to play our aggressive brand of cricket where we are best as team. We will be making sure as a team go out there and make sure that we really up for the contest.”
And he reckons he’s figured things out. Until now, all we’ve seen him do is hang back in the crease and wait for the ball to bounce. “So now I’m trying to use my feet to get out to the ball and also have the ability to go deep in my crease as well to put a bit more pressure on the length the bowler’s bowling.”