Is it time to admit Shane Watson is actually pretty good?
For all the talent in the world, Shane Watson was never truly accepted by a skeptical Australian cricket public.
Whether it was the boyish good looks, capped off with the gorgeous partner and golden mane or his propensity to break down with injury, Watson was always on the outer, never viewed truly as ‘one of the boys’ by a public that, perhaps without admitting it, still yearns just a little bit for the hard-yakka, knockabout cricketers of old.
Shane Watson didn’t fit the mould. He was an independently unique individual who was often chastised first for a questionable review while rarely ever praised for some high-quality innings under difficult circumstances.
He was no Bradman or Border. He was an elegant stroke-maker capable of bludgeoning a ball the distance down the ground with the clearing of a rather large front pad, but for all the style, for too long the question was about the substance behind it.
IPL Man of the Tournament, again
For all that, Shane Watson became overnight an Indian Premier League final centurion and earned a second IPL Man of the Tournament gong.
Simply put, Shane Watson is one of the best Twenty20 cricketers of all time.
Watson was unstoppable as he combined skilled stroke play with brutish force to notch an unbeaten 117 from 57 balls and hand the Chennai Super Kings their third Indian Premier League title.
The final itself was a bit of a damp squib, with Sunrisers Hyderabad succumbing to a humbling eight-wicket defeat, but the performance of Watson will go down as one of the best. All the more impressive is that fact that Watson crunched his mammoth score despite being scoreless through the first ten balls of his time at the crease.
The blonde Australian would finish the 2018 tournament with 555 runs in 15 matches at an average of 154.59 while also managing two centuries and two half-centuries along the way. Throw in his six wickets with the ball and you begin to understand how dominant Watson’s 2018 IPL was.
A victim of expectation
Watson ended his Test career with a respectable but not spectacular batting average of 35.19, and ODI average of 40.54 and a T20I average of 29.24. Modest numbers in comparison to the expectations of a nation desperate to crown a champion all-rounder and combat the likes of England who had so effectively deployed Andrew Flintoff.
High expectations aside, Watson put together a solid career at the highest level, but has found himself developing into the almost ideal Twenty20 star. While the IPL cares not for the international commitments of most, generally enjoying what would otherwise be free space in the calendar, other Twenty20 franchise leagues around the world have certainly grasped the benefit of a star capable of performing consistently with no outside commitments, just ask the Sydney Thunder!
Unfortunately for Watto, this aptly named Indian summer has come largely out of the Australian spotlight, so many of those with baked in opinions won’t be budged by more heroics in some far-flung land, but for those paying attention, maybe we have to admit that Shane Watson is pretty good.