In his swan song, Shane Watson was on song. In a losing effort against India in the World Twenty20, the Australian all-rounder scored 18 not out, picked up two crucial wickets and took a stunning catch to dismiss Yuvraj Singh. “Watson had a pretty good last game,” his captain Steven Smith said after the match.
On March 24, Watto had called time on his international career, saying it was the “right time” to walk away. In his 14-year career, the 34-year-old won an Ashes series, missed the 2003 ODI World Cup because of injury and was part of World Cup-winning teams in 2007 and 2015. He won the prestigious Allan Border Medal in 2010 and 2011, was the 2012 player of the World Twenty20 tournament and holds the record for highest ODI score by an Australian (185 not out).
Watson's flexibility was his hallmark—he could bat at any position and was equally efficient with the new and old ball. He could attack bowlers upfront, forge partnerships and finish off the innings, too.
His rigid body, however, could not keep up with the demanding pace of international cricket. He has had back stress fractures, hamstring strain, calf strain, hip problems, a dislocated shoulder and a heart attack scare, which turned out to be severe gastritis. Nevertheless, he had a long career and Cricket Australia described him as the “last relic of Australia’s golden era”.
Belying the popular image of an Australian cricketer, Watson got along with players from other teams and had an easy-going demeanour. He loves his music and was known to carry his guitar everywhere. Watson was selfless and accepted his role as a floater without any bitterness. “I know the experience I have had batting in a lot of different spots in my career,” said Watson at his retirement news conference in Mohali. “I am probably the most versatile batsmen in our line-up to go up and down in the order....”
His worst phase, said Watson, was in 2013 when, along with three teammates, he was suspended by coach Mickey Arthur for failing to complete a homework assignment. “I was certainly considering my future within the Australian team because, at that point in time, I certainly wasn't enjoying the environment at all,” Watson said. He played Test cricket for two more years.
International duties aside, he was also key to the success of Rajasthan Royals, which, thanks to his efforts, raised the inaugural Indian Premier league trophy in 2008. Said RR coach Zubin Bharucha: “He was totally devastated when he was told the Royals were disbanding. He couldn't believe everyone wouldn't be together anymore, and is probably still struggling to come to terms with it.” Watson, twice IPL player of the tournament (2008 and 2013), was the top pick in the 2016 auction, going to Royal Challengers Bangalore for Rs 9.5 crore.
His selflessness carried over to the IPL, too. He was always aware of the fact that the IPL was meant to nurture and highlight Indian talent. Said Bharucha: “He loved spending time with the Indian boys. Also, he loved backing the young Indian boys we would pick. He was willing to bat and bowl whenever required, based on the preferences of the Indian boys.”