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A tribute to Shane Watson

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Shane_Watson_Australia_cricketWhile frenzied Indian cricketers and fans praised the hosts' energetic win in the 2016 T20 World Cup against Australia on Sunday, one Australian gravely walked off the field with his head held high.

34-year-old Shane Watson, who had chosen to hang up his boots at the end of this competition, gave it his everything to postpone his retirement from international cricket.

He scored 18 runs, not out, from 16 balls, claimed 2 wickets with variations in his pace, and took a one-handed catch to dismiss Yuvraj Singh in what was effectively a quarterfinal between the two teams. The all-rounder earned well-deserved praise for his selfless contribution to the game.

Australian great Shane Warne said it was never about just this game for Shane Watson. “He has had a great career and he has his head held high,” Warne said after the match.

India beat Australia by six wickets in their final Super 10 match on Sunday to set up a semi-final clash with the West Indies in Mumbai on March 31.

Watson has always been more prolific in the shorter formats, scoring 5,757 runs in 190 ODIs with an average of 40.54 and taking 168 wickets at an average of 31.79.

He became just the second Australian cricketer after Aaron Finch to score a T20 international century when he made 124 not out against India earlier this year.

While many believe Shane Watson failed to live up to his potential in Test cricket, he has been one of the best white-ball players Australia has produced.

 

Two Allan Border medals, part of squads that won the ODI World Cup in 2007 and 2015, part of squads at all six T20 World Cups and player of the tournament in 2012, twice named player of the tournament in the Indian Premier League (2008 and 2013), but still so calm and down to earth.

This is the real Shane Watson – emotional, generous and humble.

The fact that the Australian public largely hasn’t understood this very human side of his personality has hurt Watson over the years. He can’t put his finger on exactly why people have reacted to his failures, his chronic injury problems and his demeanour on the field as if he’d kicked their cat or vandalised their front lawn.

Ricky Ponting took the time to get to know Shane Watson and understand what buttons to push, as did Shane Warne, and that’s why he considers them the two biggest influences on his career.

But even though Watson accepts he didn’t quite manage to jump over the lofty bar that was set for him as a Test player, he is ready to step away from international cricket with no regrets.

 

“I gave it everything I possibly could and I got the best out of myself, so that’s all that matters."

“I wouldn’t have done anything differently because in the end I was doing the best I could in the situations that arose. Did I know how to deal with those things that were happening at times? No. But I learnt as much as I could from those moments.

“It was challenging to try and deal with those types of pressures you certainly don’t envisage as a teenager or a young kid, thinking all I want to do is play cricket for Australia.

“Sometimes you handle it well, other times you don’t. People around you can be affected and it can put a bit of a strain on your relationships as well. That’s part of life.”

Of course, even 14 years after his international debut, Shane Watson’s cricket career is far from over. He will take over the Sydney Thunder captaincy this summer, and it’s hard to see the IPL dollars drying up any time soon.

But it’s unsurprising that Watson wants his final act in cricket to be a selfless one.

After all the criticisms and ridicule he has endured over the years, fairly or unfairly, the 34-year-old wants Australia’s next generation of young stars to know there is always someone to talk to.



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