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Goodbye, Watto

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Shane_Watson_Australia_cricketVery few in the history of cricket have distinguished themselves as world class all-rounders who could hold their own in both the batting and bowling departments. When it comes to fast bowling all rounders, the likes of Sir Garry Sobers, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan and Jacques Kallis fall in that elite bracket. Shane Watson has not quite joined this illustrious list, but he has cemented his place as one of the finest all-rounders in modern cricket.

"One morning I woke up in Dharamsala, waking up to the beautiful view and I don’t know what it was exactly but I knew now was the right time,” saying this, Shane Watson referred to the T20 World Cup as the swansong of his significant career. The decision was always round the corner ever since he announced his Test retirement during the Ashes last year. With more than 10,000 runs and almost 300 wickets in all forms of the game, Shane Watson will undoubtedly go down in history as a truly versatile, talented and prolific all rounder.

When he made his debut back in 2002, he was considered a fast bowler who was handy with the bat and he did evolve into one of the foremost crusaders of reverse swing. But later in his career, he would go on to pile up runs and create for himself a reputation of striking the ball cleanly and powerfully. He was a seasonal performer for Australia and had his own share of ups and downs. Despite not being considered a technical sound batsman, Shane Watson had enormous natural ability, and multiple moments in his career underlined his value to the Aussies.

 

He had stints at various batting spots in the Australian line up in all formats. In spite of this shuffling about, he was still capable of keeping a place (if not the same place) in a star-filled Aussie side, which proved his brilliance on the field.

His stupendous performance in the first season of IPL also earned him the 'Man of the Tournament' during the Rajasthan Royals’ triumph under the captaincy of Shane Warne, a significant elder in Watson’s cricketing life. This helped him unleash his potential, taking him to another level at the international stage.

“It was the catalyst to getting back and playing well internationally, playing better than I ever had internationally. I’ll certainly never ever forget that.”

In the years that followed in, he garnered more success and plaudits as a regular in the ODI team and cementing his position in the Test side as well. He was also a recipient of the Allan Border medal twice, a feat surpassed only by Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke.

He was the Man of the Tournament in Australia's second consecutive Champions Trophy triumph in 2009, as well as in the T20 World Cup in 2012, where Australia failed to cross the hurdle of the semi final.

 

He had learnt to accept failures while winning accolades worldwide. Injuries had been an integral part of his career, but he always exuded confidence in his fitness and came back even stronger. After his retirement in Tests, he was asked why he couldn't quite manage to jump over the soaring standards that were set for him as a Test player. He responded, 'I gave it everything I possibly could and I got the best out of myself, so that’s all that matters.'

Though he could never be a fan favourite in Australia, he had fans galore going wild at the shortest glimpse of him in India. Watson remained approachable, courteous and straightforward despite the fame and the brickbats. Perhaps he could have expressed his talent more freely if he had been ‘harder’, that nebulous quality so valued by Australians. At the same time, his temperament helped him grow as a cricketer in many ways.

He was a warrior on the field, and a great asset for whichever team he played, whether it was for his national side, or for his clubs, like Rajasthan Royals in the IPL or Sydney Thunder in the BBL. Whenever his team needed wickets or extra overs from him, he was readily available to bowl with all his heart. He was there to hit big runs when the situation required it of him. This helped him gain the confidence of his captains who gave their backing and showed their faith in him.

As Shane Watson stepped back into the pavilion one last time against India in Mohali, there was a disappointment in him as Australia were knocked out from the T20 World Cup , a title that has thus far eluded them. Even in his last game, he played like a champion, giving his all to the team. He stayed not out, gave his best while bowling under pressure and also took an outstanding catch.

At the end, he was gracious, as always, smiling on his way back with his head held high. His teammates, his opponents and his fans around the world applauded him as he strode off the field. Handshakes followed as they bade farewell to the man who built a legacy of being a truly great all rounder, and a wonderful person to boot.

Thank you, Watto, for the great memories.

Time passes away, but the Memories stay forever.



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