Published in www.cricketnext.com.
A tall man with blond hair and a scathingly aggressive style of batting may become a fearsome figure for Indian bowlers in the upcoming Border-Gavaskar series.
Shane Watson may not bowl leg-spin like his illustrious namesake and compatriot Shane Warne, but he seems to have that X- factor in him that could take him towards greatness. He also displays that intense desire to excel on the field that Warne did so dramatically at times.
Having suffered a spate of injury problems for most of his early career, Watson, now 29, really came into his own in the first edition of the IPL. He played a major role for Rajasthan Royals, the eventual champions that year, under skipper Warne. Declared man of the Tournament for his bludgeoning stroke-play and his nagging pace bowling, Watson proved to the world that he had genuine talent and ability. His tally of 472 runs and 17 wickets and his superb fielding in the 2008 tournament thus established him as a superb all-rounder.
Thereafter he cemented his place not only in the T-20 and ODI side for Australia but also broke into the Test squad. He moved up from number 6 in the batting order to the opening slot and has now formed a formidable combination with the doughty Simon Katich.
Indeed, Watson has been in such good nick of late that he has demonstrated the ability to shift gears from the steady to the spectacular at will. He bats with amazing alacrity despite his largely correct technique. He prefers to hit straight down the ground but is equally adept at cutting and pulling. Blessed with an eye that appears to be almost as good as Virender Sehwag’s, Watson is a treat to watch when on song.
A 40-plus average (with a strike rate of above 80) and 118 wickets in 114 ODIs, mean that he is one of the best ODI players on the planet today.
In T-20 matches he is a prized scalp for the opposition, for he has this innate ability to take the game away from them very rapidly. He is able to hit the ball out of the park at will.
He scored 7 half centuries and his debut hundred in his first 8 Test matches after he was promoted as opener, and although he flopped against Pakistan in England, he starred with the ball. His first Test century (120*) had come earlier, against the same opponents, in the second innings at Melbourne in December 2009, a match in which he also scored 93 in the first knock.
As I write, the Australians have registered a score of 319 for 1 at close of play on the first day of their 3 day match against the Board President’s XI at Chandigarh. Watson departed after making a fine 115, not his most explosive innings, but one in which he hardly erred in judgement against the pacemen or the spinners. India had better watch out for him in the 2 Tests and 3 ODIs!
Having had a stop-start career, Watson cannot be assessed to have set the cricketing world’s imagination on fire just yet. Nearing 30 now, he is no spring chicken either. But something about Shane Watson tells me that he is headed for greatness, and that greatness may be just one terrific season away.