In his debut for Bay 13, Bryant Howie challenges how we view Shane Watson. It’s a great piece and easy to relate to.
Please show him your gratitude by leaving something in the comments section [Dennis]
As an avid cricket fan, in particular, a follower of Australian cricket, it would be safe to assume that Watto has polarised me in much the same way that he has done to all fans and experts alike.
My earliest memories of him were watching Mercantile Mutual Cup games where he was representing Tasmania (having moved from Queensland). At a time when Australia was dominating all and sundry, anything new and flashy was looked upon with intrigue.
Due to the local media and their seasonal group warfare looking to remove a senior player every summer, there was always discussion on who could eventually move up to represent the Aussies. So in that regard he ticked a few boxes but was not in the top 20 in the country nor even spoken about in that conversation.
He was not really in the top 20 when he was selected to play his first test and as far as a debut went, it was not memorable in any sense of the word barring his first delivery at the bowling crease.
Following that inauspicious beginning, it wasn’t until the home summer of 06/07 that his name was thrown back in the ring. After the urn had changed hands under a storm of confetti at the Oval months earlier, cricket was back in the minds of the public. Finally after all these years we had to start trying again.
Before the summer had started it was a race of 3 for the number 6 spot in the side. Michael Clarke had proven that he had what it takes scoring a ton on debut in India and also during his first home test too. Roy Symonds was the apparent answer to Flintoff. At this stage Roy had Flintoff’s number in terms of off field inebriation (Flintoff would capture that crown again following the pedaloo incident during the Caribbean World Cup) and was naturally a crowd favourite.
Then there was Watto, who was the captains preferred pick. Still to this day I don’t know why. As it turned out Watson was injured before the first test and Michael Clarke was put firmly on a journey that would be rewarded with Captaincy less than a decade later. What would have become of Watson if he had been fit for that series, would his career had of taken a different path?
That hypothetical question will obviously never have an answer (failing the resurrection of the TV show Sliders and Jerry O’Connell losing 50 kilo’s). Instead what we have seen is a decade of unfulfilled potential spiked with moments of record book shattering brilliance. The type of inconsistent career, which will one day lead Shane to develop either PTSD or an alcohol/drug abuse problem.
Yet he can play. There is no doubt there. He captures the audience in a way that not many other players do, whether it be for positive or (mostly) negative reasons.
The predictability of his failures and successes is almost comically accurate (injury, dismissal type and even scoring bracket). Yet he plays some innings that leave you scratching your head.
His ODI innings against Bangladesh was one of the best slogs the world has ever seen. Unfortunately it has been written off, as all the pieces of the ‘Watto success puzzle’ had fallen into place to make it possible. It was a dead rubber, the chase was small and the opposition was only Bangladesh meaning no pressure on Watto.
That is Watto to a tee, his failings are lambasted and his successes are dismissed as aberrations. I like many others hold that exact same opinion.
It was while I was doing the ‘housework’ watching the 4th days play of the final test of the Australia versus India series that Michael Clarke took a break from the constant browning of SK Warne during a commentary stint to drag out a quote that made me write this piece.
Shane Warne was warbling on about body language, Michael Slaters tattoo or favourite pizza type etc. Watto was bowling and the conversation moved to his body language and disappointment when he is dismissed (the long slow walk back to the pavilion, the eyes of a man walking the green mile for a crime he did not commit). For some reason I waited for Clarke’s response instead of dismissing this as more ‘Channel 9 nonsense’ and zoning out.
“Watto wears his heart on his sleeve and is such a softy. This is why we love him so much”.
Wow, so that explains everything. Watson’s value to the team is not measured on results, leadership qualities or any other cricket based KPI. Watson is admired for his softer side and, no doubt, the core values he brings inside the dressing room. Shane Rodger Watson is the Australian cricket teams, Care Bear (trademark Mattel).
I can just picture it now; Foot rubs to the quicks following a tough ‘bowling day’, setting the mood lighting at the close of play, organising wake up calls for the whole team at hotels around the country and world.
When you look back at all the incidents that have played out while Watto has been injured or dropped (Anderson hitting Clarke with a pad, Katich gripping Clarke’s throat, the aftermath of the 08 Sydney, India v Australia test etc.) it becomes more apparent why he is there. He is the symbol of purity and conscience of the side, the ‘spirit of Australian cricket’ if you will.
So next time you wonder why Watto is still playing, understand that his value to the team goes far beyond cricket. If only there was some sort of other paid position within the setup that he could do instead of wasting a spot in the line-up but oh well, you can’t have everything.
I will leave you with what is obviously another miss-quote:
Michael Clarke, following ‘Home-Work Gate’: “Shane Watson is a cancer on this team”.
Mickey Arthur definitely heard this wrong and also paraphrased as Clarke has clarified that he actually said,
“Shane Watson is like diabetes to this team because he is constantly killing us with kindness, what a softy, we love him”.