Watson's redemption song

Shane Watson continued his stellar run with the willow in the tournament to hit only the second hundred of an IPL final and help Chennai Super Kings mark its return to IPL by lifting the trophy.

Chennai Super Kings' Shane Watson struck a massive eight sixes in the final to finish the season with an impressive 35 sixes to his name.   -  Sportzpics/IPL

A little over a year ago, Shane Watson, the Australian all-rounder who was a part of the Royal Challengers Bangalore, was uncertain about his future as a player. The veteran all-rounder, with returns of 71 runs (at less than a run a ball) and five wickets from eight matches, had hoped to return to the Indian Premier League’s (IPL)’s 2018 edition in coaching capacity.

Cut to Sunday and the burly Watson emerged as the hero of the IPL 2018 final in Chennai Super Kings' yellow jersey. The dazzling all-rounder continued his stellar run with the willow in the tournament to hit only the second hundred of an IPL final and help Chennai Super Kings mark its return to IPL by lifting the trophy.

Those who saw Watson with the Royal Challengers last year were convinced that the all-rounder wasn't really enjoying himself in the change room. Obviously when a team that consistently fails to live up to its expectations starts to falter yet again, team unity becomes a rare commodity. It seemed to have affected Watson a lot.

Minutes after the final, Chennai Super Kings head coach Stephen Fleming “hoped” the change in dressing room environment had played a part in Watson's redemption. “Well, I hope a lot. When you look at his season with RCB, he was in and out, and he batted at four,” Fleming said.

The decision to make Watson open the innings worked wonders as the 36-year-old finished as the fifth-highest run-getter of the series. His 555 runs at a strike rate of 154.59 included two fifties and two hundreds, including the unbeaten 117 against Sunrisers Hyderabad in Sunday night's final.

Fleming said having watched Watson from the opposition camp during the Big Bash League, Australia's franchise-based T20 league, convinced him to keep faith in the veteran's ability. “I also watched him closely at the Big Bash and there were signs that he was in good form. Certainly every team that I have come up against, he seems in good form so the best way to get rid of him is to buy him,” Fleming said.

“I had no doubt he was going to make an impact. Fitness was an issue as it is a long tournament but he is more professional than even I thought. He is a bit broken now. Bowling, we didn’t have to use much but he has got through with one of his greatest performances.”

Watson's onslaught was a reminder of the all-rounder's memorable outing in the IPL's maiden season. After playing a huge role in Rajasthan Royals' victorious campaign, Watson had been awarded the Player of the Series award. Ironically, he had received the award by the Royals had beaten Chennai Super Kings in the maiden IPL final. Ten years hence, he on the dais in the Super Kings jersey, lifting the Man of the Match award for the final. For some, life does come a full circle!