The T20 terminator

Watson basks in the compliments of his team-mates Michael Hussey and David Warner.-K.R. DEEPAK

Shane Watson’s first ball in the 2012 T20 World Cup got rid of Ireland skipper William Porterfield. This was a precursor of even better things and in the amalgam of big runs, powerful hits, key wickets and his sheer overwhelming presence, the Australian all-rounder has imposed himself on the event. K.C. Vijaya Kumar analyses.

Ever since he fired a bouncer and watched Ireland skipper William Porterfield spoon a catch, Shane Watson has dominated the cricketing universe that currently resides in Colombo thanks to the ICC World Twenty20 being held in the Sri Lankan capital.

The Australian all-rounder’s first ball in the tournament was a precursor of even better things and in the amalgam of big runs, powerful hits, key wickets and his sheer overwhelming presence, Watson has imposed himself on the event.

Read his numbers and then his impact becomes even more obvious: 51 and three for 26 against Ireland; 41 not out and two for 29 against the West Indies; 72 and three for 34 against India; and 70 and two for 29 against South Africa.

Suddenly the up-down trend in Australia’s recent Twenty20 forays is a thing of the past and the skewed rankings that placed it below Ireland, has become a subject of mirth. And the panacea for all blips has been found in the 31-year old’s big frame. “We wanted to make a statement,” was all that Watson said when asked about the Ireland outing being seen as a revenge mission.

The good times have continued unabated and whatever be the nature of the opposition, be it pace, spin or bludgeoning batsmen, Watson has found the answers. Fidel Edwards has been countered, Sunil Narine and R. Ashwin have felt the searing heat of his bat, and men like Chris Gayle, Yuvraj Singh and AB de Villiers have succumbed to his bowling arm. And it is not just about total dominance and pumping testosterone because Watson has also revealed patience as a key second skin in his bouquet of strengths. Against the Proteas, he was willing to bide his time when Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel steamed in and there was no ‘I-am-the-big-fella’ moves against the speedsters.

The vein of rich form — and the four consecutive ‘Man of the Match’ awards — has equally perplexed Watson as much as it has made his opponents look at him in awe besides rendering his captain George Bailey speechless.

“What can I say? I am at a loss for words,” the skipper said before lauding the Watson-impact.

In press conferences, and Watson has attended four already, scribes have wondered about his ability to pummel with consistency and they have also scratched their heads to find an alternate word for ‘purple-patch.’ “Things are just going my way now, I suppose. You always prepare as well as you can and hope things go well. Things just sort of seem to be falling my way nicely. I know how quickly things can turn, your form can go against you, so you got to make the most of what you can, I suppose,” Watson said.

The man, who has coped with injuries and form woes in his nascent years, found his own space after Andrew Symonds lost himself in the pitfalls of the merry times off the field. There is a certain intelligence to the way Watson has rescued his career and during that phase when he turned it around for the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League, his then captain Shane Warne said: “I believe in common sense and not in computers.”

Perhaps that elemental gut-feel also defines Watson’s approach to cricket.

Watson may seem to be a force of nature thriving on the sixth-sense and strong limbs, but there is also an analytical brain ticking inside his skull.

“I know how important every game is to us and in a World Cup there is no game where you can take your foot off the pedal.

"I know how important it is for me to continue to do the simple keys and cues that I have got for both batting and bowling to be able to hopefully replicate in one game after another and have a good day,” he said.

The references to Watson have gained a mythical air over the past 10 days and the inevitable comparisons with the great Jacques Kallis cropped up. An embarrassed Watson, aware of the long journey he still has to make to be judged on the same scale as the legendary South African all-rounder, said: “What I do know is that I find myself nowhere near as good as Jacques Kallis.

"The things that he has achieved in his career are absolutely mindboggling. It is a privilege to be able to play in the same era as Jacques. He is going to go down as, if not the greatest player ever who played the game, he will certainly be in the top couple.”

This humility and self-awareness will surely help Watson last the distance and while other teams like India still search for that one quality all-rounder to lend balance to the squad, Australia is truly fortunate to find a man, who has found such a strong second wind that he seems to be riding a typhoon.