What’s on Watson’s menu?

V. GANESAN

“I am trying to prove to the selectors and other people that I am one of the top six batsmen in Australia,” says Shane Watson in a chat with Arun Venugopal.

Shane Watson is no stranger to Indian conditions. Or grappling with injuries, for that matter. The 31-year-old Aussie has had to deal with a dodgy left calf in the recent past as well. Ahead of the India tour, there was some ambiguity about his batting position before it was decided that he would bat at No. 4.

Watson, however, remains a critical component of the Australian side owing to his unquestionable talent and knowledge of the conditions. The New South Wales cricketer speaks about his role as a pure batsman, resuming bowling duties during the IPL, and the impending birth of his first child.

Excerpts from a media interaction in Chennai:

Question: Michael Clarke said you needed to earn your place in the side as a pure batsman. Your thoughts on his remarks?

Answer: All I can do when I am fit is score as many runs as I can. A lot has been said over the last six months over whether I warrant a position as a batsman. So, I am trying to prove to the selectors and other people that I am one of the top six batsmen in Australia. I can get picked as a batsman, as in the past, and my bowling is just a bonus. That’s where my decisions have come from, along with my injuries, which have meant that I haven’t had much continuity with my batting.

Do you think Moises Henriques’s game resembles yours?

There are amazing similarities between how Mo plays the game and how his career has evolved in the last five-six years (to mine). The way he bowls is quite similar to how I bowl as well. His batting has also continued to improve and he has had success this year. It’s exciting to see a younger guy coming through who has similar traits to me. Mo is a very observant guy and asks a lot of questions. He keeps his game simple, the way I try to.

Like Australia, that has lost Hussey and Ponting to retirements, India is also without Rahul Dravid and V. V. S. Laxman. Does that balance the equation a bit?

(The two teams) are in a similar place. I know what Ricky and Huss gave to the Australian team and you can’t replace that kind of Test experience.

Struggling Aussie... Shane Watson hasn't been in the best of form of late and he needs a good knock to prove his critics wrong.-K. PICHUMANI

It’s exactly the same with India. The quality of Rahul Dravid — I’ve been playing with him at Rajasthan Royals — will be sorely missed. The way he goes about his life is amazing. And India will miss that alone, forget the quality of player he has been for such a long time.

With your first child due to be born soon, is it a distraction during the series?

The due date is at the end of March. If my wife has the baby early, then there will be less chance of me seeing the birth. We are very comfortable that it could potentially happen that way. For me, it’s not that my mind’s at home, but I am really excited about what the future presents. If we have success here, it will be as big a success as I have had with the Australian team. For me, it’s really an exciting time more than thinking about other things.

When are you likely to resume bowling?

At the latter part of the IPL, I will be bowling — yes. The plan, for the last three months since I injured myself, has been to slowly bring my bowling workload back up to be able to bowl a few overs during the Champions Trophy and then in the Ashes.

I am also having a two-week break after this series. I had organised that with Rajasthan in July last year. I want to be in a place where I can hit the ground running when I reach England.

The IPL having played a significant role in your career, how do you look at someone like Mitchell Starc giving it a miss?

Looking at the amount of cricket coming up and how much cricket there has been over the last six months, you can see why Mitch is not playing the IPL.

The IPL has been a huge catalyst to my improvement, especially because I was not in the Australian team at that stage. So, I guess I was in a different situation. Getting into the IPL, it’s one of the more enjoyable times I have throughout the year. Rajasthan is really like my second family.

How do you look at your popularity in India?

When people come up to me and appreciate what I do... it’s the ultimate compliment. I don’t take that for granted, because that’s what you want to do. You want to be good enough for people to be able to enjoy (what you do). I’m very lucky I have played enough good cricket over the years in the subcontinent, and it’s nice to know that you are appreciated.