* Results at the end of the article Long article, but I really do hope you enjoy my article on Shane Watson, the Player of the summer!
THE BAGGY GREEN BLOG PLAYER OF THE SUMMER winner: SHANE 'WATTO' WATSON
In 2002 Shane Watson surfaced as a cricketer who had been dubbed by a number of cricket hotshots as a 'special talent'. He even won the Bradman Young Cricketer Award at the Allan Border medal awards in 2002.
When he was called into the Australian side the impression he'd have to make would need to be extraordinary nestled amongst one of the finest Australian cricket teams to ever play the game in not only One Day Internationals, but also Test cricket.
People came to know of Shane Watson, but it would still be 7 years until he'd become a household name of sorts. This was as a result of one big issue which would result in this lengthy wait, and that was constant injury!
Having started out with Queensland he made a move to Tasmania for a short stint to settle himself as an emerging all-rounder and to try make a name for himself in a side that was slightly lower key than the rest of the State sides. He returned to Queensland where he'd spend the bulk of his State days.
From his debut in the 2001/02 season his appearances were rare but each season Shane Watson would be in the team line-up, but by the season of 2004/05 injuries had become a huge problem for him and it ended up becoming an inconsistent pattern for Watto, with a wait and see mentality. He'd be in for a couple of games then out again, then back again and out again. These injuries began to pave the way for other young cricketers, notably Michael Clarke, and slowly but surely each injury was putting Watto back into the shadows of International cricket. It started to seem he'd never build upon a below par start to a potential Test career or become a cemented member of the Squad.
Things began to improve. In the 2007 World Cup he played a crucial innings against New Zealand where he played one of the most exciting, bold innings of his career and it's a personal highlight for me. He was innovative with his shot selection and really pulverized the Black Cap bowlers to execute a late innings assault that was amongst the best you'd find to give your side a winning chance.
He was a key contributor to the 2007 World Cup success and didn't get dismissed once with the bat proving his importance in the middle order.
In the 2007 ICC T20 Trophy against Sri-Lanka he cramped up and while watching the game I immediately thought that was that. It was frustrating to watch a fine young cricketer on the edge of taking his career to a new level when suddenly it was all put back on hold, again!
The selectors were becoming frustrated, the players even seemed to become frustrated but it was disappointment for Watto. This seemed to be the injury that would end it all.
A long time away rehabilitating the body saw Watto return to State cricket where his stats were far from convincing but after a remodeled bowling action and with the departure of most of the players he had come up against on Debut back in the 2001/02 season, it was the golden opportunity for him, the opportunity that would probably be his last one.
In the 2008 season, the Aussies travelled to the Carribbean to take on the Windies. Matthew Hayden pulled out of the tour with an injury when Simon Katich has his golden return ticket to represent the Baggy Green. Not being a specialist ODI player, with Haydos still out of the side, Watto made the trip following a dominating IPL stint where he was the Player of the series. He ended up making his maiden century in the Windies series.
Based upon his brilliant return the selectors gave him a chance to return to the Baggy Green to play India in the Border-Gavaskar Series, but it proved to be a poor series.
Placed in the middle order with a huge reliance upon to deliver with the ball, he didn't meet expectations and was dropped after another failure against New Zealand in Brisbane. However, in ODI cricket he was refreshed and fit, ready to play with the Squad against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, where he started with a duck (a bit of a trend) but then scored 85* and 116*. It was his 2nd ODI century. It had been the impact he needed for a flight to England. It had come in unexpected circumstances when it seemed he'd used up his chances.
There was a twist to this. It was already assumed he'd play in the ODI series against England after the Ashes, but no one expected a call-up to the Ashes Squad with Andrew McDonald serving as the all-rounder with good results. The twist in the plot got even more surprising as he was called up to open the batting after Phillip Hughes hadn't met the selectors expectations to deliver against England. The Ashes was at stake and Watto was put in as a specialist batsman to focus on opening the batting. This would take his maturity as a batsman and respect as an emerging senior player to a new level and cast aside the media's finger pointing at his abilities! It would also set up his summer that has impressed us!
While the Urn was lost, Watto had showed guts as he took on a tough challenge that tests a cricketers mental toughness and technique. He ended the Ashes with 3 half-centuries in 5 innings.
He played in the ODI's after the Ashes but struggled. The selectors kept the faith and he made the visit to South Africa for the ICC Champions Trophy, which was a tournament he'd walked away from as a match winner in 2006. Could he make another impact?
In the 1st match of the series against the Windies he was bowled for a golden Duck courtesy of a wild in-swinger from Kemar Roach. It was an unwanted pattern that was developing.
It got a bit worse for him as a was dimissed for a duck against India the next game, resulting in three ducks in his last three innings!
While it was concerning to some, I knew he'd turn it around. There was just that aura about Watto's return.
He has that trait Ricky Ponting often speaks of which is when the team are up against a daunting task they rise above it. Watto went on to score two memorable back to back centuries in both the semi-final and final. In the final he ended the game with a six, and brought his century up in victorious style. It was a dream end for him to a series that was a major one for Australia!
His celebrations reflected that. In the moment of this heroic closure to the tournament, I cast my mind back to his career, the constant injuries, the way he just couldn't show his true class and how he was never taken too seriously. It was a sign of breaking free, overcoming the mental challenge that cricket presents to the elite players and it was a perfect conclusion to the moment. Watto had arrived!
He started the summer with a duck. Yes, another duck! But it didn't take long for him to string together the following scores against the Windies:
0, 96, 48, 89, 30.
He had lucked out on a maiden-century the 'Gabba, and at Perth he'd come just as close! Australia faced an issue with no-one being able to make the triple figure mark. Who would it be?
Starting out against Pakistan it happened again! It seemed surreal as he was dismissed for 93, run out! Watto was facing a huge challenge. He'd need to overcome the century barrier and utilise every bit of stamina, mental preparation and self-belief he'd developed over the years. On 99 the very next innings it had to happen. He cut the ball and it was about to be caught, not again! Then it happened, the catch was spilled and Watto darted for that one valuable run! He had reached his maiden Test century in a gripping fashion.
The very next Test he scored another ninety and was dismissed. Despite the comedy of it and definite frustration, it was a dream summer with the Baggy Green. His scores against Pakistan were:
93, 120*, 6, 97, 29, 1. That's 346 runs averaging 69.20.
Looking back on it it could have been 4 possible centuries, maybe 5. Imagine that to the Stats.
To round it off he also managed 13 wickets with effective medium paced seam bowling, with glimpses of reverse-swing.
The Tests were over and it was time to make an impression in the ODI's.
He had a modest start to the ODI's against Pakistan, where he only played 3 games:
107 runs, 1 half-century, average 35.66 and 6 wickets. He was playing the all-rounders role though as an important member of the ODI side to contribute with the ball too.
His final innings of 51 against the Windies was an entertaining way to wrap up his summer, and in the series ended second on the Stats list behind Ricky Ponting:
189 runs, Highest score 59, Average 47.25, Strike-rate 95.93, 3 Half-centuries in 4 matches .
He batted with aggression and unshakable confidence backed by his instincts that makes an opener stand-out in ODI cricket. These attributes are clear when you see Opening specialists like Matthew Hayden, Virender Sehwag, Adam Gilchrist and Chris Gayle. He can bowl at any time of an innings in any form of the game while being able to positively shift his focus to his batting duties. He did a grand job of this in the ODI's, while his biggest impact was indeed during the Test matches.
The T20's were his final moment to leave a lasting impact for the summer for all of us cricket enthusiasts as well as a way to end his golden summer.
With David 'Pitbull' Warner, the two of them ripped apart the Windies bowlers as they basically won the match. Watto scored 62* unbeaten runs with 4 sixes and 4 fours with the usual classy strokes but he made it into a T20 specialist innings. His timing was awesome and he also delivered with the ball. It was the ideal way to leave the ideal impact on the viewers and his contributions to an unbeaten summer are evident.
He's got an exciting style to his batting which makes him an entertaining Test cricketer who can easily change gears in his innings and has no confidence issues to launch at the new ball during the 1st session of a Test match.
He overcame the nervous nineties to finally turn a childhood dream into a reality in scoring that century, which had seemed to remain nothing but a dream a few years back. Injury after injury set his career back, but showing determination and hard work to return to the side he's back.
So to see him with the Baggy Green Cap again and as a regular member of the Squad who has remained level headed despite a prolific season and summer, it is admirable and I'm proud to see Shane Watson emerge as not only the Allan Border medalist winner. The readers of The Baggy Green Blog seem to agree that he is indeed the 'Player of the Summer'.
With a few more games in a cemented role and the growing realisation that he is the opening batsman for Australia it makes his 2011 World Cup look set to be a really big one, but the Ashes will be the next big agenda! But I'm sure Watto would admit he's just pleased to be playing cricket again with consistency and that the tour to New Zealand will be his next test.
It's been a unique journey and what lies ahead for this versatile cricketer is very exciting.
Having also met Watto I can make a public statement here in saying he is an allround top bloke. I wish him nothing but success at the elite level. Proud of you mate!
THE BAGGY GREEN BLOG PLAYER OF THE SUMMER Poll:
Shane Watson: 16 votes, 61%
Doug Bollinger: 10 votes, 38%
Nathan Hauritz: 6 votes, 23%
Michael Hussey: 6 votes, 23%
THE BAGGY GREEN BLOG EMERGING PLAYER OF THE SUMMER Poll:
Doug Bollinger: 9 votes, 60%
Ryan Harris: 5 votes, 33%
Douggie B has captured the attention of many cricket enthusiasts. He has the Merv Hughes like personality when it comes to interacting with the crowd but it was mostly his bowling that secured this award. Stepping in after Hilfy was struck by injury, Douggie B was effective in both the Tests and ODIs. Quick, ambitious, a mean attitude and of course awkard bounce at the batsmen paved the way for his emergence as an attacking pace bowler at the elite level. He did a fine job and is now emerging as a key bowler. How can we forget his fun with Chris Gayle. Dismissed 6 times over the summer. Bollinger who?
Ryano made a dream return to the side, but I imagine your votes were mostly due to the fact Douggie B was there for the entire summer. None the less Ryano was awesome.
THE BAGGY GREEN BLOG SILENT ASSASSIN OF THE SUMMER Poll:
Brad Haddin: 5 votes, 62%
Nathan Hauritz: 4 votes, 50%
This poll was close, although before I closed it it seemed the votes had gone a bit chaotic so hope it wasn't a Blogger bug. Anyways, Hads came out first on your votes.
Brad Haddin was my personal best, so I agree with all of you.
He had loads of questions about his standards behind the stumps, as did Ritz regarding what he could deliver this summer.
I am not in any doubt Hads is currently the best 'Keeper of the lot in International cricket. He took a stack of catches that many 'Keepers dream to take and they were all really important catches too, notably the one to get rid of Salman Butt during the SCG Test. His batting was well below par but his flawless work behind the stumps gave our bowlers many wickets and boosted us too many victories with silent effectiveness. I say it again, those catches he took were bloody awesome! Screamers!
As for Ritz, two 5 wicket hauls this summer and highly effective batting. The mans contributions should not be under estimated and not forgotten. NSP better note it!