World Cup 2015: Australia March 5, 2015

Watson accepts his fate

Shane Watson - "I haven't scored enough runs, as simple as it is." © Getty Images

When Shane Watson was last left out of an Australian team for reasons other than injury or rest, he gave an impromptu press conference. It was in the lobby of the JW Marriott hotel in Chandigarh following the announcement that he, alongside three other players, had been suspended for supposed disciplinary infractions.

The touring correspondents had been alerted to Watson's intention to leave by spotting his bags in the lobby, and when he came down from his room, it was clad not in training gear but the suit of an Australian cricketer making an international flight. Watson was not only out of the team but leaving the tour to go home for the birth of his son, Will. He was also exceptionally angry at his treatment, and stated bluntly that he was thinking of quitting altogether.

"Any time you are suspended from a Test match, unless you have done something unbelievably wrong and obviously everyone knows what those rules are - I think it is very harsh," he said. "In the end I have got to live with it. That is the decision they have made and at this point in time I am at a stage where I have to weigh up my future with what I want to do with my cricket in general.

"I am going to spend the next few weeks with my family and weigh up my options as to exactly which direction I want to go or keep on. I am going to have to sit down and work that out with my family. There are a lot more important things in life. I do love playing cricket and that passion is still there and I feel I am in the prime years of my cricket career."

Two years later, Watson may no longer be in his prime, and his acceptance of omission from the Australian ODI XI midway through their World Cup pool matches stood in stark contrast to those wounded words at the Marriott. As with India, Watson found himself bailed up by the media on his way to travel - this time from Perth back to his home base in Sydney and Australia's next match against Sri Lanka.

This time, however, the words were very different, and so was the tone. Watson knows he has simply run out of chances. The most recent was a damaging dismissal against New Zealand at Eden Park once set, that ushered a hectic collapse to more or less hand the match to the hosts. There was a ruefulness to Watson's words, but also an acknowledgment of a fair if hurtful outcome.

"Of course, it's always disappointing to get dropped," Watson said. "[The selectors] talked to me more than me talking to them, it's just the way it goes. I haven't scored enough runs, as simple as it is. In the end all I can do is make sure I'm ready to go if an opportunity arises, but I know I haven't scored enough runs so I've only got myself to blame.

"I made adjustments even before I got dropped to improve and give myself the best chance of performing, so I'm always trying to get better and learn and it's all I can do. I believe in myself and my own ability, so if an opportunity comes along I'll be ready to go. I know I've had plenty of opportunities so I've only got myself to blame."

In 2013, Watson did not feel this way, railing at the management of the team and its judgment that summary dismissal of players was going to help bind together a group that had grown increasingly fractured. His ire was to be raised again in England, and his protest at the way the team was developing would lead indirectly to David Warner's suspension and Mickey Arthur's sacking.

Watson was content that he stood up for what he believed in, and during the summer of 2013-14 he was able to bask in the success of an Ashes victory. But time has marched on, and Watson has failed to back up his conviction about the way a happy and winning team team must be forged by scoring the requisite runs to keep him in it.

At the same time, others have emerged to challenge him, most notably Mitchell Marsh as an allrounder and Steven Smith as a top-order batsman. The tailing off in his run-making across all formats has also appeared to effect Watson's former posture as an aggressive, even intimidating presence. Power and stroke range are Watson's best weapons, but in his efforts to eradicate technical kinks he has appeared to take on a more circumspect outlook that has allowed bowlers to work away at his foibles without fear of quite the same retribution.

Equally, Watson's tendency for the odd hare-brained moment or choice of shot has remained, meaning where once he was often cursed for getting out soon after passing 50 or when nearing 100, now his ledger is punctuated by ineffectual 20s and 30s. Marsh and James Faulkner can be expected to make such scores, and both have the youth and potential to go on from them more regularly.

None of this, it now seems, has been to do with the environment in which he finds himself, rather the passing of time and Watson's inability to match up to the performances of what can now be recognised as his peak period, from 2009 to 2011. Watson knows he has had every chance in a team set-up he played a significant part in engineering, but has fallen short. That is why the words he uttered at Perth airport on Thursday bore so little resemblance to those of Chandigarh 2013.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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