Watson 'almost the complete cricketer' - Bailey
At the rate Shane Watson is cutting through opposition bowling attacks and batting line-ups, George Bailey, the Australia captain, will soon fall short of words to praise his colossal allrounder. After three successive Man-of-the-Match awards at the World Twenty20, Bailey has called Watson "almost the complete cricketer" and said there is no reason why he cannot continue his incredible run against South Africa and then even deeper into the tournament.
"I think he's really set himself to be the man of the tournament, to be the person who leads Australia as far as he can in this tournament," Bailey said ahead of Australia's second Super Eights game against South Africa. "When you see how he plays this form of the game, he's almost the complete cricketer."
Watson has been Australia's leading run-getter and wicket-taker so far in the event - his 164 runs have come at a strike-rate of 170.83 and his eight wickets at an economy-rate of 7.41. His opening partnership along with David Warner has been so successful that Australia's middle order, including Bailey, has hardly had to bat.
What pleased Bailey as much was the comeback of his bowlers against India after they had conceded 191 to West Indies. On a slow Premadasa pitch, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Watson made life difficult for the India batsmen with calculated use of the short ball. Bailey said Cummins' performance - 2 for 16 in four overs - was particularly heartening after he had been taken for runs by Chris Gayle and Co.
"Pat's a weird one because he is intelligent and you don't get many intelligent fast bowlers for starters, particularly at 19," Bailey said. "He is a bit different. I spoke to him after the West Indies game and felt like I was babying him a bit too much. This game [against India], I gave him a licence to bowl to his plans a lot more. He is a good thinker, he has got great execution, he's got good skills; he is someone who, in a short space of time, you learn to trust to execute exactly what the team needs. He is someone who can shake up key batsmen when they come in. He has got that extra pace. On the flip side, pace is only good when you bowl in the right areas, and that was the most pleasing thing [against India], his control and change-ups."
Bailey said the fast bowlers' approach might have to be modified against South Africa, who are more comfortable handling the short delivery, but said that a well-targeted bouncer would always be hard to tackle. "South Africa are an outstanding team. I don't think there is a real weakness there. It will be an interesting game in the way the two teams set up and how they play. [We] are probably quite similar. We'll have to go and see who plays the pull well and who does not, and where they like to score. When we used it [the short ball] against India, we were pretty smart about how we used it. Whether you pull or hook or not, I think if a bowler, particularly with some of the guys we have got with a bit of pace, if they are bowling a bouncer that is on the money, it is still going to be pretty hard to get away."
The nature of the pitch in Colombo has moved subcontinent teams such as India and Pakistan to pack their side with spinners. Pakistan left out Sohail Tanvir in favour of Raza Hasan and India left out Virender Sehwag to play three specialist spinners. Bailey acknowledged that spin would play a bigger role as the tournament progressed, but said playing your best bowlers, whether fast or slow, was the key.
"If your best bowlers are quick bowlers, you still bowl your best bowlers. They have to find ways to adapt. Even as the wicket turns a bit more, I think the quicks will be able to have an impact. It is about getting that balance right. We have got good quicks and our spinners are doing a good job. Whether later on the track, we need to start using Xavier [Doherty] as well - I guess that is something we will look at.
"Good to see [Glenn] Maxwell open the bowling for us. That is a nice option to have going further into the tournament. Dan Christian is starting to bowl deeper into the innings as well. It is good to see we have that flexibility with our bowlers."
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo