India v Australia, World T20 2016, Group 2, Mohali March 27, 2016

Watson skips into T20 retirement

Shane Watson skipped from the field when he imagined Australia had won and there was still a spring in his step after Virat Kohli ensured that his T20 career ended two games earlier than he wanted
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Chappell: Watson did a terrific job for Australia

Shane Watson and Peter Nevill ran giggling from the ground, high fiving in self-congratulation, and looking like two boys who had just tricked the teacher into letting them out early. Nevill had just put the last ball of the innings into the crowd, but it was Shane Watson who was practically skipping; such was his excitement that Australia now had enough.

This was not the skip of a man about to retire. This was not even a man who skipped.

Watson was a man who smashed or trudged. Yet, that was not how he went about this innings.

In a team of Warner, Maxwell, Finch and Faulkner, suddenly it was Watson who looked like the proper batsman, the man who started as the heaving, thumping muscle was now the wise head to the new group.

His innings wasn't bad, but he didn't have the impact he did against Pakistan. It was Nevill who provided the last minute fireworks, Watson's last boundary was an edge through a vacant third man.

It was not how you remember Watson at his best. At Test level you often remember him not at his best, but in limited-overs cricket you remember him as an occasional beast. Whether it was the World Cup of 2007 where he suddenly had the game to fill those shoulders; the IPL that followed where lifted Rajasthan to the championship; or the 2012 World T20 where he was the only Australian player to turn up, and yet they still made the semis.

The Watson scream: we have all seen it. His neck flaring. His mouth wide open. His hands clenched.

Then there was Watson the bowler: parsimonious, canny and often shocked that anyone could take a run off him. And then came his celebrations.

"Come on" screams Watson. The Watson scream: we have all seen it. His neck flaring. His mouth wide open. His hands clenched. As he poses in a victory squat.

That's what is happening moments after he has slipped one through the lost charge of Rohit Sharma. Watson hits the stumps, we have seen it so many times before. Not hitting them hard, but hitting them more than most. And there are only three runs from his first over. Maybe he wasn't as fast as his youth, maybe his body never let him bowl enough, but Watson only leaked runs over his broken dead body.

Next over Watson was bouncing Raina. His bouncer always hinted at the pace of his youth, but without the actual speed. It was never as funny as a Steve Waugh or Craig McMillan bouncer, but it was, let's face it, only good as a surprise ball.

This one is slow, very slow, it loops up outside leg stump and Raina waves at it, it takes the top edge, and were it a faster ball, on a pacier pitch, it would have flown away. Instead it gently plops down into Nevill's gloves. Watson is ecstatic, he is bowling Australia to the semi-final, he is bowling himself to one more chance at glory.

While resting his 2-0-8-2 body in the field, Watson finds himself at cover. Faulkner is bowling to Yuvraj and he changes the pace. Yuvraj, in many ways India's Watson, knocks it up in the air with a lack of timing. There are many Australian fielders better equipped to take this catch running back, but none of them are anywhere near it. Instead Watson is there. He's running back and on an angle, he tumbles towards it, and he comes up with the ball. His team mob him, he looks shocked at pulling this catch off.

Shane Watson takes a stunning catch to dismiss Yuvraj Singh © Associated Press

This brings Dhoni in with Kohli. Watson is these two men away from getting one more game. They have not yet started their victory push, and Watson is bowling well, but he gets one slower ball just a bit wrong, it sticks in the slow pitch. Maybe another batsman mishits it, or turns it for one, Dhoni pulls it for four.

Watson stays on for his last over. Kohli and Dhoni are now going for it. Dhoni tries to charge him, but Watson changes his length and yorks him. A bad ball from Watson gets hit only for one. Watson bounces Kohli who hooks for one and barely celebrates his 50. A great yorker from Watson gets Dhoni only a single. An even better yorker to Kohli takes him on the pad, and a strangled fruitless appeal follows as they take a leg bye. It's the last ball, and Watson bowls a quicker back of a length ball, Dhoni tries a helicopter slap over cover, he edges it. Fine.

Watson bends over at the waist. He doesn't get up. He doesn't get up as the ball beat third man, as the umpire signalled four, or as the teams swapped over for the end of the over. It was only when his team mates come over to pick him up that he moved at all.

Watson slowly moves to short fine leg and put his cap on with frustration. He kicks at the turf several times as Kohli's first shot of the 18th over was a four. He kicks the turf again after Kohli's next ball also goes for four. And then he shakes his head when Kohli plays an on-the-up off drive for six the ball after.

Watson made 18 off 16, took two wickets, took the catch for the third, bowled eight dot balls, counselled the quick bowlers, and beat the bat of Virat Kohli when Kohli was in Mechagodzilla mode. And, it still wasn't enough.

At that moment, all the disappointments, all the frustration, all the what ifs, didn't matter. Watson had given it his all, but the man on the other end of the handshake was just better

Australian fans are used to seeing Shane Watson being disappointed. It has been a constant cricket meme over the last few years. His Test career ended with that Shane Watson trudge after another lbw went against him. It was a sad moment, but he had not done himself any favours.

This time was not the same. This time he had to watch the end of his career come at the hands of someone else's perfection. Something he never quite attained himself. Watson has won World Cups, Ashes, been in the No. 1 side on earth, and yet there was always a feeling that he could have been more.

After the game Watson was out on the ground, playing with his kids, chasing his son on the outfield, posing for pics with his daughter. Then Virat Kohli came by, they shook hands briefly.

At that moment, all the disappointments, all the frustration, all the what ifs, didn't matter. Watson had given it his all, but the man on the other end of the handshake was just better. It was time to leave the ground, but Watson didn't look sad, he looked happy. It wasn't a Watson slow walk when he left. He still had a bit of a skip in his step.

Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Damodar on March 29, 2016, 7:24 GMT

    All the Best Shane Watson.

  • Miyoshi on March 29, 2016, 6:36 GMT

    I still remember that 5 wkts he took against World XI during the johhny walker series. The best batsman in the world selected by Icc at the time, & he completely ripped them apart with his incisive spell bowling at above 145 kph on a flat pitch. That was Shane Watson, the bowler at his best.

  • sajid on March 29, 2016, 6:21 GMT

    its very shoking new for me that shan watson step out from the International cricket i salute him he was very intertainer and very use full cricket player for Australia Rajasthan Royals too he will always in my heart

  •   Ghalib Imtiyaz on March 29, 2016, 3:09 GMT

    He retired to prolong his T20 career. Well done Watson for some outstanding innings during your time in green & gold. Now Marsh and Faulkner will have regular places in the playing XI.

  • Santosh on March 28, 2016, 23:01 GMT

    RR in ipl made watson into a fine t20 player. They had terrible batsman. S Warne and R jadeja took wickets. Watson and pathan score the runs. No need to express sorry my friends...we will se watto. at in cpl weeks at the Ipl. Respect to him and all the best.

  • Cricinfouser on March 28, 2016, 21:10 GMT

    goobye watto. oh and india are nothing without kohli

  • Prat on March 28, 2016, 20:53 GMT

    Average pkayer ... Not a big loss

  • Sharmin on March 28, 2016, 18:59 GMT

    Shane Watson, Sad to see you go. Thanks for all the memories you gave us. All the very best in future.

  • Sparsha on March 28, 2016, 18:55 GMT

    Not many cricketers are as handsome as Watson..i Dont know how he ended up in cricket.But well played watson.U will be missed.

  •   Subhash Choudhary on March 28, 2016, 17:53 GMT

    In between somewhere Virat Kohli and IndVsAUS, we forgot one of the greatest all rounder of all time retired from International Cricket. I Have never seen any one smacking the cricket ball so hard as you, it may be either PULL or SWEEP shot to a fast bowler. Bowling with a fearsome 145kmphr+ overs.What else a captain can expect from a player. As a Indian Kid, Bating first, bowling first are dreams and you were true example of that in international circuit. I am not sure of all Australian Team but in yesterday's game as well, you gave your everything batting(18*), fielding(yuvi's sensational catch), bowling(23/2). Its just that yesterdays case the man on the other end of the handshake was just better(kohli).Wishing you all the best for future and thanks for some breathtaking RasjasthanRoyal memories ‪#‎Watto‬ ‪#‎Legend‬ ‪#‎Watson‬ ‪#‎CircleOfCricket‬ ‪#‎Australia‬

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