Indian Premier League 2011 May 2, 2011

Tait recall can keep Rajasthan top - Watson

Shane Watson is counting on the return of Shaun Tait to keep Rajasthan at the top of the IPL points table after they surged to the summit with a trio of home wins on the dusty Jaipur surface.

Rajasthan were inconsistent early on but have gathered cohesion and momentum in equal measure, winning the home fixtures they needed to ahead of a closing swing that will take them to Chennai, Indore and Mumbai, in addition to two more Jaipur matches, before the final stages of the tournament. Tait plucked three King's XI Punjab wickets on his last start, a loss at Mohali, but was kept away from the bowling crease in Jaipur as Rajasthan captain Shane Warne plotted a spin-driven path.

Watson said he had missed Tait's contribution, not least as a way of raising the octane level of an attack in which Watson is the next fastest bowler, and wanted him back in the XI for the home stretch of matches.

"The team we've got at the moment, the balance we've got, especially in Jaipur the way the wicket is, the way it turns, I think is the perfect balance," Watson told ESPNcricinfo.

"There's no doubt having Tait, trying to find a spot for him especially on the faster, bouncier wickets in general is going to be I think very important, but because you've only got four overseas players it does make it very difficult to fit Tait in there.

"I'd love him to play because it takes a little bit of pressure off me, him bowling 155 kmh. When Shaun's played he's bowled very well; it's just trying to find the perfect balance for the side that's going to suit the conditions we're playing in."

There are no secrets about who determines this balance, for Warne has reasserted himself as the Peter Pan of world cricket after showing signs of deterioration in 2010. Watson reasoned that Warne, 41, was motivated to leave the game with a charismatic final bow rather than a paunchy whimper, whenever the finish line might be.

"I think he's very motivated," Watson said. "After last year the way things panned out for Rajasthan, I think he's very motivated to make sure that whenever he leaves the game that he leaves in a really good place. Warney's bowling unbelievably well and has since the start of the tournament. There's only really one person who's ever been consistently able to do it as a legspinner and he's bowling absolutely beautifully."

Rajasthan's up and down start - two wins followed by three losses and a wash-out in Bangalore - has made way for a consistent mid-period, which Watson put down to the development of a team atmosphere following the changes brought by last year's auction. "It's more so been about trying to find the perfect balance for our team I think and trying to find the right roles for the right people," he said. "I think really that's what it's come down to in a way.

"Over the last couple of games, guys have settled into their roles a lot more and know exactly what's expected of them and we've been able to do that pretty well over the last few games. So I think it's more just finding ourselves as a group and understanding exactly the ways we can contribute to a really good team performance."

Watson entered the tournament with the confidence derived from a pair of blistering innings in Bangladesh, but it has been his bowling that has been most important for Rajasthan on slow pitches - a skillful variety in sharp contrast to the ramrod straight, military-paced deliveries of his early international forays.

"It's been nice to be able to contribute in certain ways, I feel like my bowling's been actually the part I've been happy with," said Watson. "To be able to contribute as I have with the ball, not taking a lot of wickets but more trying to keep it as tight as you possible can and not go for big runs, and so far that's actually been a really pleasing part of this IPL for me."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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