This year has been my worst IPL - Watson
Royal Challengers Bangalore allrounder Shane Watson admitted that 2017 was the "worst IPL" that he has ever had but is committed to doing everything possible to ensure the team wins their final game against Delhi Daredevils on Sunday.
Royal Challengers have only two wins in the season so far, and if they finish with that count, they will equal the worst performance by a team in IPL history. They recorded the lowest total in the tournament - 49 all out chasing only 132 - lost five out of six home games - one of which was despite Samuel Badree taking a hat-trick - and their batting has underwhelmed so much that they have the worst average (17.67) and strike-rate (117.03) among the eight teams. Watson's personal figures were similarly sombre - 67 runs in seven innings with the bat and an economy rate of 10.02 with the ball - but he wants to wrap things up a little better, if only to give some joy to the supporters for keeping the faith.
"The one thing I've realised playing for Royal Challengers the last two years is how incredibly loyal the fans are. Whether that was doing incredibly well last year or this year when we weren't doing well, but everywhere we went, obviously here at Chinnaswamy, and other parts around India, the support Royal Challengers get is nothing compared to what I've experienced before.
Even playing for Rajasthan [Royals], outside of playing in Jaipur, there was certainly no real support, they support the opposition as it should be. Whereas in Royal Challengers, you go to Kolkata, even though it's a horrendous day for us, there's still RCB chants going around at Eden Gardens, which was just mind-blowing."
But why was a side that made the final last year caught up in a scuffle not to finish last? Were the players bogged down? Did Watson think he was battling undue expectation?
"It's not difficult playing under this sort of pressure in franchise cricket because it's what I've been used to. Playing county cricket as well, which I did in 2004-05, there's a lot of pressure on you to perform. You're not getting paid more, but you're actually getting paid to help the team win and then in the IPL, having been exposed to it since 2008, and being someone who the team relies on, you have to perform and it doesn't always work out that you perform; certainly don't perform every game."
Did not playing enough cricket in the lead-up to the tournament affect him? Watson had called time on his international and first-class career in March 2016 and has since only been active in various T20 leagues around the world. Prior to his arrival in India, he had spent one month without match practice, although he had played the Big Bash League and the Pakistan Super League. That, he said, played a part in his poor form.
"The biggest challenge for me has been not coming off playing international cricket after which you just go into the flow of the IPL, which is obviously an incredibly strong tournament. And it's been a big learning experience for me, how it hasn't worked this year for me or this season and how I can actually learn from this experience so that the next tournament I'm playing, the Caribbean Premier League, I'm going to be better prepared.
"I'm going to be able to hit the ground running more than what I was here this year, even though I did everything I possibly could to give myself the best chance for performing well for Royal Challengers this year, just it didn't work. I'm always trying to get better. There's been a bit of soul searching this IPL over how things have panned out for me personally and about how I make sure I do it better in the next tournaments that I play to be able to contribute a lot better than I have this year to Royal Challengers because I know I've been incredibly fortunate to be able to play for another great franchise and last year was obviously an incredible year. But this year, for me personally, it hasn't been good at all but also for the franchise - things haven't gone exactly to plan at all and it's been very disappointing for everyone."
Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo