October 19, 2012

The invaluable Mr Watson

An analysis of how much Shane Watson has meant to Australia in all three forms of the game in the last four years

Just one game into the Sydney Sixers' Champions League Twenty20 campaign in South Africa, Cricket Australia announced that Shane Watson would quit the competition early and return home after a couple more matches. It was a move intended to give him more time to prepare for the vital Test series against South Africa later this season, a win in which will once again give Australia the No. 1 Test ranking. The decision drew angry reactions from the Sixers, but given Watson's form with both bat and ball, it's understandable that Cricket Australia wanted him in the best possible shape for a crucial series. Michael Clarke quickly reminded the world that Australia thrashed India 4-0 without Watson, but even so a fully fit and in-form Watson could significantly increase Australia's chances of recovering their No. 1 ranking this summer.

Since he hit his stride as a top-class international allrounder in all formats since 2009, Watson's stats have been staggering, across Tests, ODIs and T20 internationals, with both bat and ball. In these four years, Watson the batsman has scored 6330 international runs across formats at an average of more than 41, and taken 162 wickets at 25.15. During this period, he is the only player to have scored 5000 or more runs and taken 150-plus wickets in international cricket. No other player has even managed 4000 runs and 100 wickets, while only three others have achieved the double of 3000-plus runs and 75-plus wickets.

Moreover, those runs and wickets have usually had a significant impact on the game: in the 142 international matches he has played, Watson has been named Man of the Match 20 times, which is the highest for any player during this period. Eight of those awards have come in the 33 T20 internationals he has played, an average of one every four games, while his rate in ODIs is one award every eight matches. And this is in international games alone; in the IPL he has seven more awards in 39 matches for Rajasthan Royals.

Most MoMs in international matches since Jan 2009
Player Matches Awards
Shane Watson 142 20 (2T, 10ODI, 8T20I)
Tillakaratne Dilshan 162 18 (3T, 11ODI, 4T20I)
Shahid Afridi 123 16 (11ODI, 5 T20I)
Virat Kohli 111 15 (1T, 12ODI, 2T20I)
Kumar Sangakkara 166 14 (6T, 6ODI, 2T20I)
Michael Hussey 157 13 (4T, 6ODI, 3T20I)
Mahela Jayawardene 161 12 (2T, 4ODI, 6T20I)
Mohammad Hafeez 108 12 (1T, 7ODI, 4T20I)
Shakib Al Hasan 101 12 (3T, 9ODI)

Watson's contributions in the shorter forms of the game stand out in the table below. In both ODIs and T20 internationals, he scores around 18-20% of the team's bat runs (excluding the runs scored in extras) and takes around 15% of the bowler wickets (excluding run-outs). In Tests, his contribution with the bat comes down to 14.25%, while his wickets percentage drops to 10.46, which isn't surprising given that he averages less than two wickets per Test.

Shane Watson in Tests, ODIs and T20Is since Jan 2009
  Matches Runs Ave/ SR 100s/ 50s % team runs Wkts Ave/ ER % team wkts
In Tests 27 2071 42.26/ 51.76 2/ 17 14.25% 45 26.84/ 2.87 10.46%
In ODIs 82 3300 44.59/ 90.98 5/ 21 17.83% 85 26.15/ 4.80 14.03%
In T20Is 33 959 30.93/ 150.07 0/ 10 20.83% 32 20.12/ 7.08 15.53%

In all formats, Watson has made healthy contributions with both bat and ball. In T20 internationals, he is one of only four players to score more than 500 runs and take 20-plus wickets. Among those four, his batting stats are easily the best: he averages more than 30, and has an outstanding strike rate of 150 - the combination of high average and strike rate is one that very few batsmen have achieved in this format.

In terms of percentage contributions too, Watson's stats compare favourably with the others: Shahid Afridi has contributed 11.51% of the runs and 16.29% of the wickets for Pakistan; the corresponding percentages for Mohammad Hafeez are 15.56 and 12.89, while for Dwayne Bravo they are 16.17 and 15.33%.

Jacques Kallis is among the prominent names missing from this list, and that's because he has taken only 12 wickets in 22 T20 international matches during this period. With the bat, though, he has scored 627 runs at 39.18 and a strike rate of 120.11. Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan has 326 runs and 17 wickets from 16 matches.

Players with 500+ runs and 20+ wickets in T20Is since Jan 2009
Player Matches Runs Ave/ SR 50s Overs Wickets Ave/ ER
Shane Watson 33 959 30.93/ 150.07 10 90.50 32 20.12/ 7.08
Shahid Afridi 41 636 18.17/ 137.96 4 153.2 43 22.34/ 6.26
Mohammad Hafeez 31 629 21.68/ 106.07 2 86.2 25 21.80/ 6.31
Dwayne Bravo 24 530 31.17/ 126.19 3 59.4 21 23.52/ 8.27

In ODIs, there's only one other player who has achieved the double of 2000 or more runs and 50-plus wickets in matches since the beginning of 2009. Shakib and Watson have pretty similar numbers in terms of averages, strike rates and economy rates in both batting and bowling. Shakib the bowler, though, has been pressed into service far more often than Australia have used Watson's bowling skills: despite playing 12 more games, Watson has bowled 159 fewer overs.

While both Watson and Shakib have played a significant number of matches during this period, Kallis has played just 38, in which he has taken 26 wickets and scored 1627 runs. Bravo, meanwhile, has 41 wickets and 874 runs from 41 matches.

Players with 2000+ runs and 50+ wickets in ODIs since Jan 2009
Player Matches Runs Ave/ SR 100s/ 50s Overs Wickets Ave/ ER
Shane Watson 82 3300 44.59/ 90.98 5/ 21 462.5 85 26.15/ 4.80
Shakib Al Hasan 70 2259 38.94/ 86.38 3/ 17 621.3 103 26.13/ 4.33

With a fairly conservative 1500 runs and 30 wickets cut-off in Tests, Watson still has only one other player for company - New Zealand's Daniel Vettori. Kallis misses the wickets cut-off by just one, but the fact that he has taken 29 wickets in 28 Tests during this period (average 46.89, strike rate 97.2) is an indication of the reduced amount of bowling he has been doing in Tests recently. Shakib misses out on the runs cut-off because of lack of opportunities: he has played only 15 Tests during this period, in which he has scored 1120 runs at 40.

Overall, though, it's clear that Watson has been the one consistent performer - with a substantial body of work - in all three formats of the game, with both bat and ball, over these last four years. Little wonder, then, that Cricket Australia is taking the utmost care to ensure that he is fit and ready for Test-match cricket come November 9.

Players with 1500+ runs and 30+ wickets in Tests since Jan 2009
Player Matches Runs Average 100s/ 50s Wickets Average Strike rate
Shane Watson 27 2071 42.26 2/ 17 45 26.84 56.0
Daniel Vettori 23 1516 37.90 4/ 5 74 39.55 95.8

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter