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March 26, 2012
Shane Watson's dissatisfaction was plain at the conclusion of a thrillingly tied ODI series against a resurgent West Indies. Australia won the fifth match to level the ledger at 2-2, having fallen behind after winning the first. They had done so despite holding strong positions in every game since, each time having to cope with Caribbean rearguards that bloomed into stirring counter-attacks.
Watson's first full series as captain, in the absence of the recovering Michael Clarke, contained plenty of lessons for a fledgling leader, not least the fact that in the West Indies a match can change course quickly if one team ceases to be as attentive to its rhythms as the other.
For this reason Watson said he had learned many worthwhile things, but remained frustrated at his side's inability to close out the series when it had the chance. It was not a display befitting the world's top-ranked team, however inexperienced.
"There's disappointment, there's no doubt, to tie the series," Watson said. "Especially when we were in a number of those games at a stage where we should've really buried the West Indies, it's very disappointing. But it's a big learning curve for us, we have to get better at those stages, because that's where we're really going to grow as a team.
"After the last game we sat down and talked about exactly the plans we were going to have, we didn't execute them exactly how we wanted to, but at least we've got some good plans and we understand the ways we're going to go about it."
Kieron Pollard and Darren Sammy posed particular problems in the latter halves of most innings, their bold hitting and deft placement giving many of the Australians the air of a tired commuter who has just learned upon leaving the office that their bus or train home has been either delayed or cancelled for the day.
"We've had them in trouble throughout the whole series and they just seem to find a way to fight back, whether it's Kieron Pollard or Darren Sammy today," Watson said. "There's no doubt we're not executing our skills exactly right, but it's some pretty impressive batting as well. The way Darren batted, I've never seen him bat like that, and to be able to do it under pressure was very impressive.
"We're at a stage where we look like we're cruising okay and then things change quite quickly, and it's happened since I've come back into this Australian team over the last 10 games or so - it's certainly something we need to work on."
When he weighed up the series against others he had played since his international debut in 2003, Watson said the team collective had learned as much as any other, for most came to the West Indies with little or no experience of the islands, the grounds and their heady atmosphere.
"It's a bit different [from other series] because I know it's been a bit of a learning curve for all of us," Watson said. "There's been a bit of a turnover in players, and we are really are continuing to try to find the balance we need to put complete games of one day cricket together.
"For me it's been a huge learning curve, one as a captain but definitely also for what we're trying to set-up, leading into the Champions Trophy next year in England, and leading into the World Cup. So I think it is an exciting time because we're all learning.
"There's quite a few [lessons], probably the plans to try to pull the run rate back on smaller grounds has been the biggest challenge for me, giving the bowlers a few plans to go to when the batsmen are on the attack."
As for the series' value as a psychological marker ahead of the Tests, Watson was sceptical, noting how the West Indian team would now be stripped of many of its most accomplished performers due to the financial lure of the IPL.
"Their side's going to change a bit with a few of their better players or bigger strikers and [Sunil ]Narine as well going to the IPL, so they're going to lose a few," Watson said. "We're going to add a few as well with Michael Clarke and Ricky and Peter Siddle, so there's going to be a bit of a change-over with that. So I don't think psychologically it'll play much part."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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