Watson not ready to go quietly
After his omission from the 50-over side, Shane Watson's call-up for the T20 series against India means that he is well and truly in line for a role at the World T20 in India
On Saturday, Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin will be conveyed around the SCG in open-topped cars to say farewell to the Sydney faithful at the end of their international careers. In Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth the same courtesy has been extended to Ryan Harris, Chris Rogers and Mitchell Johnson.
Missing from all this pageantry has been Shane Watson, also retired from Tests but not yet done with the limited-overs forms of the game. Omission from the 50-over side to face India had Watson concluding that his ODI days were done, but inclusion in the Twenty20 squad for the three fixtures that follow mean he is well and truly in line for a role at the World T20 in India. The open-topped car can wait.
"It came down to me really wanting to play for the Thunder and doing well for them over this BBL, and whatever happened from there with the Aussie side of things I wasn't worrying about it at all anymore," Watson said at the SCG. "After being dropped from the one-day squad I knew my international days were probably over, so it's nice to get that surprise and call from Rod Marsh yesterday.
"It's very nice to still be one of the old guys even though I don't feel that old, 34 didn't seem that old when I was playing but it is nowadays with the amount of cricket that's being played. But it's nice to know I can still contribute like I have over the last three or four games for the Thunder. That's the most important thing, that I know I can play my best like I did out here the other night. If that means I'm one of the old guys still playing, that's nice as well."
Playing in happy and successful teams is a motivator for Watson these days, something he has been able to be a part of at the Thunder and is hopeful to help maintain in the national team. The T20 captain Aaron Finch will welcome Watson's wealth of short-form experience, particularly as so much of it pertains to India, home to the IPL but also this year's edition of the global tournament.
"That would be the goal that's for sure," Watson said of the World T20. "Being played in India, that's something that we haven't played incredibly well at over the previous few tournaments, but in the end it really comes down to me hopefully playing for the Thunder this week during the finals if we're able to get through and just enjoying every moment. I know it's not too far away before those days are done, so I'm just making the most of every day I've got.
"It's nice to know I've had a lot of experience over in India, playing a lot of IPL tournaments and having some success over there as well. That was always going to give me more of an opportunity to get picked, but in the end it comes down to performance and lucky I've performed over the last couple of games."
Watson had started the BBL in rather grim fashion, with scores of 16, 1, 13 and a duck boding ill for his chances of receiving a call from Marsh. However, he had been working closely with his fellow allrounder Jacques Kallis on his technique and mental approach during that time, and a windfall sequence of 46, 18, 62, then 66 in the Sydney Derby, proved Watson was moving in the right direction. His bowling, too, has been effective for the Thunder.
"I've been very lucky to have one of the best batters to play the game in Jacques Kallis who's helped me out over the last month," Watson said, "just working through a couple of technical things that have had an incredible impact on my batting.
"To get back to batting how I have the last few games, especially here against the Sixers, which was the best I've batted in a long time, is great. Playing Twenty20 now I have to have the power game to be sure I can hit the ball over the fence and give myself the best chance. I've certainly been working on that."
As for what is left for Watson to achieve, his goals in the game are now more about fostering happy and successful teams rather than anything individual. He has enjoyed that experience at the Thunder, and either side of the World T20 he will be taking part in the Pakistan Super League for Islamabad United and the Caribbean Premier League for St Lucia Zouks. A fresh IPL deal, following the suspension of the Rajasthan Royals, is also on Watson's wish list.
"The thing that really drives me is playing for really good teams and franchises that want me to be there and I want to be there," he said. "The Sydney Thunder's certainly been that way, I love being a part of the Thunder, it's a great franchise, there's a lot of great people around it off the field but also on the field as well. We've got some great cricketers but some great people as well. That drives me to be able to perform at my best."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig