Will CSK Retain Shane Watson: Watson was exceptional in the Finals and Qualifier 2 this year but does he deserve a longer rope?
The Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium at Hyderabad was witness to an absolute cracker of a final yesterday night. There was nothing more, that the fans could have asked for but a last ball thriller between the number 1 and the number 2 ranked sides of the tournament this year. And they fittingly got one!
With all the Dhonis, the Pandyas, the Pollards, and the likes around, it was in fact MI’s almost forgotten old-war horse who defended 2 runs off the final delivery, scripting yet another 1-run win for the Indians in an IPL final.
The CSK on the other hand, were in the driver’s seat for around 80% of the game. Shane Watson, who was instrumental in CSK’s second Qualifier win against the Delhi Capitals, was all set akin the last year’s IPL final to sail his team through to their record 4th IPL title.
Having scored 50 off 32 in Qualifier 2, Watson yet again went all guns blazing scoring 80 off 59 deliveries with the help of 8 fours and 4 humongous sixes. He was unfortunately run-out when his team needed just 5 off the remaining 3 deliveries, which consequently cost them the match and the silverware.
Does Watson deserve a longer rope?
Until the second qualifier this season, Watson had a very quiet IPL with the bat. Having not been providing his bowling services as well, the whispers of him becoming a liability for CSK started becoming more audible.
He had only a couple of significant scores against his name in the 15 matches that he played before Qualifier 2. The first one being his 44 off 26 deliveries against the Delhi Capitals, while the second was his quickfire knock of 96 off 53 deliveries. CSK had won the match on both the occasions.
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Apart from the aforementioned innings, he could not contribute enough and usually fell inside the powerplays more often. With an ordinary strike rate of 127.56 with the bat this season, and not the quickest of the fielders around, the team management was continuously questioned by CSK fans and the cricket experts regarding his place in the side.
Watson has scored 398 runs in the 17 matches at an average of just 23.41 runs this season. If we reduce the scores of 50 (32) and 80 (59), which he had scored in Qualifier 2 and the Finals this year respectively, from the aggregate total, his average drops down to a meagre 16.75 in 15 matches.
Despite the aforementioned statistics which would have not been convincing for any other Franchise, the CSK and its skipper MS Dhoni have persisted with him right throughout the season. Even Watson had officially admitted (after scoring 96 off 53 against SRH) that he did not deserve such long a rope, but would like to thank the CSK think-tank, especially skipper MS Dhoni for having faith in him and persisting with him.
CSK have backed the 37-year-old solely on the basis of the experience he brings to the table. A lot of credit for this goes to MS Dhoni and CSK coach Stephen Fleming, especially the former, who has completely defended the veteran whenever his place was questioned during the post-match presentations.
Moreover, Dhoni has the knack of sometimes taking those logic-defying or rather the out-of-the-box decisions which apparently nobody else can. Each time people have tried to get into his head, they have come out scratching their own. Even this decision of his nearly paid the final dividends, had Watson not been unfortunately run-out in the closing stage of the finals.
Will CSK retain Watson for the next IPL season?
Watson has already retired from the Australian national side in the year 2016. He has also bid adieu to his side Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League the previous month, as he wanted to spend some more time with his family.
Going by the above notion this might well have been Watson’s last IPL, although there hasn’t been any intimation or hint from his side in this regard. Moreover, he is 37 now, and although age in not a factor in any sport he has not been absolutely fit either in this year’s IPL as well.
Maybe too, since he played all the 17 matches despite reports of injury and prime fitness a concern, this might well have been his last IPL and the reason he was given such an extended, long rope.
Thus, unless he raises his hand up and admits that he’s all set for another year, which is more unlikely to happen, this was the last time we saw Shane Watson play in the yellow colours of Chennai.