posted on 2019-05-11 11:44:08
posted by Sahil Jain
Image Courtesy: iplt20.com
The Chennai Super Kings (CSK) just somehow seem to find a way. Someone or the other steps up and delivers for them. Doesn’t matter, if the player is in form or not, come the big stage, someone will stand up, put their hand up and say, ‘right, I’m going to do it today.’ It was the case last year and nothing changed this year as well.
Shane Watson is touted as a big-match player and the way he delivered in the final last year, was simply brilliant. He showed he had the ability to turn around despite having a horror start to his innings. However, he had 400+ runs behind him before the final.
This year, the runs dried up. He stopped whatever little bowling he did. Partly because CSK and MS Dhoni didn’t want to risk him either as he’s injury prone. Hence, it was with the bat that Watson had to deliver. But that didn’t happen. There was just one notable knock throughout the season when he scored 96 against Sunrisers Hyderabad while chasing 176.
Before that innings, he had just a couple of scores over 30. He had failed for nearly 10 games in a row and by now, by his own admission, the former Aussie all-rounder would’ve been dropped in any other team. But not CSK, not when Dhoni is around. Once you build the trust, it hardly matters. Dhoni and the CSK team management will back you to the fullest and that’s what happened with Watson.
Despite scoring that 96, runs didn’t come easily for Watson as he continued to struggle. He had scores of 8, 0, 7 and 10 in the next four innings in the lead up to the second Qualifier. He had no business playing the second Qualifier, he was woefully out of form. Other teams would’ve lost patience long back and dropped him. Despite his ability to produce match-turning innings in big games, his wretched form didn’t augur well.
An average of 17.87 while scoring 268 runs in 15 innings where he had gone past the 30-run mark just three times. His strike-rate was not up to the mark as well. Only once in a season before (2017), Watson had a strike-rate of under 121.27 which was his strike-rate this season.
Remember, there was a Mitchell Santner waiting in the wings. The pitch was calling for that change. However, Dhoni resisted that change, CSK resisted that change. Watson got another go and after the backing he’s got throughout this season, it was inevitable that he would play the entire season.
In the second Qualifier against Delhi Capitals, CSK were chasing 148 on a tricky pitch. The ball was not quite coming on nicely and it certainly took some turn as well. Hence, chasing 148 wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.
CSK almost got off to a disastrous start. In the very first over, they got lucky as both Faf du Plessis and Shane Watson could’ve been run out on the same ball. More so, Watson who was way down the pitch and a brain fade of sorts from Colin Munro helped Watson escape. It was one of those moments you tend to get when you are out of form and such dismissals happen. Another one was on the cards for Watson which would’ve prolonged his wretched run. But Munro decided to gift Watson, du Plessis and CSK some lives.
The first four overs CSK just couldn’t get going. Watson played 8 balls and struggled. But once du Plessis found his rhythm, the pressure eased and there was no stopping. Watson though continued to have a mini battle with his own self, trying to find the middle of the bat and get going and get into some sort of rhythm.
He trickled along to 7 off 14 balls and his form deserted him once again before Keemo Paul decided to offer him with a gift. A low full toss on leg-stump and Watson duly dispatched it for four. That got him going and from then on, he found his flow, rhythm, timing and power. 7 off 14 quickly turned into 50 off 31 and the game had turned.
It was his second half-century of the season. Watson got out the next ball he faced but he had inflicted the damage and the job was more or less done. Watson’s innings was largely possible due to Faf at the other end who allowed the retired Aussie all-rounder some breathing space. He was struggling and Faf took it upon himself to up the ante and keep up with the scoring rate. He knew leaving too much for the back end may not work on this pitch.
Hence, the South African skipper’s innings allowed Watson to take his time. Watson did thank his opening partner as well during an interview with the broadcasters after the game. “Faf batted beautifully. Thanks to Faf for helping me through that stage,” Watson said.
But it really boils down the faith and the trust CSK management have shown in Watson. Despite repeated failures, there hasn’t been one game that he was dropped. His form looked dead and buried but the faith brought it back. But Watson made CSK find a way this time. It was his turn in the big game. And as he often does, he stands up when the team needs him the most.