posted on 2019-05-13 12:09:49
posted by Manya Pilani
Image Courtesy: iplt20.com
In any sport, you remember the days that matter. An odd match or two will fade away from your memory, but moments of glory never do. There is a lot of emphasis that is put on turning up on big days. That is why you might remember Faf Du Plessis’s fighting 67 (42) in Qualifier 1 in IPL 2018 more than you would remember Chris Gayle’s 104* (63) vs SRH in the same year.
We remember Shane Watson putting his hands up in celebration when his knock of 117* off 57 balls vs SRH in IPL Final 2018 propelled CSK to their third IPL title. Watson was set on doing a repeat of that heroic innings on Sunday night in yet another high-octane IPL Final.
The difference though was that Watson hadn’t tasted success this year as he had in the previous year. The CSK opener was averaging a sorry-looking 19.88 in this season and one was suggestive that the wheels had finally started to come off for the 37-year old. A strike-rate of 125 too didn’t invoke much confidence. Barring the 96 against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Watson hadn’t looked a shadow of himself in this year’s tournament. So there he was with an underwhelming tally of 318 runs in the season and criticism flying around, walking out against Mumbai’s potent bowling attack in the Final.
In 2018, Shane Watson was averaging 31.29 coming into the Final, a hundred to his name and 438 runs behind his back. He was in the Top 5 run-getters list that year. Hence, it wasn’t exactly shocking when the Aussie had scored that magnificent century in the Final.
That kind of flourish had gone missing this season. Runs had abandoned him, timing wasn’t his best pal and the shot selection was horrific at times. To make matters worse, age wasn’t on Watson’s side either. His scores leading up to the Playoffs read 8, 0, 7, 10. As a result, CSK had the lowest Powerplay average amongst all teams and batting had been their Achilles heel all tournament.
But Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings work on a plain motto: “You back your players and when you need them the most, they will come good.” And Watson put on a performance against Mumbai Indians in the Final that upheld that very statement and advocated that if there is any player CSK can lean on in clutch games, it is Shane Watson.
Chasing a below-par 149 at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, CSK met their familiar batting woes once again as Du Plessis, Suresh Raina and Ambati Rayudu quickly went back to the hut. CSK’s skipper and man-for-a-crisis, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was given a controversial run out on an overthrow which left the defending champions gasping for air at 82/4 (12.4).
Watson had a rusty start to the innings, the kind you would associate with a batsman who is still searching for his nick. He was dropped twice, once by Lasith Malinga at fine leg when he was on 31 and then by Rahul Chahar on 42. Watson didn’t let his lives go to waste as he collected 3 boundaries in a row to get 20 runs off Malinga’s over. He was given another reprieve an over later by Chahar who couldn’t hang on to a top-edge from the CSK opener, the brunt of which Krunal Pandya felt when Watson hit him for three successive sixes in the next over.
Watson brought the equation down to CSK needing 9 runs off the last over with a couple of strikes from Bravo and Jadeja. It looked like he would become the first player to bag two Man of the Match awards in IPL Finals. But he was run out on the 4th ball of the last over while coming back for a second run with CSK needing 5 runs off 3 balls. Eventually, CSK lost by 1 run to hand Mumbai their 4th Title victory.
A withered-looking Watson still scored 80 (59) and almost single-handedly took CSK to another win in the Final. He hadn’t found his form all tournament but come the Playoffs - the big games, it is almost as if Watson’s muscle memory kicks in from all the tough games he has played in his long career. The man from Down Under revels in such situations and Chennai Super Kings would hope the 37-year-old doesn’t lose his mojo when and if he comes back to play for the franchise next season.