We polled our staff for their picks of the top ten best batting, bowling and all-round performances in the IPL through its history. Here’s No. 5
“He lost a bit of the edge in the last few games but today he was absolutely fantastic and showed his class. He’s a fantastic all-round cricketer and good enough to be in the Australian team.” – Shane Warne, Rajasthan Royals captain
Twenty-six-year-old Shane Watson had endured a tough year. Though he was touted as one of the most promising allrounders in Australia, frequent injuries had left a perpetual question mark over his international future. Then came the 2008 IPL and in those 44 days Watson found his range. One performance showed he had it in him to become the T20 allrounder.
The Rajasthan Royals, seen as underdogs for their low-budget approach, had become the side to beat as the inaugural IPL season progressed. While lesser-known players put their hands up at crucial moments, most of the Royals’ campaign had been built around Watson. Coming into the semi-final, against the Delhi Daredevils, he was in tremendous form: 392 runs and 13 wickets in 13 games.
In the semi-final, he cranked it up a notch. Such was Watson’s performance that the Wankhede crowd rose to its feet to chant his – yes, an Australian’s – name.
The Royals were put in to bat and the openers took them to 65 in seven overs before Watson arrived at the crease with the intention to maintain momentum through the middle overs. He stuck to the brief for the first ten balls, hitting just one boundary. “It took me a few balls to understand the wicket and the bounce, but after that I got into the rhythm,” he said later.
Watson then unveiled beast mode. In the 11th over, which brought 21 runs, he hit the inexperienced Yo Mahesh for a four and two humungous sixes on the leg side. With adept timing and footwork, he went after specific bowlers, swinging through square leg and midwicket. He took on legspinner Amit Mishra, who lured him with teasing flight, by getting under a delivery and dispatching it for six over midwicket.
His 29-ball 52, combined with Yusuf Pathan’s final flourish, took the Royals to 192. By no means was this an easy target, though with Gautam Gambhir – the tournament’s second highest run scorer – and Virender Sehwag in the opposition, you couldn’t rule out an even contest.
No, the chase was not on, considering the kind of day Watson was having.
His opening spell pretty much decided the game. Gauging the amount of bounce the surface offered, Watson kept his length short and beat the batters with pace. In his first two overs, he got Sehwag to top-edge a catch to deep square leg and beat Gambhir repeatedly before having him caught at cover. In Watson’s third over, Shikhar Dhawan pulled a back-of-a-length delivery straight to the fielder at square leg. With 3-0-10-0, the Daredevils’ chase was all but over and they were eventually skittled out for 87.
Such was Watson’s impact in the match that his 52 runs were worth 64.03 Smart Runs, and his strike rate of 179 translated to a Smart Strike Rate of 220. His economy of 3.33 in the match was 2.6 in terms of Smart Economy.
This performance helped Watson revive his international career, and right as T20 cricket took root, he established himself as a complete, two-in-one player in the format.