May 28, 2018
The nearly un-Aussie Shane Watson’s brutal assault helps CSK win their third IPL crown on a day Kane Williamson and SRH’ gambles come a cropper
Nearly un-Aussie Watson: Shane Watson has never quite been your stereotypical Aussie bloke. He smiles a lot more. He snarls a lot less. And on Sunday as he crossed over for a single to become only the second centurion in an IPL final, Watson simply stood with his hands aloft, flashing a massive grin towards his dressing-room. There was no jumping up in the air. There were no theatrics. There wasn’t even one of those punches thrown in the air ala David Warner. Just a show of extreme satisfaction. (IPL 2018 Final CSK vs SRH: Shane Watson ton gives CSK third IPL title)
There is one thing very Aussie about the veteran all-rounder though. It’s the knack of showing up on the big day and making it count. It’s the knack of winning the big titles. He’s done it throughout his career. He was there leading the way when Rajasthan Royals won the first-ever IPL title. He was there when Australia won their maiden Champions Trophy. He was there when they won the World Cup in 2007 and when they did it again in 2015. And as Chennai Super Kings set about chasing down 179 on their day of redemption after a two-year hiatus, it was Watson who inevitably put his hand up with a blistering unbeaten 117 off 57 balls.
The Aussie dressing-room has been divided between nerds and Julios — the rustic blokey types and the more sophisticated and trendy lot. For most of his careers, Watson’s been the ultimate Julio. There was a time, however, early in his career where those around him almost felt like Watson needed some extra motivation or an exchange with an opponent to bring out the best in him. Later on in his career, and in recent years as he’s transformed from international superstar to global T20 star, Watson has become the rebuttal to that very Aussie belief that “nice guys always finish last”. Paddy Upton had summed up the real Watson best last year at Sydney Thunder during the Big Bash League writing, “He is one of the best team men I have ever worked with. When he asks, ‘How are you?’ to the players, he actually waits for the answers.”
But for all his niceness off the field, Watson is still a bully with bat in hand. He belongs to that category of batsmen, much in the Chris Gayle mode, who do not show any mercy to a bowler when he gets it wrong. It was a cautious Watson who started off proceedings for CSK in their run-chase on Sunday. He in fact played out a maiden over off Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, and took 9 balls to get off the mark. In hindsight, it was a very clever strategy, as he got Kane Williamson to use up three of Kumar’s overs in the powerplay. At the end of the 6th over, Watson was on 19 off 19, and Chennai weren’t even scoring at run-a-ball yet. That didn’t take too long to change though.
Watson was playing possum. All the Sunrisers’ bowlers had to do was to get their length or line slightly wrong, and Watson was all over them. When Siddharth Kaul and Sandeep Sharma pitched it slightly short, he muscled them over the on-side or the straight field with cross-batted belligerence. When they were slightly side, he lofted them over the off-side in-field. It was Watson at his brutal best. He didn’t take many chances off Rashid Khan but turned the clock back against Shakib Al Hasan, pummelling over the deep mid-wicket fence twice in his first over. He took 33 balls to reach his first 50 runs. There was no looking back from that point on. The next 50 came off 18 balls, and the sixes kept coming. Before long, Watson was on the cusp of his second ton of the season. And he happily took three singles to get past the mark, as calmly as ever.
Gambles come a cropper: Kane Williamson took a big gamble with the new-ball. In addition to leaving only a single over of Bhuvaneshwar for the business end, he also finished off three overs of Sandeep Sharma. It meant that the pressure was on the likes of Kaul and the rest to have a good day.
Unfortunately, it became rather obvious that Hyderabad’s most dependable seamer in IPL XI, Kaul, was having an off day on the worst day possible. He struggled to land even one of his deliveries of the first over anywhere close to a good spot, going for 16 runs, and he was equally bad in his second, going for 16 more.
Sharma on the other hand started off decently, but was taken to the cleaners in his return spell, being smashed for 27 runs by a rampaging Watson, who smashed him for three consecutive sixes. To make matters worse, Shakib lost the plot too, meaning Chennai’s gamble of seeing off the big threat—Rashid Khan—with caution, even playing out a maiden off him, paid off perfectly.
There was another gamble that didn’t go Williamson’s way on Sunday. It came earlier in the day when he chose to step out to Karn Sharma’s first ball of a new spell. So telegraphed was his decision to leave his crease that Karn had the time to slip in a wide delivery—a throwback to Mark Waugh utilising a similar tactic at this very ground to outsmart Sachin Tendulkar during the 1996 World Cup—and have the Hyderabad captain stumped just when Williamson looked set to step on the gas.
CSK’s feel-good finish: The final moments of IPL 2018 resembled that of a quintessential Indian wedding reception, with a number of little kids running and jumping around with gay abandon, completely oblivious to the serious activity around them. It was somewhat symptomatic of Chennai’s season, which had a family feel to it, at least off the field with the players’ children demanding as much air-time as their cricketing fathers. The skipper, meanwhile, couldn’t quite do his bit of being there for the winning runs, but MS Dhoni did pull off one helicopter swing at the end of the day, lifting his daughter Ziva and swooping her up in the air, with an all-too familiar arm action, only without bat in hand.