Shane Watson talks Ponting v Clarke and a career that defied many critics
Shane Watson talks Ponting v Clarke and a career that defied many critics

Watto: Why Ponting was my best Test captain

Shane Watson says it was no coincidence Ricky Ponting was the captain who got the most out of him, as he reflects on a 21-year, $25 million career that ranks him as one of the greatest white ball players in the history of the game.

Ponting might have scored more Test runs, Shane Warne may have taken more Test wickets and a host of others played more Test matches, but there is a theory that Watson retires as the highest contract earning Australian cricketer of all time.

Watson amassed around $15 million in the dazzling Indian Premier League where he has set a gold standard few have matched, right up until this month, where he still dominated his final season at 39 years of age.

For Australia, many forget he is a dual Allan Border medallist, and he sat in the top echelon of the Australian contract list for more than a decade where he would have earned in excess of $10 million.

Watson has always appreciated what the game has given him because his father Bob never earned more than $50,000 working in the Air Force.

But as modest as he is about it, Watson's record earnings stand as proof of his brilliant and grossly underappreciated talent and legacy as one of the game's great trailblazers.

"I always dreamt as a young kid growing up that Test cricket was the pinnacle and I did everything I could to be the best Test cricketer I could," Watson told The Sunday Telegraph.

"Yep, my numbers in the end weren't what I dreamt of, but I gave it my absolute all and things worked out for better for me from a white ball perspective.

"I look back on it and I have no regrets whatsoever because I pushed myself to the limit in what I could do, and they were the outcomes."

 

 

 

Ricky Ponting worked out how to get the best out of the talented Shane Watson.
Ricky Ponting worked out how to get the best out of the talented Shane Watson.

 

Statistics paint a clear distinction between the Watson who played 26 Tests under captain Ponting for 1870 runs at 41.55 and 42 wickets at 31, to the Watson, who under captain Michael Clarke, played 29 Tests for 1648 runs at 31.09 and 28 wickets at 35.67.

In a career where Watson was often misunderstood and harshly judged by the Australian public, Ponting was one man who just got 'Watto' - paying tribute to him this week as one of the country's most underrated cricketers.

"It was more what Ricky got out of me. From the first time I met him as a 19-year-old … he just saw things in me that I didn't know were in me," Watson told The Sunday Telegraph.

"He just knew how to be able to pull that out of me all the time, and he really did care for me. I know that.

"He was really patient with me through my injuries. He really believed in me and he knew little things to say here and there.

"That incredible skill set he had as a leader, not every leader that I've ever worked with has got those skills."

Watson's words could be viewed as damning of Clarke's comparative abilities as a leader, but that would only be telling half the story of a complicated relationship.

A happy moment between Shane Watson and Michael Clarke as they celebrate winning during day four of the Fourth Ashes Test Match between Australia and England in 2013. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
A happy moment between Shane Watson and Michael Clarke as they celebrate winning during day four of the Fourth Ashes Test Match between Australia and England in 2013. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

 

They may not have seen eye-to-eye on very much, but Watson talks about Clarke with great respect.

"Michael had different strengths," he said. "In the 2015 World Cup, if it wasn't for Michael and his decision-making under pressure on the biggest stage of a World Cup at home, our chances of winning that were reduced quite a lot."

Watson was adored in India, and in hotels, out the back of grounds, and even in planes where fans would line up down the aisle of the aircraft in mid-air, he would spend hours signing autographs.

"As a kid, I saw my hero and I wanted to get their autograph or get a photo and if they said no, I was shattered," said Watson.

"That's one thing that has always stuck with me. One of the nicest things in the world is when people appreciate what you do."

Watson says one of the main catalysts for him playing on in T20 tournaments around the world five years after his last Test match, was to prove that growing old doesn't mean you lose your eye.

 

 

 

 

Shane Watson always makes time for his fans. Picture: David Nielsen/Queensland Times
Shane Watson always makes time for his fans. Picture: David Nielsen/Queensland Times

 

The IPL would have had Watson back as a 40-year-old, but in the end, as a father and a husband, it was the dread of another COVID-19 bubble and stint in quarantine which told him it was finally time to call stumps.

"The generalisation that once you get to a certain age you lose your skill or you lose your eyesight or your reflexes … in my own mind I've been trying to prove that wrong," said Watson.

"That's the thing that's really kept me going is to be able to challenge that status quo that's always been around. I've proved that's not the case.

"In Test and one-day cricket I was dropped and had to move on to something else. Now, just to know I was able to go out on my terms is a nice feeling."

 

 

Originally published as Watto: Why Ponting was my best Test captain


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