In Ponting and Chappell’s eyes, Watson is the key to Oz World Cup hopes

Friday, January 14, 2011

SYDNEY - In Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting’s eyes, the nation’s chances of winning the World Cup for a fourth consecutive time rest with New South Wales all-rounder Shane Watson.

“He would probably be the hardest player to replace in our line-up at the moment. I think the modern cricketer has to be much more adaptable than ever before because of the three formats. I suppose if you’re looking at the quintessential modern cricketer Shane would fit that bill,” the Sydney Morning Herald quoted national selector Greg Chappell, as saying.

With 435 runs at 48.33, Watson, along with Michael Hussey and Brad Haddin, was one of few Australian players to emerge out of the smouldering ruins of this summer’s Ashes with his reputation enhanced.

That sentiment carried through to the Twenty20 arena on Thursday when Watson nearly carried his team over the line against England in Adelaide. The 29-year-old smashed 59 off only 31 balls then claimed 4-15 from four overs.

That Australia lost on the final delivery of the game was hardly Watson’s fault, even if he had the ball at the time. Without him, the match would have finished well before the last over.

“I would have liked to describe it as match-winning but it wasn’t,” Chappell said.

He added: “It was a very impressive and important performance. It just shows what he’s capable of, and no doubt in the remainder of the international summer here and the World Cup, he’s critical to our chance of success. If he performs well, it’s more likely that we’ll do well.”

Watson is an all-rounder in more than one sense. A high-class batsman and underrated bowler, his hands are safe enough for him to field in the slips. And, along with Mitchell Johnson, he is the only player who commands a regular spot in the Australian side in all three forms of the game.

Even when he was rebuilding his career in 2008 after a string of injuries, Watson was named the Indian Premier League’s player of the series after playing a key role in Rajasthan being crowned champions in the inaugural competition.

So highly did the Royals rate him, they chose not to run the gauntlet of last weekend’s auction, and signed Watson as a retained player, alongside the peerless Shane Warne, for a hefty 1.3 million dollars.

With Watson available, selectors have the luxury of naming an X-factor player such as David Hussey or Steve Smith who can clear the pickets lower down the order.

Without Watson, they have two extra holes to fill - that of opener and a fifth bowler who can contribute more than just a handful of overs.(ANI)

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