While frenzied Indian cricketers and fans celebrated the hosts’ spirited win in the World T20 against Australia on Sunday, one man solemnly strode off the field with his head held high.
34-year-old Shane Watson, who had decided to hang up his boots at the the tournament, gave it his all to try and delay his retirement from international cricket.
With his stinging pace and a one-handed catch to dismiss Yuvraj Singh in the virtual quarterfinal between the two teams, the all-rounder earned praise for his selfless contribution to the game. Australian spin great Shane Warne said it was never about just this game for Watson. “He has had a great career and he has his head held high,” Warne said after the match.
The Australian all-rounder quit Tests last year after losing his battle against a spate of injuries that plagued his career, and has not featured in a one-day international since September.
Watson made his one-day debut against South Africa in 2002, three years before he broke into the test team led by Ricky Ponting. He played along side the likes of Ponting, Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist and also helped to rebuild the side after his seniors quit the game.
He was a bigger force in limited-overs cricket, amassing 5,757 runs in 190 one-dayers averaging 40.54 and was part of Australia’s 2007 and 2015 World Cup winning teams.
A World T20 title continues to elude Australia but Watson was adjudged player of the tournament at the 2012 edition of the tournament in Sri Lanka.
The big-hitter will continue to play domestic T20 tournaments including the Big Bash League for the Sydney Thunder, Cricket Australia has said.
On Sunday, Watson scored 18 crucial runs for his team, bowled out Rohit Sharma and took a stunning catch.
Australian pacer Mitchell Johnson tweeted after the match.
Wonderful career @ShaneRWatson33 I wish it was a win for you but no doubt you had a crack & enjoyed every moment n front of a loud crowd!!— Mitchell Johnson (@MitchJohnson398) March 27, 2016
Former England skipper Michael Vaughan also congratulated Watson for his performance.
Special mention for @ShaneRWatson33...Outstanding performance tonight .. No shame at all in leaving the international scene in that fashion— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) March 27, 2016
India beat Australia by six wickets in their final Super 10 match on Sunday to set up a semi-final clash with West Indies in Mumbai on March 31.
Watson has always been more prolific in the shorter formats, scoring 5,757 runs in 190 ODIs with average of 40.54 and also took 168 wickets at an average of 31.79.
He is the only Australian to score a T20 international century when he made 124 not out against India earlier this year.
He has scored more than 1,400 runs in T20Is and has taken close to 50 wickets. He is also one of only seven men in history to have scored 10,000 runs and taken 250 wickets in international cricket in all three formats.
“One morning I woke up in Dharamsala, waking up to the beautiful view and I don’t know what it was exactly but I knew now was the right time,” Watson said recently.
While he never let his age show on his performances, Watson knew it was time. ”I’ve really enjoyed my time being back in the Australian squad. But it is quite different, none of the other guys I played with growing up are here any more,” he said before a WT20 match with Pakistan.