Melbourne - The retirement of all-rounder Shane Watson robs Test cricket of
one of its most enigmatic characters, while depriving Australian fans of their
favourite whipping boy in the red-ball game.
The 34-year-old Queenslander bowed out on Sunday after a 10-year career of
59 Tests, featuring 3 731 runs at an average of 35.19 and 75 wickets at 33.68.
Watson, who has not stepped down from the one-day and Twenty20 sides, can
further burnish his considerable achievements in the shorter formats of the
But his respectable, if not spectacular, legacy in tests will remain a
source of debate in assessing one of the game's most polarising players.
Watson's backers will remember a stoic figure who eked a lot from a cursed
body, flashed a glorious cover drive and took bags of wickets on foreign
pitches with metronomic medium pace.
Fans closer to home will recall a career that fell infuriatingly short of
its enormous promise.
"There's a lot that I'm proud of," Watson said after announcing
his decision. "The thing I'm most proud of is I've given everything I
possibly can to get the best out of myself.
"I haven't achieved certainly all the things I dreamed of achieving in
Test cricket - average 50 with the bat and in the 20s with the ball.
"That's obviously the dream as an all-rounder to achieve and obviously
I didn't get anywhere near that, but I do know I gave it everything I possibly
can to be able to get the best out of myself."
By any measure, Watson has been a man of contradictions, many of them
frustrating and some quite hilarious.
Sporting the barrel-chested physique of a surf life-saver, Watson made his Test debut against Pakistan in 2005, having cut his teeth in first-class
cricket in frigid Tasmania, far from the sunny beaches of his native
He fell flat on his face after his opening delivery at the Sydney Cricket
Ground, but picked himself up to take a wicket and score a nervous 31.
He would play only two more tests before his shoulder gave way, shunting him
out of the side for another three years.
Upon his return, he quickly established himself as one of the country's most
important players in a team battling to rebuild after the retirements of a
golden generation of players.
While his bowling was commendably tight and often produced breakthrough
wickets, his focus at the crease was inclined to wander.
He became known as a squanderer of starts, a reputation that would
ultimately prove unshakeable.
It wasn't until his 15th Test that he would finally raise his bat for a
century, having been dropped on 98 by a Pakistan fielder in the 2009 Boxing Day Test in Melbourne.
He would score only three more tons from his 109 innings, though building
platforms with 24 half-centuries.
Although a sharp slip fielder, his running between wickets was often
lamentable, leaving batting partners fuming as they trudged off as casualties of
a Watson-induced mix-up.
Later in his career, his pads seemed to grow to epic proportions and offer
the easiest of target practice for accomplished seamers seeking to trap him
Watson's enthusiasm for the decision review system was matched only by his
ineptitude in using it, and Youtube compilations of some of his most farcical
appeals remain in high circulation.
The injuries never abated for long enough for Watson to build momentum, and
he gradually became a problem.
Urged to shelve his bowling to preserve his body, he fell short of the runs
to justify himself as a specialist batsman.
Yet, his seemingly unbreakable hold of his place within the team was one of
the bigger curiosities of Australian cricket.
Critics raged on social media and talk-back radio in his homeland, but
selectors stuck by their man through thick and thin however rarely their faith
The axe finally swung in July after the first Ashes Test in England where
the scorecard showed a familiar sight for groaning Australians - Watson
trapped lbw in both innings after making starts.
He cut a forlorn figure carrying the drinks in the final four tests, which
somehow felt poorer for the lack of the Queenslander.
If failing to bring runs or wickets, Watson could generally be relied upon
to deliver drama or comedy, and his absence robs the Test arena of one of its
most human actors.