KARACHI: Former Australia all-rounder and World Cup winner Shane Watson is an excited man. Having guided his Quetta Gladiators to the HBL Pakistan Super League final he hopes the elusive title comes their way.
Watson smashed a cracking 71 with five boundaries and half a dozen sixes off just 43 balls to steer his team to an imposing 186 for six before he defended 21 in the last over to give his team a 10-run win over arch-rivals Peshawar Zalmi in the qualifier at the National Stadium on Wednesday.
“It is really exciting,” said Watson. “That was something you had wished before the start of the tournament, you always wanted to get through to the final and give yourself a chance of winning the title.”
Quetta have been on the losing side in the final twice, losing to Islamabad United in 2016 and to Peshawar in 2017.
Watson said the group of players were skillful and that made the final spot possible. “For me, it’s no surprise that we have been able to make it to the final because we have some match-winners in the team,” said Watson, who leads the run-chart with 423 runs in 11 matches.
Umar Akmal (277), Rilee Rossouw (256 in 11 matches) and Ahmed Shehzad (253 in seven matches) are the other batsmen who are supporting Quetta’s batting.
Watson, who had not bowled since last year’s IPL in India, said the decision to bowl the last over came off well.
“I think it was more Sarfaraz’s decision than mine,” said Watson of the last over. “I have not bowled for a few months. I had strained my calf and that was reason I was not bowling and concentrating on my batting towards the end of my career.
“It worked up very well. You don’t have such nights when things go your way. Sohail Tanvir and Dwayne Bravo bowled well and it came down to me. It worked out well, but I am not sure that I will bowl another over again.”
Watson admitted he was a bit confused at the start.
“My strategy was what run-up I am gonna use. I had not marked up my run-up and I had a minute to warm up. The ball was reversing and that was my strength when I used to bowl normally. It just meant to be good for me,” said Watson who was hit for six by Kieron Pollard of the third ball before he bowled the West Indian next ball.
Watson said it was incredible to play before a passionate Karachi crowd.
“First of all, it’s incredibly special to be able to play in front of incredible atmosphere and fans. There is no question since I arrived in Karachi. The people are warm and welcoming, as I have experienced them whether they are in Australia or anywhere in the world.
“To be able to play in this atmosphere and I would cherish the opportunity.”
Watson said his confidence in batting is helping him, having notched fourth half-century this season.
“The boundary hitting is what I have done throughout my career. I want to stay at my best, we are playing at some good pitches and things are going my way at the moment. When your confidence is high, things go your way.”
Watson praised young fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain who took two wickets on Wednesday. “Hasnain is an incredibly skillful young man. The ability to bowl so fast and have the control that he has, is unheard of. I have not seen someone of his age bowl so fast,” said Watson of the 18-year-old Quetta pacer, who has also has been selected in the Pakistan team for the ODI series against Australia starting next week in the UAE. “The control over his length and the swing is special. There is no doubt that the Aussie guys will have to work hard to work him out. He has got some good change of pace, so they have to be on their game.”
Watson also backed team-mate Umar Akmal, who also has been recalled to Pakistan team after two years.“We have seen quite a bit of batting talent. Umar Akmal is one of the best and a skillful batsman, and some of the shots he has played are incredible. He is a match-winner and I am happy that he is back in the [Pakistan] team.
“You don’t have so many match-winners and when you have got a match-winner like Umar, you have to play him.
“For me it was the most disappointing thing to see from afar is how someone’s fitness gets in the way of his skills. He can run between the wickets as long as he wants, he is a great fielder and can stand out in the heat and execute his skills,” Watson added. “It happened back in Australia as well, we have got too far caught up in the fitness side of things when cricket is a skill-based game. It’s not so many people who have got world-class skills, so we need to make sure that the world-class players are playing international cricket and are not reliant on a fitness test or how far they can run. For me that is absolutely ludicrous and if someone can execute his skills against the best then he has to be in the team,” the Aussie cricketer concluded.
Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2019