By Wisden India staff in Mirpur
Australia all-rounder credits Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma for starting the slide even though seven wickets went down to spinners
This time around, in the World T20 2014, he has not been able to do anything right – 7 runs from 10 balls in three innings, and tournament figures of 10-1-85-2 are self-explanatory.
Having suffered three defeats in as many matches and with an eye already on the flight back home, Australia comes up against Bangladesh, itself in the wars, in its final Super 10 Group 2 tie on Tuesday (April 1). Motivation could be a problem at the end of a long and successful summer, but Watson insisted the team had no other option but to remain focussed, given the results of the last ten days.
“We have to be motivated. For me personally, the motivation is – I don’t like losing, personally. As a team, we don’t like losing,” he said. “I don’t like my performance in this tournament. I haven’t got five runs, I’ve probably got more wickets than runs at the moment. My performance has been certainly nowhere near what I was hoping for. I know personally I’ve got a lot to prove and I know everyone else will be feeling exactly the same. It’s certainly been a long summer. It’s been a never-ending summer. But it certainly doesn’t mean that we should ever take the foot off the pedal. Playing cricket for your country in a World Cup, whatever format of the game it is, it’s a huge honour. There’s certainly going to be a lot of people who’ve got damaged pride especially after tonight (the India loss). We’ll be shaping up ready to go to try and finish the tournament how we really should’ve started it.”
Watson said the fact that this was the end of a long summer, with Test matches at home against England and in South Africa apart from numerous limited-overs internationals, was no excuse for Australia’s dismal run in this tournament. “The workload is not at all a factor,’ he insisted. “It’s not the first time that the majority of us have played a lot of cricket back-to-back. It’s no excuse whatsoever. This is a tournament I’ve been really excited about for the last couple of years. We lost in the semifinal in Sri Lanka and with the team that we have, I was extremely excited about our prospects. We just haven’t been able to execute when we’ve needed to in those first couple of games. It’s integral to be able to get off to a great start in this tournament or you’re out (early) like we were. It’s absolutely no excuse whatsoever. I know everyone coming here was extremely excited about being involved in this team. We’ve got a lot of match-winners in our team with bat and ball but we just haven’t been able to put it together unfortunately.”
Australia hit a new low on Sunday against India, being shot out for 86 while chasing 160 for victory. “There’s obviously no doubt our performance is disappointing. Tonight obviously is very disappointing to have lost so convincingly but this whole tournament has been disappointing. To be in the positions that we were and to not win those games in crucial times (against Pakistan and West Indies) has been very disappointing,” admitted Watson. “Tonight there is no doubt we centrally were very poor batting-wise, more than anything. Bowling-wise, I think they have got a very dangerous batting line-up, so for us to be able restrict them to 160-odd, we knew we were in the game if we got off to a good start but unfortunately it didn’t work and it got worse from there.”
India’s spinners once again dominated the show with seven wickets out of ten, but Watson brushed off suggestions that Australia still had issues with the turning ball even though it was spin that had undone it this time last year also when India completed its first ever 4-0 Test series sweep. “I wouldn’t (say that) though spin played an absolutely huge role today (in the loss to India),” he said. “There’s no doubt it’s important for our team to get off to a good start. The top three or four batsmen, a few of us got out to their quicks. And there’s no doubt their quicks bowled very well first up. Dave Warner and Aaron Finch are as dynamic an opening (partnership) as there is in the world. But they bowled very well with that brand new ball and made it very difficult to score.
“Obviously their spinners came in at a great time when we’d lost a couple of wickets and it makes it easier to be able to come on and contain. There’s no doubt they’re bowling very well at the moment. Especially (R) Ashwin and (Amit) Mishra are bowling beautifully at the moment. I wouldn’t take anything from where we were from our 4-0 loss in India. Obviously we lost to spin but there were a few other issues going on with our team at that stage. That’s certainly not the case now. I’ve tried to blank that stuff out of my mind, to be fair,” he said, choosing not to reflect on the time when Watson and three others were dropped after Homeworkgate when Mickey Arthur was the coach.
“We’re certainly getting better. Darren’s (Lehmann) a great coach. He knows how to coach us better to be able to play spin and we have been playing better. Even in the one-day tournament in India in October-November – we played their spinners very well. We’re getting better. This tournament has just been not so good.”
Next up for Watson, after a couple of weeks of rest, is the Indian Premier League, where he will lead Rajasthan Royals. There were some doubts over the participation of Rajasthan and Chennai Super Kings in IPL 7, doubts that have since been laid to rest. Watson said he had tried to remain positive even when Rajasthan’s presence in the IPL was under serious threat. “I’ve really tried not to worry about it, to be honest. Rajasthan has been kicked out in the past from the tournament, so you just never know how things are going to pan out,” he smiled. “I’ve always been confident things will work out well in the end, which it seems to have worked out that way. There’s no doubt that personally for me, it would be a huge shame if Rajasthan wasn’t playing this IPL because I certainly love every moment I’ve spent there since it started. But we are on the right side again, thank God.”