The term ‘Most Valuable Player’ or ‘MVP’ is generally a term that we associate with American sports. It can seem to give too much credence to an individual in a team sport, and as such not seem a natural fit with cricket. However, with the plethora of ICC lists of best cricketers of all time, or best cricketers in their given field of expertise, I thought it might be a good time to look at who are the five most valuable players across all three forms of international cricket right now.
Number 3: Shane Watson
In a way, I’m glad that I waited to write this entry into my list of most valuable cricketers, because only last week Watson produced one of the more extraordinary bowling performances, taking 5/17 off just five overs. However, I guess my timing might also suggest opportunism, but I stress, Watson was always going to be on this list, no matter his ultimately fruitless feats at Newlands. The funny thing with Watson is that the rest of the world can’t quite understand why we Aussies have a bit of a love/hate thing going on with him. I guess fans from around the world just see a good-looking, super-fit, talented all-rounder who is leading his country’s next generation. Rest assured, we see this too, but Watson has always come with a bit of baggage that can only be described as his temperament.
Probably the best example of Watson’s Achilles heel, was this ridiculous performance, literally in the face of the coolest man in cricket (in the world?) Chris Gayle. But his conduct on the pitch has often been ordinary, and that kind of behaviour is quite obviously unacceptable. That all said, Watson does seemed to have calmed down and I think his time with the Rajasthan Royals, where he has shared a locker room with international players, may well have had a good effect on his general demeanour. So, that side now covered, let’s delve into the career of this super player of the modern era.
Shane Watson made his test debut in a very different looking Australian side against Pakistan in 2005. Unlike the current Australian band of misfits, this was a side that included Langer, Hayden, Gilchrist, Warne and McGrath. Watson at this stage was very much being shaped as Australia’s answer to their Ashes nemesis Andrew Flintoff, however his body just couldn’t hold up, and it has not been until the last couple of years that Watson has been able to have an extended run in the team. A batting average of 38 doesn’t suggest a world-beating opener, but if you combine this with a bowling average of 28 you start to see why he is so important to Australia (Flintoff finished with figures of 31 with the bat and 32 with the ball). One major caveat to Watson’s test career so far has been his inability to transfer fifties into hundreds, but it seems his move down the order is nigh, and I have no doubt this will help him given his increased bowling load under Michael Clarke.
There is no doubt that 50-over cricket is where Watson has been at his most devastating for his country. Opening the batting, Watson averages an impressive 43 with a strike-rate of nearly 90. He has smashed six centuries and has a highest score of 185*. You can throw that in with 138 wickets at a strike rate of 36 and some fine slips catching, and Watson starts to emerge as one of the most damaging players in one-day cricket. Apart from the numbers, Watson also seems to perform well on the big occasions and he, like Adam Gilchrist before him, sets the tone of the innings by attacking bowlers with precision.
Watson’s international T20 figures also reinforce his dominance. He boasts an extraordinary strike-rate of 144 and takes his wickets at a strike-rate of 20…good numbers you’ll agree. Whilst his numbers in the IPL aren’t quite as impressive, there is no doubt that his involvement with the Royals was crucial in their inaugural victory in the competition and he remains one of the most sought after players in this format.
Now at the age of thirty, Watson is no longer the young brash up-start with unrealised promise. As an opening bat, leading bowler and one of Michael Clarke’s most trusted lieutenant’s, Watson is shaping Australia’s new era. Whether he can help return it to the heights reached by the side he first joined is still to be seen, however there is no doubt that he is certainly one of the most valuable players in world cricket right now.
Let me know what you think about Shane Watson and whether you think he should have been higher or lower by making a comment below, and check back next week for number three on the list.
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