Veteran all-rounder Shane Watson is leading the way with the bat for Quetta Gladiators in this year's Pakistan Super League so far. So what's the secret of playing in your mid-thirties, how does he rate Sarfaraz Ahmed's captaincy and what's it like to be playing alongside Kevin Pietersen again? Saj Sadiq asked the Australian these questions and more - but started off with one of the hottest stories of the week…
By Saj Sadiq (7th March, 2018)
What's your view on the recent David Warner and Quinton de Kock incident during the first Test in Durban?
Shane: It was an unfortunate incident. There was obviously something going on between the players on the field from both sides which manifested itself in the over-reaction that happened later. I am sure despite what happened in Durban, both sides will continue to compete hard on the field for the rest of the series and to do as well as they can. Regardless of whose fault it is, it's never good when such feelings spill over between players off the field.
You are currently competing in the Pakistan Super League for Quetta Gladiators, how does the quality of cricket in the PSL compare to other tournaments you have played in?
Shane: There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the PSL is a very tough tournament and the quality of the players involved in the tournament is brilliant too. There is incredible talent on show from the local Pakistani players. As we have seen, every team has high-quality fast-bowlers with some brilliant spin options which have always been a feature of Pakistan cricket as well. Then there is amazing firepower among some very talented Pakistan batters as well. We also have some outstanding foreign players in the PSL who really need to be on top of their game if they wish to perform in this tournament which in itself is a great challenge for them.
What is the main attraction of the PSL for an overseas player like yourself?
Shane: I have no doubt that the PSL is already one of the best leagues in the world. We are in the third year of the tournament and you can also tell how much it is appreciated by simply looking at the calibre and quality of the overseas players who are playing in it. If the quality of the tournament was suspect, then the quality of players we have here would not have come over from overseas and played in it.
It is also an incredibly well-run tournament and the quality of cricket being played here is very tough. That, in turn, is an excellent thing not just for the players as they are challenged to perform against other top-quality players, but it's also an amazing experience for all those watching this tournament as they get to see some high-quality cricket as well.
How has the move from 2016 PSL winners Islamabad United to Quetta Gladiators been for you?
Shane: It's been great fun to have moved to a new franchise and to take on a fresh challenge. It's always an exciting prospect to move to a new environment and meet new people and to play alongside some players who you have played against in the earlier editions of the tournament.
I played against Kevin Pietersen in the last PSL tournament and now it's an honour and a pleasure to play alongside him for Quetta Gladiators. We did play together for a couple of weeks in Hampshire in 2005 so it's good to be back in the same team as Kevin. And of course, to be in the same changing room as the great man Viv Richards is truly a dream come true for me. Those two players are just the starting points of the reason why my move to Quetta has been so enjoyable.
How would you describe Sarfaraz Ahmed's captaincy in the PSL?
Shane: Sarfaraz Ahmed has been excellent in the way he is leading Quetta. I feel that he does have a great feel for the game and that is what he does very well. He has great energy for the game and projects that enthusiasm on the team, regardless of whether he is coming into bat or when he is in the field. He is always moving forward and doesn't delve into what's already happened and quite honestly, it's been a great experience playing under his captaincy.
Are you satisfied with Quetta Gladiator's progress so far?
Shane: We obviously will need to learn from the mistakes that we made in the first half of the tournament. I do not believe we bowled particularly well all of the time so that did hurt us a bit. Also, our batting has been a little bit inconsistent but that happens in Twenty20 cricket. We will now be working very hard to get our consistency back, especially in batting, and take it from there. I feel that we have a very talented squad and there is no reason why we can't just all bring it together in the next few games and make it to the quarter-finals.
If Quetta Gladiators qualify for the final stages of the PSL will you travel to Pakistan?
Shane: At this point in time, the most important objective is for all of us to help Quetta Gladiators qualify for the eliminators and then on to the final of the tournament. We still have a few more games to go so there is some more cricket to be played before we get to Pakistan. At this point in time, I am still undecided. Obviously, the decision point will come in a couple of weeks and that decision isn't so much my own as it is my family's who are the most important part of my life. So, we will see how it goes but the most important thing here is for us to make sure that Quetta gets to the final in Karachi.
Do you agree with the recent decision of some players to give up on playing red-ball cricket and opt only for white-ball contracts?
Shane: There is no doubt that playing just the Twenty20 cricket format is definitely a big draw for the young players at the moment. However, my recommendation and advice to them is that they have plenty of time to play in this type of cricket during their careers. The ultimate form of the game for cricketers in my view is Test cricket and to perform at the Test level is the truest test of a cricketer's skill and ability.
Test cricket will challenge your cricketing skills and will also be a supreme test of your mental and physical abilities as well. Playing Test cricket will help a player judge his skills against the very best players from around the world. Having said that, there is no doubt that there is an option and an opportunity nowadays to play just league based Twenty20 cricket for many players. If you have been lucky enough to play Test cricket then that is excellent, but there is now a chance to play world-class Twenty20 cricket all over the world, albeit without having to play for your country.
You are 36 years old and still performing so well; what's the secret?
Shane: Well, if the truth be told, I am very fortunate that I am still playing the game! I love this game and my passion for this game has not waned whatsoever even though I am not a young kid these days. I feel that I am incredibly fortunate that I am playing cricket professionally. I am lucky to be getting the opportunity to play franchise-based Twenty20 cricket in some top-quality tournament such as the PSL. Also having the chance to spend quality time with my family on the side of such tournaments makes me feel that I am getting the best of both worlds which is brilliant for me.
Twenty20 cricket was supposed to be a young person's game wasn't it, but we have the likes of Kumar Sangakkara, Imran Tahir and yourself doing so well in this format around the world?
Shane: We must not forget that Twenty20 cricket, like any other form of cricket is a skill-based game. Of course, the young guys who have the skills and energy will perform well in this game. But, then when it matters, it really comes down to the skills and match experience which the older players will have in abundance. Also having senior players in the team always helps the younger cricketers learn and come through as better players as well. Yes, the younger players do provide incredible energy to the game which the spectators also note but the experience of the older players should not be underestimated and is vital in my opinion.