In 2016 Shane Watson was classified as the world’s number one T20 all rounder, but when he joined the Rajasthan Royals eight years earlier, he was perceived as something of a gamble because of his chequered injury record. Royals skipper and close friend Shane Warne wanted the Rajasthan management to back his protégé and they agreed. They were richly rewarded with a series of strong performances from the Aussie firebrand in the inaugural IPL. Signed for $125,000, ‘Watto’ excelled with both bat and ball in the 2008 tournament, scoring four half-centuries to anchor his team to victory in three matches and the semi-final. Shane won four Man of the Match awards and the Man of the Series award for his 472 runs and 17 wickets. He was instrumental in the team’s march to the Final and then them securing the trophy in glorious fashion.
Watson remained a loyal servant to the Rajasthan franchise in the following years, and in the 2013 IPL, he scored his first century in T20 cricket, playing against the Chennai Super Kings. Shane scored 101 runs off 61 balls, hitting six fours and six sixes. His strong performances continued in that campaign and he subsequently went on to win the 2013 Man of the Tournament award. For the 2014 IPL season, a fresh player auction was held; Watson was again retained by the Royals for $2 million making him the highest-paid overseas player and one of a few international cricketers to play for the same IPL franchise from the inception of the tournament. For the 2014 season he was appointed Royals captain, a worthy successor to Indian Icon Rahul Dravid.
Watson was a true great of the T20 game. He was the only player to have scored most runs, secured most wickets, achieved the highest score, secured the highest batting average, and hit the most sixes for a team in T20. He is also the only player to win man of the tournament in the IPL twice. During his career he was one of the most entertaining and vivacious cricketers on the planet, the sort of player who got the fans’ pulses racing from the moment he arrived at the crease or started bowling, and ‘Royalistas’ still miss him dearly.