Peter Lalor, in The Australian, 5 September 2011
Pic from AP
AFTER proving himself Australia’s most damaging reverse-swing bowler in Galle, opening batsman Shane Watson took a moment to confess he had a wasted youth. He admitted he made mistakes. That he lived fast and damaged his health. Like many a young man before him, it was only when the damage he had done began to take hold that he realised he had to slow down or perish.
Of course, we’re not talking drink, drugs and fast women here. We are talking fast bowling.
Watson, like every aspiring seamer who came before him, wanted to be a tearaway quick. Unfortunately the things that really tore away were muscles and tendons. Fortunately for Australian cricket, injury forced him to slow down and when he did he found the ball started to do things.
“I have learnt from my mistakes in the past,” Watson said. “If I had my time again I probably would have been smarter at how I approached my bowling as a younger guy. Now I realise how important moving the ball is and it would have made a bit of difference on my body as a younger guy if I was a little bit smarter how I bowled.
“I was trying to bowl at 170 kilometres an hour. And I got nowhere near it. I just wanted to bowl as fast as I possibly could because that’s what I thought would get me success. Unfortunately I didn’t really move the ball off the square and all I did was angle the ball in so it wasn’t that effective.”
It was injury that forced the change on the all-rounder. “There was a period of time when my body didn’t allow me to bowl 100 per cent every ball and I realised physically I couldn’t do it,” he said.
“I realised I had to find another way to be effective and in the end its worked out better. I have had more success. I have been able to move the ball and conserve my body a bit.”
While Nathan Lyon’s five wickets in the first innings were important atGalle, it was Watson’s devastating spell of reverse swing that claimed three wickets in 10 balls that stopped the Sri Lankans from mounting a respectable score.
The all-rounder said the sting of failing to make an impact with the bat was part of the catalyst. “I didn’t get any runs this match so I had to try and have some impact and have some input into the game,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not always going to be my day with the bat and that’s the great thing about being an all-rounder.”
Watson’s tale comes in from the opposite end to Ryan Harris. The opening bowler atGallespent the majority of his first-class life 10km/h slower than he is now. However, he bulked up and started bowling 145km/h and suddenly he was in the Test team.
Harris bowled beautifully for his five wickets in the second innings and is another who can get good swing and reverse, although he admitted that Watson was getting so much more at one stage in the match that he went up to him and asked how he was doing it. “It probably comes easier to me than some of our other bowlers,” Watson said later.
“I think it really comes down to a bit of luck at my release point to be able to get the seam in the right position and how I release the ball. My action helps.”
After being a part of the losing Ashes side, Watson was happy to be part of a good victory in tough conditions inGalle.
“To be able to win a Test match inSri Lankais a really good effort,” he said. “I know batting first helped the cause, but we did bowl very well as a group throughout the whole Test match and in the end I don’t think it would have mattered that much whether we batted or bowled first.
“I thought we bowled as a bowling unit as well as we have for a number of years. We were able to sustain pressure for a long time and make it hard forSri Lankato score runs.”