Shane Watson says the success at the IPL with the Rajasthan Royals in 2008 gave his career a big boost. An integral part of the side since that inaugural edition — which the Royals won — Watson has now replaced Rahul Dravid as captain for this season.

In an interview with The Hindu, he says the IPL gives cricketers, even when not playing for the national sides, the opportunity to play competition that is truly world class. 

Excerpts: 

You made a successful return to international cricket after the IPL in 2008, and, of late, Mitchell Johnson seems to have built on his success with Mumbai Indians last year. The IPL seems to be helping players turn things around, especially the Australians…

It certainly can. I know from my experience alone.

I wasn’t playing for Australia when I got the opportunity to play for the Royals. I had had a lot of injuries over the previous couple of years, and so I wasn’t around international cricket to be able to play that type of competition.

So, for me, to get an opportunity to play a world class competition even while not playing for my country, was incredible.

I was extremely lucky that the IPL came along at that point of my career. It really was a catalyst for me to get back to international cricket and become a better cricketer. 

Mitchell Johnson, as I know, was going through a similar phase. Mitch was out of the Australian team with foot injury for a period of time. He came back and played the IPL last year; he bowled fast and swung the ball, and it showed the Australian selectors that he certainly would be a weapon to have on the national team, and that we certainly needed him.

He’s only going from strength to strength, and that’s where Mumbai have played a huge part, and continue to…in reigniting his career. 

Is it strange that the IPL is a T20 competition and yet it assists players in finding form in the more traditional forms?

The difference in formats doesn’t really matter much. World class players are going to be able to adapt to any format.

Sometimes, I go through different periods of scoring runs and performing in different formats, but across the board, world class players — whether they are batsman or bowlers or ’keepers — are going to be able to adapt to different formats.

Mitch is a perfect example of that. He did extremely well in the T20’s and the IPL, and transferred that effortlessly to ODIs and to Test cricket as well because of his ability and athleticism.

So, I think if you’re a high quality athlete and a world class cricketer you’re going to be able to adapt to any format. 

Do you think the Australian approach — of not taking a step back at any time of a match — is still the best?

I wouldn’t say it’s the best; it just works for us in the Australian team. It’s part of our culture growing up. That’s just how we are able to bring out the best in ourselves on the sporting field.

But it doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for other countries as well. Like the Indian team have their own way.

M.S. Dhoni has come an incredibly long way to be able to lead the Indian team like he does, and that’s certainly not by aggression and pushing the boundaries to get in oppositions’ faces. That’s not the way they go about their cricket. They’ve had an incredible amount of success at times doing just what they do.

What are Australia’s expectations from next year’s World Cup?

Well, there are always expectations if it’s in your own country. For India to win the World Cup playing at home, the pressure that was on them throughout the whole tournament was something that I’ve never seen before.

They were able to go through it, and Dhoni handled it like how he has handled everything else: with ease. So, I know that there’s going to be a lot of pressure on us back at home, and that certainly doesn’t guarantee success.

But we know our conditions better than anyone. We can, hopefully, adapt to them better than anyone. But that doesn’t guarantee any success either. 

You have seen India’s domestic players in IPL from 2008. Reasonable time for someone like you to assess their quality?

I think the Indian domestic players are very lucky and very privileged to have access to an international quality tournament without playing for their country.

The exposure that they have been able to get, even to be in and around a team with the Indian international players, or overseas international players, I think there’s no doubt that Indian cricket has only prospered from that exposure.

Guys who are playing international cricket and having the opportunity as overseas players to come and play in the IPL get the chance to test their skills against some of the best players in the world.

I think it’s only really enhanced world cricket in general, as even when you’re not playing for your country, you’re still playing in a world class event, so you’re only going to improve. 

In 2008 Shane Warne said Ravindra Jadeja will be India’s rock star. Was it just hype or does Jadeja have it in him?

My take on Shane Warne’s assessment of Ravindra is that that it’s more about his personality. He was just a 19-year-old then.

He certainly has a lot of confidence, and he has always backed his ability with what he has done.

I don’t think that Warne was putting extra pressure on him to become the rock star of Indian cricket.

He’s a great young guy, he’s extremely talented. He’s always had the talent to be able to develop into a really good cricketer. Whatever format he plays he shines. He’s done some great things for the Indian side in all formats of the game.

He’s still a pretty young guy, and he’s certainly going to continue to get better. 

What is your response to the recent developments around the IPL, especially after last year’s competition? Do you think having the best practices and systems in place can make the game free of corruption?

Well, we always hope so. I mean, I’ve always hoped that’s always been the case ever since I’ve been watching cricket as a young kid.

You want to watch a game where the integrity is (never in question). And, when that’s taken away, it gets to not just the players but the cricket loving public as well…questioning certain events that occur on the field because that’s just how the game pans out at times. 

I certainly just hope that things are always in place to try and rid the game of the bad eggs trying to take away the integrity of the game.

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