Shane Watson was a reluctant visitor to Pakistan earlier but this year he made it to Karachi to play for Quetta Gladiators. In this interview, he speaks about his experience in the PSL, returning to Pakistan after a long gap, and what keeps him going despite retiring from international cricket.
You've been a part of many dressing rooms across the world for different teams. How have Quetta Gladiators been different?
This year, even last year, the difference to me is that the best team...their leadership is always incredibly strong and that is a big difference here with Quetta compared to other teams I played with in the past. The owner, Mr Nadeem Omar, is a genuinely incredible, caring and thoughtful guy and you feel that all the way down to the support staff and the players as well. Then this year we have an incredible squad. We've got a lot of match-winners through our whole squad which means our dressing room is a bit different to the other ones I've played in because not every team has match-winners all the way through.
If you have to pick one franchise out of the ones you've played for, which one would you pick and why?
It's impossible to pick one franchise because I've played with so many. Normally at the start of the season I have always got a sense of whether something special is happening. Whether it's the people you've got around, the calibre of players you've got around, the leadership, it's all the perfect storm and that's the moment you really cherish and it doesn't always happen with every team. For reason of injuries, personal viability and that sort of things I've been very fortunate to be playing for few franchises where for one year particularly I had that feeling.
[With] teams like Sydney Thunder, Chennai [Super Kings], my first year with [Royal Challengers] Bangalore and this year particularly with Quetta as well, who have an incredible squad with so many match-winners and I got a very special feeling. But this never guarantees that you will win the tournament but it means that we are going to play some very very good cricket.
What convinced you to come to Pakistan this year?
It's really special to be here in Karachi in Pakistan as I was here last in 2005. My primary consideration this year was having a time with my family, particularly with my son's birthday around this time. So it was really a family consideration. I had to talk to my wife, about how much it means to my team for me to come to Pakistan and help them get to the final. For me at the end, my wife has been incredibly supportive, she realised how important it is for me to be able to go to Pakistan for Quetta and also for the people of Pakistan. So it worked out very well.
How was the experience in your first game against Karachi Kings the other night?
Yes, even from the first time arriving here at Karachi, people have always been incredible, welcoming and warm and that's what exactly we all received at the ground. Last night it was an incredible atmosphere, a very special atmosphere. The support even Quetta got was unexpected because we were playing against Karachi. It was great not just for me but for every one. I am glad that I helped them in the way I am able to here and get cricket back, get an international standard cricket match back to the people of Pakistan who love the game as much as I do.
Pakistan has always been known for its fast bowlers. You're the leading run-scorer this PSL season. Did you face the heat while facing any fast bowlers this time?
Yes, that is one thing that always comes up while playing in the PSL, even from my first year and it continued to be now. There's always one or two fast bowlers who are bowling way above 140kmh, pushing 150kmh. So every single game I go out and play, I know I have to be absolutely on my game, ready to go, otherwise I can get exposed and hurt facing these quick bowlers. It's an incredible thing, the depth that Pakistan cricket has over any other country that I have ever played in - real and proper fast bowling. It's amazing how they continue to come through. Now we've got [Mohammad] Hasnain here at Quetta who has come onto the scene and is bowling 150kmh, as it continues to happen every single PSL. So it's pretty amazing.
Have you stopped bowling to extend your playing career?
Yeah, at the moment I have stopped bowling from the start of the Big Bash really. I was trying to get ready to be able to bowl in the Big Bash and ended up getting two calf strains in the lead-up to it. So it was just a defining moment for me to put all my energy towards my batting and hold my body together because I absolutely still love playing, I still feel I can contribute with the bat and on the field with the leadership as well, with the experience I have had. I want to keep playing so I'm putting my bowling at the back burner and no bowling means that I can hopefully play for a few more years.
How do you keep yourself motivated when you're not playing for Australia but for different teams around the world?
Ever since I retired [from international cricket], I've been fortunate to play many different tournaments around the world and the thing that keeps me very motivated is wanting to be successful and wanting to be in a successful team. That is very simple and I love the opportunity to go out and play with so many different people I never would have played with and you never get to know people on the field because you are always on a battle and survival mode and you never really got to see the true person at the field. So that's the privilege I've had to play with so many incredible people from the last three years playing for different franchises.
At Quetta, I've been able to get to know Sarfaraz Ahmed, for example, someone I hardly ever played against. Last year, I got to know Kevin Petersen by playing with him for the first time for a long time instead of playing against him and it's been really special for me. And now it's an incredible opportunity to be with Sir Viv Richards who was one of my idols growing up. So to be with your mentor in the same team and get to know him and I still have a lot of questions to ask about his career, his playing days and it's something I would never have had without franchise cricket.