Former Australia all-rounder and the current Delhi Capitals assistant coach in the IPL, Shane Watson, said ahead of Shane Warne’s state funeral at the MCG on Wednesday that he is yet to come to terms with the cricket legend’s demise.
Warne died of a suspected heart attack on March 4 on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand where he was vacationing.
Speaking about his close friend and former team-mate, Watson said that Warne had made a huge impact on his career. Watson made his debut for Australia in 2002 when Warne was at the peak of his powers for his country and their careers also crossed paths at domestic level, when they played together at English county side Hampshire and then again in the IPL with the Rajasthan Royals.
“It’s just hard to comprehend that he is not here with us anymore,” Watson told ICC on Wednesday. “I was very fortunate — like Ricky Ponting was for me — Shane Warne was the same (type of) mentor for me. At the age of 20, when I came into the Aussie team, the way he took me under his wing and just cared for me was exceptional. At Hampshire 2004 and 2005, I continued to evolve my cricket because of Warnie.
“I was in Australian cricket’s scrap heap in 2008 because of the injuries I had, and Warnie always believed in me. He is the reason why I went to Rajasthan Royals,” added Watson.
Watson said Warne believed in every individual in his team and that positive outlook helped the Rajasthan Royals clinch the IPL title in 2008.
“To be able to have him as captain and coach me for those four years at Rajasthan Royals turned me from a cricketer who had a bit of belief in myself into one to believing I was Superman,” Watson said.
“That’s what he did for everyone around him. It wasn’t just me.”
“And the skill that Warnie had — 2008 IPL, bringing in a whole new group of players together. He was captain-coach, so he was absolutely running the show. His ability to see the best parts of people and bring them together really quickly, that’s the reason why Rajasthan Royals did so well and won.”
Recounting a few memorable conversations he had with Warne, Watson said the late cricketer was always a willing helper and a great friend.
“I’ve had a lot of conversations with Warnie around life and cricket. He always talked about how to take the aggressive option, how to take the positive option in any situation. He turned my bowling around. His mindset was always about getting a wicket. My mindset playing under him at Rajasthan Royals shifted. That’s why he was so ridiculously good, because he always understood how to be able to try and get a wicket.
“His advice around all different parts of life. He was someone who was always willing to just help out in any way. My first commentary gig was the T20 World Cup last year. He was one person who reached out to provide some great words of support, encouragement and advice, because that’s just what he did for his mates.”