MOHALI: Three years ago this month, Shane Watson packed his bags and his guitar here and flew home midway through a tour of India, declaring he was considering his future as an Australian player.
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On Thursday, on the first day of Holi and in the same city from which he dashed home from in 2013, the veteran all-rounder put the full stop on his international career, announcing he would retire after this World Twenty20 championship.
Having already quit Test cricket following his dropping during last year's Ashes series and not featured for Australia in one-day cricket in the summer, Watson's time was probably almost up anyway, with selectors beginning the task of assembling the makings of a team for future major events such as the next World Cup in 2019.
But as the last link in the Australian team to the golden era of the mid-2000s, the formalisation of the 34-year-old's exit from the international game was significant.
He said he was glad he didn't follow through and quit after the "homework" fiasco, during which he and three others were stood down for a Test in Mohali by then coach Mickey Arthur and captain Michael Clarke.
"That was a time where I certainly was considering my future within the Australian team because at that moment of time I certainly wasn't the environment … I wasn't enjoying playing," Watson said.
"The game of cricket and sport in general is there to be thoroughly enjoyed and I certainly wasn't enjoying it that much. The thing that really shone through at that point in time was how much I really do love the game and realising that I was absolutely living the dream and just had to get through that period of time having faith that there was light at the end of the tunnel and there certainly was. it changed within two or three months with Darren [Lehmann] coming in and really turning things around. Like all situations in life when it doesn't work out how you want it … if you stick it out for a period of time there is normally some light there. I've been very fortunate that there certainly was with an Ashes win at home and a World Cup at home as well. It doesn't get much better than that."
Watson hopes he still has four games remaining for Australia – group matches against Pakistan here on Friday and against India on Sunday and then a World T20 semi-final and final – but he will continue to play in T20 leagues such as Big Bash and the Indian Premier League, where he remains a superstar. Arguably Australia's greatest T20 player and one of the country's best ever white-ball cricketers, the elder statesman of this squad has watched contemporaries such as Mitchell Johnson, Brad Haddin and Clarke head off into the sunset in the past nine months and knows now is his time.
"None of the guys that I played with growing up are here anymore and it really just feels like it's time to let the younger group continue to grow," Watson said. "I know how privileged I've been to be in the position to start so young with so many incredible players and that's part of how I've always seen myself being, I suppose being the filter to pass on that knowledge to the guys I'm involved with. My first tour [in 2002 to South Africa] was with Steve Waugh as the captain of the Test squad. A lot of these guys have seen Steve Waugh play but never had the fortune to actually play with him or be around a squad. And that's just one guy – let alone all the legends I was fortunate to play with."