This year’s World Cup has benefited from an additional breakout star from an unlikely place.

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Every World Cup has breakout stars. In fact, it’s one of the joys of watching major international competitions that you get to see relative unknowns propel themselves into the mainstream conversation. On the pitch, you could argue that this tournament has been the announcement of Mark Watt, the Scottish left-arm spinner who doesn’t spin it, doesn’t bowl from 22 yards and doesn’t go for any runs either.

Rarely, however, is one of the breakout stars of a competition found off the pitch. And even more rarely, does a breakout star boast over 300 international appearances to their name. And yet the addition of Shane Watson to the commentary box has received almost universal acclaim.

Watson is a veteran of 340 T20 matches and multiple franchise leagues. He has played T20 cricket in Australia, England, India, Bangladesh, the Caribbean and Pakistan, with his final appearance being only last year when he retired from all formats of the game following the end of the 2020 IPL season.

As such, Watson has found a sweet spot. By being out of the game, he isn’t faced with the same conflict of interest that current players are confronted with when they’re commenting on their own teammates or opponents. But by only being a year out he is still in touch with the trends and thinking of how modern T20 is played. And in a sport that progresses as rapidly as T20 does, this puts him in a rare position of insight, particularly given his wealth of experience in the format and also his in-depth knowledge of each nation due to his time playing in their leagues.

One example of where Watson has gained particular praise is when analysing how batting teams should be constructing an innings. Watson has often discarded the previously accepted sentiment of the need to rebuild after the loss of early wickets. Instead, Watson argues, teams more often than not need to continue to show intent and hit their way out of trouble in order to still give themselves the best chance of posting a winning total.

This was evidenced during the West Indies v Australia game where Evin Lewis had got off to a strong start for the West Indies, whilst at the other end his team had lost three early wickets. When asked whether Lewis would be best served knuckling down and going through a period of consolidation, Watson explained that with the wicket playing as well it was, the best thing for Lewis to do was to keep going and focus on playing a “match-winning innings” for his side. Whilst a period of consolidation would give the West Indies the best chance of posting a ‘respectable’ total, it wouldn’t give them the best chance of victory. Had the wicket been tougher to bat on, however, Watson explained that then he would look to slow down and ensure his side would be able to post some sort of total that would keep them in the game.

In all, Watson’s entry to the commentary box has bridged a gap to the audience. Whilst there are many fine broadcasters who do an excellent job at translating events on the field to the viewers at home, Watson’s closeness to the current game has added another level of insight to this year’s competition and it is of little surprise that it has been so well received.