The team selection was again bizarre. Steve Smith, the young outstanding fielder and hitter and the hero of an unlikely win for Rajasthan Royals was left out in favor of the older Brad Hodge, who conceded the run that enabled the Mumbai Indians to tie the score. Rajat Bhatia, one of the most effective bowlers in the Rajasthan Royals team was again left out to enable Abhishek Nayar to play. Nayar neither bowled nor batted.
Watson was obviously afraid that Smith and Bhatia could have won the game for the Royals. Watson's Decision to Open Shane Watson's decision to open and score 8 runs of 18 balls is a clear indication that he wanted to make sure that Rajasthan Royals did not get off to a flying start. The second over of the match was bizarre. Watson faced six balls, left five without offering a stroke and played out a maiden.
Not once in the entire 56 IPL matches played in IPL 2014 has an opening batsman make no attempt to play five balls in one over and played out a maiden over. Watson's Decision to bowl the 13th over of Mumbai Innings This was a crucial over. Conceding up to 10 runs in the over would have won the game for Rajasthan Royals. Watson could not risk that. He had conceded 16 runs in his first over. He happily conceded 17 runs and almost ensured Mumbai victory. Watson bowled 2 over and conceded 33 runs and did his best to ensure Mumbai victory.
Decision Not to Bowl Spinners
Ankit Sharma, the left arm spinner, had bowled earlier in the power play and taken two wickets. He was not allowed to bowl. Medium pacers were taken to the cleaners for 12.4 of the 14.4 overs bowled. Praveen Tambe was allowed to bowl only two. In contrast Mumbai Indians three spinners bowled 12 overs. Any one with rudimentary knowledge of Twenty 20 Cricket knows that it requires much greater skill to hit spinners than medium pacers.
Obviously, Watson wanted to ensure that Mumbai batsmen were not denied the chance to score. Decision to allow Faulkner to bowl the last 4 balls Mumbai needed 10 runs from 3 balls to win. The ball was given by Watson to Faulkner who had conceded 38 runs in his previous three. Praveen Tambe, Dhawal Kulkarni and even Ankit Sharma were available. But Watson gave the ball to Faulkner who dutifully bowled two full tosses on the leg stump. Both were smashed for sixes. The rest is history.
I have no hard evidence to prove that Shane Watson had been influenced by Mumbai team to deliver the match. But the circumstantial evidence is strong. Watson is at the fag end of his cricketing career. A million dollars is a nice retirement benefit which is difficult to refuse. What else can explain the strange captaincy of Shane Watson in the most critical match? Did Hodge and Faulkner also get bonuses from Mumbai team? Who knows?