Shane Watson, who spent two years playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore, claimed that while he cherished playing in Bangalore due to the calibre of his teammates, the franchise owners had no real emotional connection with the club. Watson also recalled an awkward encounter with Chris Gayle.
Despite not having won the Indian Premier League since the competition’s inception, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) remain one of the top franchises in the competition, largely thanks to the club’s brand value. Led by Indian skipper Virat Kohli - the biggest name and brand in world cricket - the Bangalore-based franchise have carved a niche for themselves as one of the best brands in the entire world and this tag is something that has, to date, managed to keep the club relevant.
However, this obsession RCB seemingly have for their ‘brand value’ have incited fears within many that the Reds are a club that are not too bothered by results and are largely keen to ensure that the brand remains strong.
The same was indirectly hinted by former Australian cricketer Shane Watson. Speaking in the Grade Cricketer podcast, Watson, who played two seasons for RCB, asserted that while it was surreal for him to play alongside the likes of Kohli and de Villiers, he did feel, at times, that the RCB franchise owners had no real emotional connect with the club.
“RCB was a great experience because of the calibre of players I played with. It was run by diageo which is sort of a Johnny Walker company, so it was more corporately - sort of - run, which is different. There’s no real emotional connection with the owners who put in their heart and soul into it,” Watson said in the Grade Cricketer podcast.
However, RCB was not the only club from the south Watson represented, as he also spent three seasons playing for Chennai Super Kings, whom he ended his cricketing career with. Unlike the Reds, though, the Aussie had nothing but words of immense praise for the Yellow Army. The 39-year-old even went on to describe Stephen Fleming as the best coach he’s ever played under.
“But CSK was an incredible experience - to be with a team that was ageing, because of the experience we had, to be led by MS Dhoni, to be coached by Stephen Fleming, who is the best coach I’ve ever worked with. Fleming’s man-management skills, understanding of individuals and team environment, and also his cricket knowledge is ultimate. And of course the connection he had with MS Dhoni. That was a super cool experience,” the all-rounder said of his CSK experience.
Watson is one of the rare few overseas players who has featured in each of the thirteen IPL seasons and, as a result, he has, over the years, rubbed shoulders with many a friend and foe. Playing in the same team as an opponent you do not get along with can be awkward, and Watson revealed that he encountered one such awkward situation with the Universe Boss Chris Gayle. Having had many a face-off with Gayle whilst representing Australia - notably in a Test in Perth in 2009 when he gave the Jamaican a needless send-off - the all-rounder got picked in the same IPL side as the southpaw when RCB picked him ahead of IPL 2016.
The 39-year-old revealed, in a rather light-hearted tone, that it was super awkward once he knew he was going to play alongside Gayle and added that he mustered the courage to ‘break the ice’ to get back on good terms with the West Indian legend.
“The awkward part was Chris Gayle. He came to the Cricket Academy when I was at the academy at 19, I always enjoyed the way he played and we got along well with each other but things sort of shifted when we kept playing against each other a lot more. Then we didn’t particularly get along pretty well at all. It was due to a Perth Test match, really. He sort of got under my skin and I had a go at him after which I got fined. And then he fuelled the fire in the media by saying that he expected that behavior. So we didn’t get along well at all.
“Then we were playing (in separate teams) in the PSL when the IPL auction was on. And it came out that I got signed with RCB. And I was like, ‘This is going to be awkward’. So I had to break the ice. I saw him at the pool the next night and said, ‘Who would have thought we’d be playing in the same side.’ And from then on, it’s actually been really good.”