From time to time Shane Watson reminds his young and naive colleagues of what matters in their sporting life. It is his fondest desire that they will never have to carry his burden.
"For the guys who have not been involved in some of the Ashes losses, I continue to let them know how much it does hurt to lose to the English," he said yesterday. "It hurts more than any other time because it's such a passionate rivalry. It is a very special thing to be involved in, whether it's an Ashes series or a one-day series in the middle of the English summer."
One of the many abiding images from England's second successive Ashes triumph two winters ago was Watson's appearance in the bowels of the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It was the close of the third day of the fourth Test and Australia, technically speaking, had lost neither the match, the urn, nor the series.
But in a heartfelt, highly personal inquest, Watson conceded that the game was up, that the English – which is how, in the most charming way, he always refers to the old enemy – were on the verge of a grand triumph. The hurt was written all over his face and the pain came from the bottom of his soul.
Watson is that rarest of beings among modern Australian cricketers. He has never appeared on an Ashes-winning side. Two attempts have ended in two failures, in England in 2009 and in Australia in 2010-11. To suggest he has unfinished business is to muse that the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona could do with being completed one day.
The one-day series between England and Australia that starts at Lord's tomorrow is a stand-alone event. But anybody who says that it has no bearing on events next summer is kidding nobody.
Australians who have never been here before are learning about playing in conditions and circumstances that are peculiar to England, while the English are learning about players whom they have never come across but who may well be back next year.
"This is going to be a big learning experience," said Watson at Lord's. "No doubt it's a reconnaissance mission for us but it is for the English as well. Both teams are going to do this, to try to find that edge."
Watson is a senior member of the Australian team now. From being someone on the fringe, Watson has emerged as a fearsome combatant. His batting against the new ball is never elegant but its studious determination does not show much frailty. As a bowler in the early days, he went for pace, but he has learned over the years that it is movement that counts.
His ambition, his intention, is to play for Australia in the next two Ashes series in 2013 and 2013-14. But for now there is the one-day series, in which, of course, those dreams can be forged. "The ultimate is to be around next summer and the following Australian winter," added .
"The build-up is something you never experience in anything else. It probably won't have any bearing in the Ashes but it will put a line in the sand to see where we're at."Reuse content