Watson: I've thrived since giving up on being Aussie Flintoff

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The Independent Online

Shane Watson has never been the most popular of Australian cricketers and his revelation that he once dreamt of being an Englishman will not have improved his reputation Down Under.

The Australian all-rounder divided opinion in his home country before his recent solid form as a Test opener converted many to his cause. One of the reasons for his success, he says, is that he has dropped his obsession with being his country's answer to Andrew Flintoff.

Watson started his international career as a middle-order batsman and pace bowler in the vein of Flintoff but he frequently broke down with injury – somewhat ironically, given Flintoff's own battles with injury – and looked likely to become an unfulfilled talent.

However, he was offered a lifeline as a makeshift opener during last summer's Ashes series and has flourished in the role, scoring 990 runs at 47.14 and adding 24 wickets at a cost of 21.95. It was a position Watson took on with little prior experience of opening, he says, but that hasn't held him back.

Reflecting on his change in fortunes in September's edition of The Wisden Cricketer, Watson said: "I became obsessed with being Australia's Freddie Flintoff, I wanted to be that player so much I pushed myself but that actually held me back.

"No one knew what was going wrong with my body. I had no answers and no one could help me. Now I am having the time of my life. For so long people didn't know if I was good enough and the truth is I didn't know either but that's now over. I have proved I can do it."

Watson will get the chance to avenge England's 2009 Ashes success when Andrew Strauss's side return Down Under this winter and he is confident of a worthy tussle. "The difference with England now is they have guys who are consistent performers, not who do it now and again, they have guys who can really turn it on. Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad will be big, big players, and England know they can beat us.

"But we have the advantage of knowing our conditions and we are better cricketers than in 2009, hardened by that defeat. We know this could be the defining moment in our careers. I hope I have only scratched the surface of what I can do for Australia."