Watson watched Green’s match-winning innings in the first Test against Sri Lanka at Galle and was awestruck by how well he adjusted his game to suit the extreme spinning conditions he faced.
“He’s incredible,” Watson said, speaking at an event to mark 100 days until the men’s T20 World Cup. “He’s incredibly skillful and to see how he’s continued to upskill so quickly.
“He’s got such a deep understanding of his game obviously. For him to be able to make the adjustments, little adjustments like he has to be able to just find his feet so quickly. That innings last week in the last Test match was something very special.
“For someone to have such control over just changing his game plan, changing his game to be able to be very effective in extreme conditions. It’s special to be able to watch someone like him.”
Watson, like Green, entered international cricket at 20 after dominating domestic cricket for two seasons. But he was blooded in ODI cricket playing 27 matches over a three-year period before finally breaking into the Test side in 2005. It took another four years before he became a mainstay in Australia’s Test side due to a multitude of injuries.
Speaking after the first Test, Green referenced Watson’s record: “I had plenty of allrounders when I looked up to when younger,” he said. “There are not many allrounders who bat at No.3 and bowl as many overs as [Shane Watson] did. He has incredible stats.”
Green has not suffered a back injury since he started his Test career although there was a minor scare post the Pakistan series that saw him unavailable to bowl for the first two ODIs in Sri Lanka. But Watson has been impressed with how he has been handled by the Australian team.
“They’re managing him very well already,” Watson said. “They’re looking after him when he has a few niggles or he’s got a little injury, which is a great thing to be able to continue to look after him. He’s a good enough batter alone to be able to play in the Aussie team just as a batter because he’s so highly skilled, but if they just continue to look after his bowling as they have already then that’s going to play a big part in his longevity.”
Watson believes Green is well placed to handle the expectations that are already building around him. Watson said the pressure he put on himself to succeed was heavier than anything external, but he urged people to remain patient with Green.
“I wanted to be the best allrounder that I possibly could be the best allrounder Australia had, and I probably let that be known as well when I should just kept that internal,” Watson said with a laugh. “So that’s a life lesson learned. But that was the expectation that I had on myself and when you put that much expectation on yourself, it’s hard to be able to chase it all the time.
“It was a good learning experience for me and it seems like things are different with Cameron Green at the moment. People are just being more patient with him and letting him do his thing and he’s shown very quickly how good he is.”
Watson, one of Australia’s best ever limited-overs players, believes Green has the capabilities to feature in all three formats despite his limited exposure to T20 cricket in particular. Green has played just one T20I and only 14 T20s in total, but Watson said he has the skills to succeed.
“Seeing him in the Test matches and a little bit in one-day cricket but he’s got all the tools to be an incredible T20 player as well,” Watson said. “As a top-order batting allrounder, he’s someone who’s going to be exciting to watch.”
Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo