Watson insists he wasn't pushed
Shane Watson has insisted the decision to step down from the national vice-captaincy was his alone and was not prompted by Cricket Australia or the team management. Watson announced on Saturday that he would no longer be Michael Clarke's deputy because he wanted to focus on his own performance and the timing, in the lead-up to the Ashes squad announcement, led to speculation that he might have been dropped from the role had he not quit.
But Watson said there had been no pressure from within Australian cricket and his decision was in part to allow him to work on his own game and also to make it easier for Australia to start building a succession plan. Clarke and Watson are both 31 and given Clarke's ongoing back problems his longevity as an international cricketer is uncertain and allowing a new vice-captain to learn under him might make the transition easier when it occurs.
"Michael and myself are the exact same age and I suppose it's been in the back of my mind as well to have a succession plan moving forward over the next few years as to who the next Australian captain will be," Watson told the Sun-Herald. "That definitely played a part in my decision as well, knowing that there really does need to be a succession plan in place, I suppose, in place along the lines of Michael and Ricky [Ponting]. I just think the time is right now for me to stand down and allow that process to move forward.
"I haven't felt pressure from the Cricket Australia hierarchy or anything like that at all. It's mainly just come down to me, knowing that there has to be a succession plan. I'm very realistic with the team, myself and the structure. That is very important. What CA are looking out for at the moment is a few future leaders of the Australian cricket team."
Watson captained Australia in their most recent Test in Delhi, where India wrapped up a 4-0 series win last month, but personally he had a very disappointing tour with the bat, averaging 16.50. He had chosen not to bowl in an effort to prevent injury and allow him to gain some momentum as a batsman but the plan backfired and he intends to be bowling again by the time the Ashes begins.
Since Watson was named vice-captain two years ago he has failed to hit the necessary heights as a Test batsman and averaged 24.11 with the bat during that time. Watson said he knew he could not expect to keep being selected if he was not contributing on the field but he hoped that by stepping down from an official leadership position he would give himself more chance of on-field success.
"It will definitely free me up a bit," he said. "My workload is nowhere near what Michael's is, that's for sure. But being an allrounder as well, coming back and bowling, that little bit of extra time that I would have been spending in the leadership meetings I'll be able to spend on doing everything I can to get the best out of myself. I'll also be able to get as much life balance as I can with my young family.
''Throughout the Indian series it certainly made me realise what my make-up is. That certainly is an allrounder. It increases my chances of selection as well and I do want to be a part of the Ashes campaign."