Australia's troubled tour March 13, 2013

Clarke remains hopeful of Watson return


Michael Clarke has not given up hope of Shane Watson returning to India for the fourth Test in Delhi, despite the vice-captain's indications that he is considering his cricket future. Watson arrived in Sydney on Tuesday night for the birth of his first child, although his departure from Chandigarh also coincided with him being one of four players stood down from the Australia team for this week's third Test due to their failure to complete a task set by the coach Mickey Arthur.

When he left India, Watson said he would use his time at home to weigh up his cricket future, which given his new family commitments was taken as a suggestion that long Test tours might no longer be on his radar. However, Clarke and Watson spoke on the phone after Watson landed in Sydney and Clarke said the best-case scenario for Australia was that Watson could still return to India in time for the final Test in Delhi, which starts on Friday next week.

"I think Watto has made it clear to everybody that that's something he's thinking about while he's home," Clarke said of Watson's cricket future. "From my point of view he's vice-captain of this team and he's a big part of this team, there's no doubt about that. From the conversation Watto and I have had, 100% he has gone home for the birth of his first child, which is very exciting for him. I know he's really excited about that.

"Hopefully all goes to plan there, Lee has the baby in the next few days and Watto is back here playing the fourth Test as our vice-captain. That's the best-case scenario from my point of view and from the team's point of view. The rest is really up to Shane."

The Watson situation was complicated by a press conference in which Cricket Australia's general manager of team performance, Pat Howard, said that Watson was a team player "sometimes" and alluded to issues between Watson and Clarke. Watson responded by saying that Howard did not know him well and that his relationship with Clarke had its ups and downs but that things were going well between them at the moment.

Clarke was careful not to be drawn too far into the debate on the eve of the Mohali Test, but he said he was sure Watson and Howard would be in communication while Watson was at home. Clarke was doing his best to focus firmly on the third Test against India, which Australia could enter with as few as 12 available players due to Watson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja being suspended, and Matthew Wade battling an ankle injury.

"I'm not going to get into that," Clarke said. "I don't think it's fair to Watto and I don't think it's fair to Pat that I get involved in that. Watto has been around for a long time. Pat has been around sport for a very long time. I know those two will be in communication. For me the focus is this team and trying to have success in these two Test matches.

"I think the most important thing is that this group looks forward. The decision has been made. The players have accepted and respect the decision that has been made, and now we're trying to do what the most important thing is and have success in this Test match. I think it would be very stupid of me to look backwards. I don't think right now, a day out before the Test, I can afford to do that.

"Watto made it clear yesterday that me and him have known each other for such a long period of time. The players respect the position I'm in as captain and that this decision isn't personal. We made the decision irrelevant to the four players' names. It was because we thought it was best for the team that we made that decision."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • disco on March 15, 2013, 0:13 GMT

    One cannot be suspended for a match one was already not going to play. If Watto plays the 4th Test then the other 3 suspended players would have reasonable cause for complaint as his suspension becomes merely symbolic. Maybe his 'threat' to consider his future was a ploy.

    Watto seems more of a destabilising influence on the Team, and the fact that he did not even offer to bowl 2 or three overs in the first match with his 'golden arm' partnership breakers, plus his continuous string of non starts and current petulance make him pretty well dispensable. Notwithstanding he'd probably rather pick up the big earner in the IPL.

  • Dummy4 on March 14, 2013, 22:56 GMT

    @ Alexk400 .... spot on they needed 20-wickets, dumped Lyon and selected Maxwell and Doherty. The selectors, including MJ Clarke, have no comprehension of the players abilities.

    @ Daniel Sijmons .... love it!!! You name Wade, talented but can't keep to spin, and Hughes, who hasn't coped with this Tour environment, then include Johnson and Khawaja who haven't been selected on tour. Yes, Australia has taleneted cricket players but the team selected for the 2nd Test could have readily been beaten by a 2nd Australian XI.

    All amounts to the inability for the selectors to put the correct team together, and the failure to include O'Keefe in the original tour squad.

  • Srinivas on March 14, 2013, 14:31 GMT

    Being the Vice-Captain, it was even more imperative that Watson should have given his inputs, as asked of him. Instead, he chose to turn away from his responsibilities. What kind of a Vice-Captain is he? Shame! And to think that after playing for nearly 10 years, he has just a couple of centuries in test cricket! I think Australia should look elsewhere. It should be a blessing in disguise for them.

  • Alex on March 14, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    Great Aussie teams lost in India with great bowlers and great spinners. You can't compare this aussie team against great team. For me this aussie team batting rely on one man. Michael clarke. But aussie bowling still good in seaming friendly conditions. But In india though it got exposed. I am thinking siddle (great trier and team man)and starc are not good bowlers in indian conditions. Aussie do not have good spin bowler to stop the run flow which caused all problems. If they can't stop run leaking , the fast bowler will also get hit. Thats what happened. All teams are talented at home conditions because of home crowd energy. For me clarke needs to accept loss like a man and stop being going bonkers. Its different team , he needs to behave like he has seen many losses , instead of he is acting like he has allergy. Yes we all know aussies wants to win more than any team but that depends on talent level in the team. Also aussie has weak batting group. Bring watson back first.

  • RAVINDER on March 14, 2013, 9:30 GMT

    I cant agree more with Cricket316 on (March 13, 2013, 21:40 GMT) and cricket-india on (March 13, 2013, 11:00 GMT) . It hurts to a genuine cricket lover like me the way respective boards have treated players like Gayle,KP,Ross,Symond,Katich and many others. Even Dravid and Laxman were forced to retire. if CA has to think ahead they need to drop Coach/Capatin from their positions just like what India did with Greig Chappel before he did irrepairable damage to Indian cricket.

  • Alex on March 14, 2013, 9:23 GMT

    India lost 8-0 , Dhoni did not go around blamed his team mates. That is leadership. Clarke knows why he lost first two test. Certainly not because of batsman inability to play spin , it is because they fail to take 20 wickets. Except pattinson no one penetrating enough to get wicket in this spinnng flat wickets. I attribute to lack of preparation by Micky arthur and Clarke. They over estimated their 4-0 win over india and thought they could crush india. It did not happen , so they are imploding because they did not expect their bowlers become impotent overnight. Siddle and Starc become toothless. Indians generally play spin well unless opposition had very controlled bowler who are mentally strong. I think clarke looks great when winning but looks to blame everyone but him in losses. Playing blame game is not the way to go about it. Banning player on home work shows aussie leadership group looking to blame someone except them. Immature.

  • Dummy4 on March 14, 2013, 1:33 GMT

    I didn't support Clarke during the axing of Simon Katich or Andrew Symonds (and boy could they use those two now) but this is a different matter and I support him 100% here. Heads had to roll and if players are to arrogant to take 5 minutes to respond to a simple request then the choice is obvious

  • Dummy4 on March 14, 2013, 1:31 GMT

    @Alexk400... How is this not a talented team? Clarke, Hughes, Warner, Wade, Pattinson, Siddle, Starc, Johnson, Khawaja, heneriques and even lyon and watson are talented.. The problems at the moment are discipline and consistency... something that Clarke is trying to rectify...

  • Siva on March 14, 2013, 1:21 GMT

    Shane Watson is Sehwag, Pietersen type. One big innings and Aus will win that test. His failures are where he makes the 20s and 30s- still more than double of what Phil Hughes makes. India, on any day, will be happy if Watto does not play.