Australia's troubled tour

'Captain and vice-captain must sort their issues out' - Pat Howard

Brydon Coverdale

March 12, 2013

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Michael Clarke and Shane Watson await their turn to bat during practice, Ahmedabad, March 22, 2011
Cricket Australia's GM, team performance, Pat Howard: "[Clarke and Watson] have normal difficulties that anybody has in a relationship" © Associated Press
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Australia's vice-captain, Shane Watson, has been given a less than glowing endorsement from Cricket Australia's general manager of team performance Pat Howard, who has said Watson is "sometimes" a team player. Howard also alluded to issues between Watson and the captain Michael Clarke, but said Watson could certainly return to the Test side after flying home from the tour of India, while Clarke has said there was no reason Watson cannot retain the vice-captaincy.

Watson's departure was for the birth of his first child but it also came only hours after he and three other members of the squad were told they would not be considered for the third Test in Mohali for failing to complete a task set by the coach Mickey Arthur. While he was leaving, Watson said the punishment was "very harsh" and he was weighing up his cricket future at a time when his life as a father was about to begin.

The decision to axe Watson, James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja came after a string of disciplinary breaches from the squad on the tour, though not necessarily from those four players. Arthur said on Monday that he had never had reason to doubt Watson's professionalism but, on Tuesday, Howard was less than enthusiastic when asked if Watson was a team player.

"In cricket it is interesting, there are individual aspects. I think that is a hard one to measure," Howard said. When pressed on the issue, he added: "I know Shane reasonably well. I think he acts in the best interests of the team sometimes. I am not going to get drawn into that any more. But there are failings in the system in that we are not getting the best out of Shane - that's our fault."

That Australian cricket has not got the best out of Watson is beyond doubt. Not only has he suffered injuries on a regular basis - he has played only three of the past 12 home Tests - but his batting form has been disappointing since he last scored a Test hundred, coincidentally in Mohali in 2010. In the past two years, Watson has scored 605 Test runs at 25.20, always batting in the top four.

For much of that time he has been the vice-captain to Clarke, although the two are not believed to share a particularly close relationship. On-field, they are rarely seen in close conversation and Howard said that if Watson returned they would need to sort out any issues between them.

"They have normal difficulties that anybody has in a relationship," he said. "The reality is that Michael is a strong driver and they had 18 months to work on that. But I am not going to get drawn into that conversation. The captain and the vice-captain have to sort their issues out. If Michael wants to raise it as a greater issue, he can come forward."

While Watson's future remains up in the air - including whether there is any chance of him returning for the fourth Test in Delhi if his wife gives birth before then - Australia are ready to welcome him back. On Monday, Clarke said there was no reason Watson could not remain vice-captain.

"He definitely can," Clarke said. "There have been times throughout my career where I know I've let myself down and let the team down and you learn from that. Watto knows how important he is to this group. He knows he's a senior player in this group and both of us through this tour have learnt a lot and spent a fair bit of time together, which has been great for me as a captain and also I'm hoping for Watto as vice-captain.

"We need Watto performing at his best ... because he's as good a player as there is in world cricket when he's at his best. Part of my job as captain is to try to help him, like every other player. I do whatever I can to help him be the best player he can be. Because you're captain or vice-captain you're not judged any differently. If anything you judge yourself harder. These are the standards, hit them or there are consequences."

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

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Posted by VivGilchrist on (March 13, 2013, 7:04 GMT)

@Masefield, a captain should NEVER come out and state comments like that publicly, especially toward his deputy. How would that make any vice-captain feel? Clarke does not back his team mates. He is quite happy to distance himself when things aren't going to plan. He's a good batsman, a good tactician, but a poor manager of different personalities.

Posted by Masefield on (March 13, 2013, 6:38 GMT)

If they only listened to Ian Chappell before via his weekly articles -at least gave some thought to views on the selections - we will will not be in this mess. Watson should have opened with Warner - Cowan should never have been picked - my view he is very lucky to be in the side . Obviously, he has some good connections beyond cricket.Now that we are stuck with him because of the powers above- I hope he makes a century in the next test match. In regard to the homework"- absolute joke - For the money Micky Arthur & Co get- they should iron out all problems in a Team meeting - If he says people are timid to speak up then there is a problem with the leadership Team . Team Bonding is so important whether you win or lose - They should look for inspiration from the likes of Chappell, Border and even Shane Warne plus many more great players not post pad notes. I can imagine his room full of notes on the wall

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (March 13, 2013, 6:31 GMT)

What they could have done differently:

1) Pick the best squad. The squad on tour is notably missing David Hussey, George Bailey and Chris Rogers, all in form, all with great records, not to mention that Ricky Ponting is the best performed batsman in the Sheffield Shield this season. Steve O'Keefe and Nathan Hauritz could have been considered too. Peter Siddle should not have been on tour, as his Indian record is appalling.

2) Pick the best XI. Even given the squad that they had, ignoring Mitchell Johnson is just absurd, given his form, his overall record, and his record in India. How on earth is Peter Siddle ahead of him? Continuing to select Philip Hughes is equally absurd. And the dumping of Mitchell Starc? Don't get me started on that one. The fact that he was used so poorly by the captain does not mean he is not a good player. When you don't have your best team on the park, how can you win?

3) Play to your strengths, not your weaknesses. Pace bowlers, not spinners.

Posted by Mitcher on (March 13, 2013, 3:28 GMT)

@cricketfanwrites: If only making arguments based on unsubstantiated (ie. made up) points worked in the real world. I won't dignify most of those points with a response. But, why did Clarke put Watson on notice about his place in the Test side as a specialist batsman? Umm, just maybe it's because Watson's place is tenuous when he doesn't bowl. Entirely within the captain's rights.

Posted by ARad on (March 12, 2013, 21:41 GMT)

This 'I don't want to talk about it really but..." kind of leaky mouth is unacceptable when it is possessed by those in administrative/leadership positions who should know better than young cricketers in the squad. Will Howard be punished for this? This reminds me of the KP affair where those who leaked material to the press from inside the English camp went unpunished. Administrative entities all over the world (WI, England, SL, NZ and now Australia) want to 'SPIN' events to their own benefit. Since the administrators set the rules and one of them is that players can be punished for disobedience, players can't really say anything back and still play in the team. We need to get rid of our MASTER-SERVANT mentality and should strive for more EQUALITY in every walk of life.

Posted by cricketfanwrites on (March 12, 2013, 19:10 GMT)

Clarke does NOT like Watson. If he did, why on earth did he put him on notice (that he needed to compete) before the ODI series against WI. "Feb 5, 2013 Michael Clarke has warned his vice-captain Shane Watson that he faces much stiffer competition for a place in Australia's Test team by choosing to play as a batsman rather than an allrounder."That statement spoke volumes about him. I also think Clarke had an input pertaining to Haddin and David Hussey not being in the squad to India. I wonder if he and Mike Hussey got along. I'll bet some of what I do not have that they did not. Being talented does not qualify one to lead. Ask Brian Lara. Clarke is not at home with all cylinders firing. He is away - great leaders are evaluated outside their domains. So far his leadership does not measure up to his individual talent.

Posted by   on (March 12, 2013, 18:40 GMT)

I think the Aussie management have done an excellent job by honestly analysing the situation and telling the players what is wrong. In the real world we non cricketing types have to work to KPIs and SLAs and if we failed here we would be reprimanded for it. Same should apply to cricket. My hats off to Aussie management for taking this hard line. Cricketers in general have an easy life compared to us in the real world who work very hard for little money and are suffering because of the recession.

Posted by saplinglittle on (March 12, 2013, 18:29 GMT)

Mr. Cloverdill your comment "Watson has scored 605 Test runs at 25.20, always batting in the top four" is interesting given that Johnson has about the same averages. Allrounder Watson - yeah right. On averages Patterson is a better allrounder than both of them. Then again Dizzy made a double, took a ten for, won man of the series and got dropped (he's still only 37 by the way). So Mr. Cloverdill in your wisdom and espousal should the selectors and coach go or the players? My humble apologies without a coach they can't get to the ground.

Posted by S.Alis on (March 12, 2013, 18:24 GMT)

The more i read about this axed incident, the more i think this is all pre-planned. Leadership understand that it's not easy to make a comeback by winning or drawing next two matches. Series is already lost. Let put up a good public show, which throw this tour in tantrums completely. In the history, all will be left is that Austrilia had a worst tour because of team management and that's why they lost the series. The whole homework situation and how it was handles giving all kind of hints that it's politics. Especially at the times when you need to help the team moral going up instead making it even worse.

Posted by Alexk400 on (March 12, 2013, 17:51 GMT)

Ego war between clarke and watson

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
Tour Results
India v Australia at Delhi - Mar 22-24, 2013
India won by 6 wickets
India v Australia at Mohali - Mar 14-18, 2013
India won by 6 wickets
India v Australia at Hyderabad (Deccan) - Mar 2-5, 2013
India won by an innings and 135 runs
India v Australia at Chennai - Feb 22-26, 2013
India won by 8 wickets
India A v Australians at Chennai - Feb 16-18, 2013
Match drawn
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