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March 12, 2013
News : Clarke remains hopeful of Watson return
News : 'Captain and vice-captain must sort their issues out' - Pat Howard
Features : Clarke's cultural decree
News : Watson leaves tour after Australia axe four
News : Watson may quit Test cricket after axeing
In Focus: Australia crack the whip
Series/Tournaments: Australia tour of India
Shane Watson challenged Australia's team performance manager Pat Howard to research his reputation as a team man among cricketers around the country and denied he had any major problems with the captain Michael Clarke on his early return home from the India tour.
Having left Chandigarh to spend time with his pregnant wife following his dumping from the team for the third Test alongside James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja, Watson declared Howard did not know him or the game well enough to make the contention that he only "sometimes" does the best thing for the team.
"All I can really say is go around and ask every person I've ever played cricket with and that will give you the best indication of whether I'm a team man or not," Watson said at Sydney airport. "Pat Howard doesn't particularly know me very well. He's come from a rugby background and hasn't been in and around cricket very long. I think the best people to ask are the people I've played cricket with and they'll be able to give their honest opinion."
As for Clarke, of whom Howard said he and Watson had to "sort their issues out", the vice-captain insisted their relationship was strong. Watson also revealed he had spoken to Clarke immediately after landing in Australia following the airing of Howard's comments.
"The way relationships work, there's always ups and downs like there is in marriages, friendships and everything," Watson said of Clarke. "I've been playing cricket with and against Michael Clarke since I was 12. We've got a lot of history as people. We're obviously quite different people in certain ways but very very similar in a lot of ways as well.
"In the end, like you do in every relationship, it goes up and down and things are going really well at the moment with me and Michael. With Pat Howard, he's only come on board the last year and a half. Myself and Michael go a little bit further back than a year and a half."
Maintaining his view that the sanctions for four players having failed to send in feedback ahead of the third Test was extremely harsh, Watson noted how many bouts of injury and rehab he had battled through to keep playing for Australia.
"I, with a few other guys, took it as leading into the Test match and I got that extremely wrong, which meant that it's cost me a Test match," he said. "They [the leadership group] obviously thought that was the right decision for the team at this point in time. I accept that I did the wrong thing with what I did, but I will always find it very hard to accept being suspended from a Test match for my country. "I've missed Test matches and games through injury throughout my career. I feel like I've worked my absolute bum off to have an opportunity to represent my country. When that's taken away from you, you think the actions must be very severe. That's where we differ on our opinions. I think it's extremely harsh. I expressed my extreme disappointment with the punishment. But everything happens for a reason in your life."
Watson's father has spoken of how a future without international competition may be comfortably filled by Twenty20 duty in the IPL and for other clubs, and the sometime allrounder said he would be carefully weighing up his love of the game and the hurt this suspension has caused him.
"It'll give me a chance to reflect on what's really happened over the past couple of days and be able to absorb what's happened and have a think about where things are at," he said. "I absolutely love playing cricket. I love nothing more than being able to have the opportunity and privilege to represent my country. That's something that, when it was taken away from me with this suspension - well, the guys back in India know how much it hurts me."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala