Australia's troubled tour March 14, 2013

Ponting shows staunch support for Watson


Ricky Ponting has mounted a staunch defence of Shane Watson's qualities as a team player and also said that Cricket Australia's team performance manager Pat Howard would regret his implication that the national team's vice-captain was anything otherwise.

Speaking after he made his third Sheffield Shield century of the season for Tasmania against Victoria in Hobart, Ponting was adamant that he had never found fault with Watson's actions in the past, though he described the decision to suspend four players from the third Test in Mohali as "drastic" but merited in the circumstances.

"Shane worked as hard as anybody around his cricket, there's no doubt about that," Ponting told reporters at Bellerive Oval. "He's obviously made a blue here - I don't like to refer to it as homework because it wasn't homework - not getting his tasks done that were given to him by the coach.

"I've never known him to be anything other than a very good team player and a great bloke to have around your team."

Howard's words that he felt Watson worked in the best interests of the Australian team "sometimes" were hurtful, and the accused quickly asserted that those he had played the game with knew him better than the man who has been in charge of CA's team performance wing for a little more than 12 months. Ponting concurred.

"I think he'd regret saying that as well, but people are going to make judgments," Ponting said. "I think Shane said this on the way home. Pat's known Shane for 12 months and Michael [Clarke] and Shane have known each other for the best part of 20 years." Watson's strongest phase as a Test allrounder took place while he played under Ponting, and the former captain provided a useful insight into how he extracted the best from a talented cricketer who fought injuries and plenty of critics to be a consistent performer between 2009 and 2011.

"I loved every moment that I played with Watto," Ponting said. "To tell the truth I think I understood him and his personality as well as anyone that I ever played with. I tried to get as close to him as I could. I tried to know him as well as I could both on and off the field and I actually felt by doing that I got as much out of him as I could as a player."

Watson's chances of returning to India in time for the fourth Test in Delhi rose after his wife Lee gave birth to a baby boy, Will, on Thursday. Watson flew home from Chandigarh on Monday in the hope of being present for the birth after being told by his wife the baby was likely to be born earlier than expected.

His departure also coincided with being told by the team management that he would not be part of the third Test in Mohali due to his suspension. When he left India, Watson said the punishment was "very harsh" and he intended to use his time at home to weigh up his cricket future.

"I am going to spend the next few weeks with my family and weigh up my options as to exactly which direction I want to go," Watson said on Monday. "There are a lot more important things in life. I do love playing cricket and that passion is still there and I feel I am in the prime years of my cricket career."

His words indicated that at the time, Watson did not intend to return to the tour and it remains to be seen whether the early birth of his son will alter his plans. Clarke said on Wednesday that the best-case scenario for the team would be if Watson was able to return as vice-captain for the final Test, which starts in Delhi on Friday next week.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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  • Luva on March 17, 2013, 22:45 GMT

    @5wombats Hughes was dropped because he was averaging 19 and the poms had him worked out.

    How the heck he ever got a recall is beyond me can't bat at test level, is a 3 time failure should be dropped and not picked until he has at least a couple of heavy scoring Shield seasons.

    The poms will be hoping he gets picked, only problem for them will be deciding whether to exploit his weakness against spin or against pace.

  • Dummy4 on March 16, 2013, 12:05 GMT

    Watson is not a ordinary player of AU, whats going in AU cricket ????

  • Martin on March 16, 2013, 8:44 GMT

    Oh! This is priceless! Ponting supporting Watson. Please! Is this the same Ponting who dropped Phil Hughes during the 2009 Ashes for supposed off-field misdeneamours? (Tweeting, apparently...). Ponting getting on his high horse after some of his "performances" - except he did it on the pitch in front of millions. Don't make me laugh. For pitys sake Ricky stop making a fool of yourself.

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2013, 17:09 GMT

    India is still going to win this test match in four days! and a series white washed. the australian selectors need to reconsider taking ponting and hussey for the ashes and save australia cricket from embarrassment. if ponting was still in the team all this nonsense never would have taken place. show some oz pride for a change selectors.

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2013, 11:58 GMT

    Howard's statement was authorised by the Captain and ACB - Watson will never play another test match

  • James on March 15, 2013, 10:34 GMT

    Clarke strikes me as an aloof personality who will have to change to succeed as captain. Just by not accepting the non-return of some sort of written training work he is saying he does not accept the people involved. It is very easy to see this, but not all will be able to see it. You can only work with the players you are provided with by the selectors. (Clarke is a selector, but, of course, a minority of them.) I think it must be wondered whether Clark is not among the many of us who find it difficult to deal with those who are not as good as we are. And it is a fact that some people are better than others, including at cricket.

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2013, 9:47 GMT

    What an inexperienced team we have - Sachin has had more tests than the whole Aussie team combined! Clarkey has had more tests than the rest of the Aussies combined! Bring back Hussey x2!

  • Dummy4 on March 15, 2013, 9:03 GMT

    Ponting is spot on. The current leadership need to learn it is about relationships in the team, not military style whip cracking. They could really learn something from ponting. He was a great influencer and raised up guys like Watson and symonds who were both suspended under Clarkes leadership

  • Ian on March 15, 2013, 8:12 GMT

    This remark from Howard does invite a lot of questions. Howard can't have had time to form his opinion within 12 months surely,especially with Watson injured for some time, so where did it come from. Did Arthur and/or Clarke tell him this? Or is it an 'unspoken' general knowledge around the Oz team set-up? If the view of Howard & team management is that Watson is not 'always' a team player, then who on earth screwed up by making him VC? In fact, if Howards view is true, then why do they continue to employ him at all? It all seems a bit murky to me & I reckon the Oz fans should be told. I'm no fan of Watson and, as an Englishman, I should be laughing my bits off, but at the end of the day fair is fair & Howard is way out of order.

  • Eddie on March 15, 2013, 5:27 GMT

    onya ricky. I never had much time for his on field captaincy but his man management has really come into focus with current events. Obviously he was able to keep everyone in line and do it behind closed doors in a professional manner. Clarke obviously wasn't paying enough attention

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