Australia's troubled tour March 14, 2013

Ponting shows staunch support for Watson

41

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • NotU 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.

  • on March 16, 2013, 12:05 GMT

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

  • 5wombats 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.

  • 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.

  • on March 15, 2013, 11:58 GMT

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

  • Clyde 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.

  • 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!

  • 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

  • dr.thirsty 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.

  • Big_Maxy_Walker 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

  • NotU 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.

  • on March 16, 2013, 12:05 GMT

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

  • 5wombats 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.

  • 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.

  • on March 15, 2013, 11:58 GMT

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

  • Clyde 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.

  • 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!

  • 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

  • dr.thirsty 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.

  • Big_Maxy_Walker 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

  • CricKraze on March 15, 2013, 4:24 GMT

    Don't understand why this is treated as an issue. Aus is trying to save some of their best for the upcoming Ashes. The series in India is already decided, and the expelled four can't do much. Aus need a full throttle to face the pepped up English team. For Watson, it fall in place with him becoming a father. I wish him to make use of the time with family, and gear up for the Ashes. After all, how many allrounders are there in the team?

  • ARad on March 15, 2013, 3:28 GMT

    Read between the lines of Hussey's interview this week. Recall Clarke's past with Katich and Symonds. Now read these comments by Ponting: "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." This seems to be a hint about Clarke's inability to generate an atmosphere of CAMARADERIE in the Australian setup. As the leader of the team and its most senior member, Clarke should show more flexibility in his approach rather than trying to bend others. If he had done so, there wouldn't have been any homeworkgate.

  • satishchandar on March 15, 2013, 3:27 GMT

    Howard.. He is controversial. Generally Aussies make controversial remarks on others but Howard took it one step forward by naming a guy from his home itself. To make it worse, it is the VC fo the current team. For the matter of fact, this homework saga shouldn't have come out itself as the tour is in such position to be followed by Ashes. No matter how much damage control you do by saying "Watto in Delhi as VC", it might hide things but not remove them. Punter knows Watto more than anyone. Watto had a good role in 2007 WC too. Punter groomed Watto from a no.6 all rounder to test bowling all rounder without any pressure getting to him. Whereas, it is a different case now. Every day, Watto's role is changing. None is sure of what he role is going to do next game. You can flex it on a guy in form and full fitness. But not on a guy who is not in great form and injury rid in recent times.

  • on March 15, 2013, 2:13 GMT

    Watto should play the great punter inning and comeback himself to prove he is a real fan lover batsman...

  • on March 15, 2013, 2:04 GMT

    @Cyprian Fernandes. You are right. The sooner Michael Clarke becomes Captain of the cricket team and stops being captain of Micky Arthur, (or captain of Aus Cricket Board) the better. I'm not certain he can come back, but he deserves a try. Arthur and Howard should be on a slow boat to China...

  • disco_bob on March 15, 2013, 1:23 GMT

    To add to my previous comment, if Watto had honestly done his homework assignment top of the list would be an admission that under the circumstances he could have, indeed should have offered his captain at least 4 overs which is what he'd bowl in a T20.

  • disco_bob on March 15, 2013, 1:20 GMT

    "Howard's words that he felt Watson worked in the best interests of the Australian team "sometimes" were hurtful..." Hurtful? Not hurtful but accurate. Empirically accurate and the proof is that Watto has implied he will bowl again so he clearly did not have and did not even wish to SHOW he had the best interests of the team at heart by bowling 2 or 3 overs when they really needed it. that doesn't make him a bowler again any more than a couple of overs from Hussey suddenly makes him a bowler. Not to mention Warner.

    Was he afraid to look 'soft' if he bowled a couple of overs. Far from it, it would be obvious that he would have shown that he indeed had the best interests of the team at heart. None of what I said it anything but logical empirical deductive reasoning.

    Q.E.D

  • crickketlover on March 15, 2013, 0:57 GMT

    coaches do not win matches. Fire the coach and bring someone who knows how to work with professional cricket players. It is time Clarke had shown who the real leader is - stop being a student. It is not a school. Australian cricket team has been an envy of world cricket for decades. It is hard to understand how something silly like this is allowed to happen.

  • KGY27 on March 15, 2013, 0:55 GMT

    The talk about Australia becoming number 1 should not even be a consideration at this point as that's so far removed from the current situation of appalling decision making from team management and not fielding your best squad to take on the best of cricket nations. Shane Watson has worked so hard on his cricket. He was off for months and came back to score 100+ in his first one day game. Some have short memories. Pat Howard is just an admin person who obviously has never bothered to get close to the players. His comments while hurtful on a personal level, mean nothing and should be disregarded.

  • AidanFX on March 15, 2013, 0:52 GMT

    The "sometimes" comment whether justified or not (there may be some character issues with Watson but I lean strongly against the notion his work ethic is bad) was nothing less than a low hit. I hope Howard does regret those comments. I also hope it shows at present the argus implementation is not working adequately. There is evidently a break down in communication. There is no way the management staff in India at present (coaches/captain) would have wanted their "Performance Manager" to make such loose comments to the press and thus send such mixed signals. Of course such drastic measures taken by CA were always bound to lead to this. Time will tell if it was the right call.

  • upplandia on March 15, 2013, 0:51 GMT

    Absolutely disagree! Watson is a selfish player, campaigning for an opening spot when his form does not justify it. He destabilised an already unstable team with his media campaign against Cowan.

    Importantly, everyone is forgetting how bad the team was before Pat Howard and Mickey Arthur were appointed. Remember the Ashes defeat? Given the conditions, this India tour is not worse than that. Ponting's view is not unbiased here and is probably a little bitter.

    Henriques' innings was a bright spot. The Batsmen need to show a lot more patience, something they have forgotten in this T20 era.

    Lyon must take wickets this test for Aust. to be any chance also.

  • rahman.onik on March 15, 2013, 0:39 GMT

    May be team thinkers of aus are not that interested in Watson after giving up his bowling...at the beginning of the tour Clarke also sounded something like that.....although Watson is still the best man for this Aus batting line up

  • Someguy on March 15, 2013, 0:33 GMT

    @sportofpain - unfortunately, Ponting proved this summer that despite being in brilliant form in shield cricket, he couldn't handle the step up to Test cricket any more. He looked ok in patches, but never really looked like the Ponting of old.

  • on March 15, 2013, 0:08 GMT

    Playing alll 3 formats is extremely tough. Lay off Watson. Leaving the tour for the birth of his 1st born? My wife wouldn't have allowed me to go at all if it was me.

  • Barnesy4444 on March 14, 2013, 23:57 GMT

    Rugby and cricket are different games. The teamwork shown in football codes is different to the teamwork shown in cricket. Howard would do himself a favour and learn this very fast. I don't see how publicly questioning the V.C. team ethic will improve team performance. But if Watson happily bowls in the IPL but not for Australia and gets injured again just before 2 Ashes series, well..........

  • AusieBangaleeShameem on March 14, 2013, 23:20 GMT

    C'mon Punter --- the Tasmanian Tiger, I like to see you playing straight. We all miss you a lot --- help rescuing Australian cricket from this turmoil. By the way I'm a Tiger-Fan indeed.

  • Ozcricketwriter on March 14, 2013, 23:17 GMT

    To quote Mickey Arthur, this is a line in the sand moment. Shane Watson has to decide if he is happy to be getting axed from a side because of not doing his homework, based on disciplinary issues by other people on the tour even though Watson himself has a squeaky clean disciplinary record, and having his name tarnished where he is being called a bad team man, or, alternatively, if Watson is going to put his foot down and chase the money, and make them come to him on his terms. Watson is one of the best T20 and ODI cricketers in the world and could really cash in on his skills with some deals in domestic T20 tournaments around the world. Why not do this for a while and see if Cricket Australia will start to value his talent? This is a line in the sand moment and he has to decide if he is going to put up with how he has been treated.

  • on March 14, 2013, 23:17 GMT

    australia have got some exciting young players coming through. ive been impressed with ashton agar, joe burns, jordan silk, gurinder sandhu, alex doolan, chad sayers, mitch marsh. in the next couple years these players will be playing for australia.

  • featurewriter on March 14, 2013, 23:00 GMT

    Ponting has notched up three first-class centuries (including a double) since his retirement. With all the average first-class scores this year, Ponting's class (and form) are truly on display.

  • on March 14, 2013, 22:58 GMT

    Well spoken Punter. With all this HOMEWORKGATE saga, which cricket can do without. It was good to hear you coming out to support of the socalled GANG OF FOUR. Cricket would have lost a champion, if not for some well timed action by Cricket Australia, way back in 1998. It is shame that some Smart Alec Mickys and Footy Freaks have been allowed to pollute this great game. Australia has and will always be the ultimate setter of bench marks for others to match. It is sad to see them turned to laughing stocks by these fancy titled guys. Keep the game simple, do away with these Performance Managers and the likes. Michael Clarke , Captain, with history of rifts with Simon Katich in 2008, which deprived Australia of a top performer, has sadly had his reputation dented. Cannot imagine the Benauds, Chappels, Borders, Taylors, and Pontings letting this happen to their team. The Captain is the Supremo. Not The Manager/Coach. This is Cricket not Football.

  • righthandbat on March 14, 2013, 22:11 GMT

    Watson is more suited to ODIs and T20s and should be focussing on getting back to open in those, with an aim to bowl probably 5 overs maximum in the ODIs. Watson is suited to two places in a test match - opening, where he has been found in the past to be a very poor converter of 50s into 100s, or at 6 or 7, with him bowling quite a lot of overs and hitting out. Watson's body will not allow him to bowl much and be a regular member of the side.

    I think Clarke has taken all the right steps, forgive the comparison, but SAF at Man Utd has been known to not put up with his star players not following the protocol. Clarke may be a less popular leader but he needs a determined bunch around him and over time Australia will develop into a strong side.

  • Mitcher on March 14, 2013, 22:05 GMT

    Pat Howard's role has to rank up there as the biggest disgrace in this whole affair. To come out with a completely unconstructive comment like that about Watson serves only to further inflame the issue. I'm no huge fan of Watson's response to being stood down but Howard had no place to drive a further wedge between captain and vice-captain. Time to go for Pat?

  • NAP73 on March 14, 2013, 21:31 GMT

    I have said it for a long time... The Austalian management is a joke. A viable company would not be this inept. The Argus review was a waste of time and the report should be burnt if recommendations will not be adhered to (bit like the Henry tax review). Clarke's captaincy has also been overrated and now the true nature is being shown. Nevertheless, Watson should not have been picked anyway; his test batting has been ordinary and he just has too many injuries and disrupts team rhythm and consistency. If he had any sense, he should stick to what he is good at - that is T20, where you only have to bowl a few overs and bat a short time - and make better money for his family.

  • on March 14, 2013, 20:08 GMT

    In any crisis, the last thing you need is people pointing fingers at each other. That usually compounds the crisis as is the case here. I would find it difficult to continue to allow Howard in his present job and I don't hold much hope Mickey Arthur and his management team, even with the Ashes round the corner. Their management style is fraught with chaos. Clarke can make a come back but must recognise his errors of judgment in backing Authur. In any case, the only people laughing their guts out (and shaking their heads in disbelief) are the Poms.

  • Faizan_Bahadur on March 14, 2013, 19:12 GMT

    Well to be honest all the talk about Australia getting to number 1 and the attitude n all are just talks in the air.I think from inside they know they have got no team to become number 1.Forget about being number one,if Clarke gets injured or something they dont have anyone to replace him as captain.Are we going to see David Warner as captain if Clarle gets injured.

  • sportofpain on March 14, 2013, 16:57 GMT

    Punter - come out of retirement mate. You are too good to be not playing at the highest level. Australia still needs you.

  • Beertjie on March 14, 2013, 16:28 GMT

    Clarke has no sense of camaraderie. Watto has better man management skills, although that doesn't say much. Their no "team" in Australia, so how can they possibly aspire to become number one - very sad times.

  • starvingcreative on March 14, 2013, 16:22 GMT

    Who hired our high performance manager anyway? Utterly clueless

  • Rashgul on March 14, 2013, 16:03 GMT

    You have to feel for Watto. He has worked so hard in the past few years to make sure that his body remains fit so that he can play Test, ODI and T20 cricket for his country. Effort in the classroom may not be evident to all. But, he has shown his effort off the field in training and on the field when he aims to perform at his best. And yet he is thrown out like a used towel. No wonder he is thinking of forgetting the Aus Test team which has given him more grief than anything else.

  • Mary_786 on March 14, 2013, 16:02 GMT

    Good on Punter for showing support for Watson, it was never appropriate for our performance manager to publicly critize our vice captain

  • on March 14, 2013, 16:00 GMT

    Punter defending Watto ...... what can Watson do after going home in between the series. I wish that Watson should cool down and help his team to perform well.......in the Delhi test Watto should show his importance as a vice captain of one of the best sides ever.............But from India's point of view Watson please remain at ur home and njoy holidays :)

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  • on March 14, 2013, 16:00 GMT

    Punter defending Watto ...... what can Watson do after going home in between the series. I wish that Watson should cool down and help his team to perform well.......in the Delhi test Watto should show his importance as a vice captain of one of the best sides ever.............But from India's point of view Watson please remain at ur home and njoy holidays :)

  • Mary_786 on March 14, 2013, 16:02 GMT

    Good on Punter for showing support for Watson, it was never appropriate for our performance manager to publicly critize our vice captain

  • Rashgul on March 14, 2013, 16:03 GMT

    You have to feel for Watto. He has worked so hard in the past few years to make sure that his body remains fit so that he can play Test, ODI and T20 cricket for his country. Effort in the classroom may not be evident to all. But, he has shown his effort off the field in training and on the field when he aims to perform at his best. And yet he is thrown out like a used towel. No wonder he is thinking of forgetting the Aus Test team which has given him more grief than anything else.

  • starvingcreative on March 14, 2013, 16:22 GMT

    Who hired our high performance manager anyway? Utterly clueless

  • Beertjie on March 14, 2013, 16:28 GMT

    Clarke has no sense of camaraderie. Watto has better man management skills, although that doesn't say much. Their no "team" in Australia, so how can they possibly aspire to become number one - very sad times.

  • sportofpain on March 14, 2013, 16:57 GMT

    Punter - come out of retirement mate. You are too good to be not playing at the highest level. Australia still needs you.

  • Faizan_Bahadur on March 14, 2013, 19:12 GMT

    Well to be honest all the talk about Australia getting to number 1 and the attitude n all are just talks in the air.I think from inside they know they have got no team to become number 1.Forget about being number one,if Clarke gets injured or something they dont have anyone to replace him as captain.Are we going to see David Warner as captain if Clarle gets injured.

  • on March 14, 2013, 20:08 GMT

    In any crisis, the last thing you need is people pointing fingers at each other. That usually compounds the crisis as is the case here. I would find it difficult to continue to allow Howard in his present job and I don't hold much hope Mickey Arthur and his management team, even with the Ashes round the corner. Their management style is fraught with chaos. Clarke can make a come back but must recognise his errors of judgment in backing Authur. In any case, the only people laughing their guts out (and shaking their heads in disbelief) are the Poms.

  • NAP73 on March 14, 2013, 21:31 GMT

    I have said it for a long time... The Austalian management is a joke. A viable company would not be this inept. The Argus review was a waste of time and the report should be burnt if recommendations will not be adhered to (bit like the Henry tax review). Clarke's captaincy has also been overrated and now the true nature is being shown. Nevertheless, Watson should not have been picked anyway; his test batting has been ordinary and he just has too many injuries and disrupts team rhythm and consistency. If he had any sense, he should stick to what he is good at - that is T20, where you only have to bowl a few overs and bat a short time - and make better money for his family.

  • Mitcher on March 14, 2013, 22:05 GMT

    Pat Howard's role has to rank up there as the biggest disgrace in this whole affair. To come out with a completely unconstructive comment like that about Watson serves only to further inflame the issue. I'm no huge fan of Watson's response to being stood down but Howard had no place to drive a further wedge between captain and vice-captain. Time to go for Pat?