Australia in India 2012-13 March 18, 2013

Watson returns to India tour


Shane Watson has committed himself to Australia's Test team for the long term and will rejoin the squad in India ahead of the fourth Test in Delhi. Watson was due to leave Sydney on Monday evening for the final Test of the series, which begins at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Friday, ending any further speculation about his plans after he flew out of Chandigarh last week for the birth of his son, Will, and said at the time he would weigh up his future while at home.

Watson also said he had spoken a number of times over the past week to Pat Howard, Cricket Australia's general manager of team performance, and said they were now "on the same page" after they exchanged words publicly last week. Howard is also expected to arrive in Delhi ahead of the fourth Test this week.

When he left India having been told his wife Lee was likely to give birth earlier than expected, Watson said he would use his time at home to weigh up his cricket future and said that "there are a lot more important things in life". At the time, Watson had just been ruled out of the third Test in Chandigarh as one of the four players who failed to complete a task set by the coach Mickey Arthur, and he declared the punishment "very harsh".

The issue was exacerbated when Howard said Watson was a team player "sometimes" and alluded to problems between Watson, the vice-captain, and Clarke. However, Watson and Clarke spoke on the phone when Watson arrived home and Clarke said the best-case scenario was Watson returning as vice-captain for the Delhi Test.

Watson said Howard did not know him well, and after the public words from both sides Howard offered to fly to Sydney to speak to Watson face to face to iron out any problems between them. Watson said the pair had spoken over the past week and ironed out their differences.

"I've had several constructive discussions with team management back in Mohali over the past few days," Watson said. "We've spoken about how we are going to work together to move forward, as Australia attempts to climb back to the top of the ICC rankings. I've a burning ambition to be an Australian Test player for as long as I can be and help Australia win those big Test Series as well as the big ICC tournaments.

"I have also had a number of chats with Pat Howard over the last week and we are both now on the same page and are really looking forward to working together to get Australia to be the best team in the world. I'm looking forward to getting around the boys again and concentrating on moving forward. I'm entirely committed to the team and being the best player I can be."

Watson's return will create a selection issue after Steven Smith scored a highly impressive 92 in the first innings in Mohali and Phillip Hughes also fought through his spin problems to post 69 in the second innings. The possible permutations are further complicated by uncertainty over the fitness of the captain Michael Clarke, who struggled with back pain on the fourth day in Mohali and was hampered by the problem while batting on day five.

Clarke has never missed a Test due to his ongoing back problems but the short turnaround between Tests will create a challenge for Australia's medical staff to ensure he is available. The team travels from Chandigarh to Delhi on Tuesday and then has two days of training before the Delhi Test. It is not outside the realms of possibility that Watson, the vice-captain, could lead the team in Delhi, which would be a remarkable turnaround after his comments a week ago.

Regardless of the off-field issues, Australia also need a major improvement from Watson with the bat after he scored 28, 17, 23 and 9 during the first two Tests. Since becoming vice-captain in 2011, Watson has averaged only 25.20 with the bat and has not scored a century.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mark on March 20, 2013, 9:08 GMT

    @bagley - Hughes might not be the best man for the job in India, but for the ashes he will be. Clarke should stick to 5 where is most comfortable. Watson should stick to limited overs cricket.

  • timothy on March 20, 2013, 3:09 GMT

    can,t bat can,t bowl, australia should pick specialist players rather than second rate all rounders until they find one good enough. They also should give up on hughes, how many chances is this bloke going to get, can't understand why the selection bias toward NSW players remain intact, considering two of the selectors are from WA. the word was that hughes had gone back to state level cricket and improved his technique, evidence would suggest otherwise, he still looks awkward when facing the short ball when too close to his body and has no idea against spin, Australia used to pick their best at no.3 now they pick their worst.

  • Dummy4 on March 19, 2013, 10:31 GMT

    It seems so stupid,, the player went home and came back all the way from Aus in 3-4 days,,,waste of time,, money,, energy and gave enough food to media,,,,,

  • Dummy4 on March 19, 2013, 7:53 GMT

    Cricket Australia has managed to get a fantastic combo of a famous American Mouse and an equally famous French Octopus - Mickey Octopus (MO). How prescient he is! He foresaw the importance of the number THREE , when he asked for THREE recommendations from his players. He even managed to get one of the four recalcitrant boys to go home, to retain THREE here. But the THREE seems to have worked for India and Dhoni very well. There are only THREE Indian captains who won THREE tests in a series. That is MO's gift to Dhoni. MO gifted Indian team as well. India is leading THREE - zero against OZ for the first time in history. THREE cheers to the great Mickey Octopus!

  • Dummy4 on March 19, 2013, 4:05 GMT

    Gee almost as bad as NZ Cricket management and the Taylor debacle. Time to engage the brain methinks and time for Watson to meet his obligations as vice captain. He needs to actively support any suggestion that is aimed at improving team performance. His ideas on improving personal and team performances should should have been amongst the first to be handed in......its called leading by example!

  • John on March 19, 2013, 3:50 GMT

    I've been wondering for a long time now why it is that Watson is so highly regarded in Australia. His numbers are very ordinary and more than that he has no record of pulling out big performances when the game is on the line- or any other time, come to that. I have come to the conclusion that the reason is he looks good, as though he's a quality player who just hasn't got it quite right on the day. The question is, on how many more days does he have to get it not quite right before the penny drops that he's not going to become a top-flight test player?

    This was always going to be a difficult tour for Aus. 4 opening bats, none of whom is very comfortable against spin; no top-drawer spinners; an inexperienced W/K and a gaping hole in the middle where Huss used to be. Aus's strength, their seam attack, has been blunted by the slow pitches and the Indians have rediscovered their mojo. I expect Aus to play much better in England, though the batting is a worry.

  • Dummy4 on March 19, 2013, 3:25 GMT

    It's interesting. Watson could very well be captaining the Delhi match after being dropped from the Mohali match for a ridiculous reason.

  • Andrew on March 19, 2013, 0:15 GMT

    It is sad that a player as ordinary as Watson is seen as such a vital part of the Australian lineup. When he could bowl a bit he was a useful all rounder. Without his bowling his batting isn't enough to keep him in the team.

    I would fly O'keefe out as a replacement for Bird and rush him into the the final test. Rest Clark and bring in Khawaja. Haddin can be captain. Give Johnson a game as well.

    My team would be Warner, Cowan, Hughes, Khwaja, Smith, Haddin, Okeefe, Johnson, Starc, Pattinson and Siddle.

  • Dummy4 on March 18, 2013, 21:41 GMT

    What a joke the Watson affair has become.He does a dummy spit and takes his bat and ball home,making derogatory comments about management personnel.He then eats humble pie and makes a grovelling speech thanking Clarke for 'allowing him to return home for the birth of his child'.Now this same person could be Australia's captain,unbelievable!.

  • Mark on March 18, 2013, 21:25 GMT

    @Nampally - You've got a few things really wrong. You say Watson was treated like a school boy. Sorry, but that is totally wrong. He was treated like a professional athlete who failed to do an assigned task. He ACTED like a school boy, taking his bat and ball and going home and threatening to quit. Yes, I know he went home to be with his wife for the birth of his kid, it's the way he did it.

    Then you say he, along with Clarke, is the heart and soul of the batting lineup? He is one of the weakest links in the batting lineup. He hasn't scored a 100 since 2010, has only even hit 4 50+ scores since the start of 2011 (14 tests). In that time Warner has hit 3 100's and 7 50's (18 tests), Cowan 1x100 6x50's (16 tests), Clarke we all know about. Even Wade 2x100's, 3x50's (11 tests) and Hughes with all his struggles, 1x100 and 4x50's (14 tests).

    So, if he isn't bowling, Watson does not deserve to be in the team. He is the weakest link in the batting lineup.