The Ashes 2013-14

Watson batting for the team - Clarke

Daniel Brettig

December 19, 2013

Comments: 31 | Text size: A | A

Shane Watson, Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin enjoy the moment of victory, Australia v England, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 5th day, December 9, 2013
Michael Clarke praised Shane Watson, saying the latter had shown "great intent" during his century in Perth © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Michael Clarke | Shane Watson
Series/Tournaments: England tour of Australia
Teams: Australia

Still a little croaky from Ashes celebrations in Perth, Australia's captain Michael Clarke epitomised the new unity that characterised the team's rapid advance to a 3-0 margin over England by expressing his satisfaction about Shane Watson's team-oriented century in the third innings at the WACA ground.

While it was no surprise to hear Clarke praise a teammate, his warm words for Watson shone brightly next to some of the other utterances that have accompanied the allrounder in recent years. It cannot be forgotten this was the same Watson who Pat Howard had said acted in the best interests of the team "sometimes", about whom Clarke had often reminded the world "we beat India 4-0 without Shane" and who had, according to Mickey Arthur's statement of claims lodged with Fair Work Australia in mid-year, been dubbed a "cancer" on the team by Clarke.

Those undercurrents seem well and truly forgotten now, as Clarke and his lieutenant Brad Haddin celebrated their Ashes success as fulsomely with Watson as anyone else. Of most import to Clarke was the fact that Watson's aggressive hundred, while setting England a target, demonstrated an interest in advancing the game over and above the preservation of his wicket - a strong example for younger players to follow.

"I think he played really well the other day," Clarke said. "It's obviously a tough position, there's no doubt about it, and he's scored two hundreds there now in his last few Test matches. Watto is hitting the ball as good as I've seen and wasn't too far away from big scores. So thankfully he walked out and played that way and showed great intent.

"What Watto did the other day was put the team first. He knew we were trying to score as many runs as we could before our declaration and he put the team first, which is a great example to the young players that that's what we're trying to do in our team and it's good to see."

The team-focused attitude Clarke spoke of has been wedded to a formidable support staff, not so vast in number as England but steeped in experience, skill and character. The coach Darren Lehmann and the pace bowling mentor Craig McDermott have each attracted many garlands, but Clarke also expressed great satisfaction with the work of the longtime team physio Alex Kountouris and the more recent addition of the well-travelled doctor Peter Brukner, who have each played a major role in allowing Australia to name an unchanged team throughout.

Kountouris has been instrumental in keeping Clarke fit over many years, overseeing a management program for the captain's degenerative back condition, an ailment that kept him out of one Test in India earlier this year and numerous ODI engagements but has been largely handled successfully. Among Brukner's chief achievements has been to help Watson recover more efficiently from the muscle strains that have hounded him, allowing him to play every one of the eight Ashes Test this year to date.

"It's all contributed, there's no doubt about it," Clarke said. "There's a lot of people who have played a part behind the scenes who don't receive too much credit, and bits and pieces of that all through Cricket Australia. So a lot of things have played a part in us performing the way we have and that's one of them.

"Without Alex's help, I wouldn't have played as many Tests as I have, so I try to thank him as much as I can. Lots of guys in the team that are exactly the same. Him and the doc Peter have done a fantastic job in looking after the current crop in making sure we're as fit as we can be leading up and getting through Test matches. There's two more Tests to go this summer so hopefully they can continue to do their good work."

Other members of the support staff to have contributed greatly include the batting coach Michael Di Venuto, the fielding coaches Steve Rixon and Mike Young, the strength and conditioning overseer Damian Mednis, plus the team psychologist Michael Lloyd and the manager Gavin Dovey.

Clarke, who was speaking at Sydney's Olympic Stadium to promote the Sydney Thunder ahead of the Big Bash League - though he has been ruled out of participating between Tests - did not have quite as much to say when asked of the former coach Arthur's role in guiding the team before Lehmann took over. Asked if he had been in touch, Clarke replied: "No, I haven't spoken to Mickey."

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

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Posted by ScottStevo on (December 21, 2013, 12:31 GMT)

@Thurston Torsten, I agree re Doolan. This season he had a real chance to knock doors down and is currently averaging 30 something. However, I completely disagree re Ferguson. He's been in great form after coming back from his lengthy injury which surely cost him a place within the test side. He averaged over 40 last season and when I last checked was averaging 75 this season. Add that to his excellent ODI career average of over 40 and I can't see how any other batsman in the country can be labelled next in line above this bloke. Names like Maddinson and Silk are also being thrown around a fair bit. Maddinson looks another aggressive player who will score big or 0 (we have Warner & Hughes already!) and Silk is still too green but if he can continue scoring right through the season, then we should get him in and around the set up.

Posted by   on (December 21, 2013, 7:54 GMT)

watson the most dangerous batsmen in austrealian team

Posted by Chris_P on (December 20, 2013, 21:27 GMT)

Watching this team improve so much the past year, the biggest improvement, & by a fair margin too, is the standard of fielding. Mike Young & Steve Rixon really deserve plaudits for the way they have lifted standards.

Posted by   on (December 20, 2013, 10:42 GMT)

The shadow of Doolan rises again! It's really a shame that Shield cricket isn't televised, as you'll see that Doolan is an elegant batsman, and potentially great for the attention deficient. An elegant 29 or 17 isn't really what Australia needs. Nor a Ferguson despite his ability (same problem as Doolan). I'm not sure if there is a back story to Burns being dropped recently, but he is one to scrutinise. Same for Maddinson and Lynn. Sure, the call of Sean Marsh will be raised, unless you wish the best for Australian cricket. Phil Hughes is still the best performing younger batsman in Australia, and surely needs psychiatric help to overcome whatever issues he has. And, true, Watson hasn't played to his abilities whatsoever, but I can't think of anyone to replace him - a 35-averaging Shield player? I think not.

Posted by AlSmug on (December 20, 2013, 7:55 GMT)

@meety , have you read pontings book? have you ever had a chat with shane ? its not a theory its the truth, clarke will be the first to stick his hand up and say he ws not a fan of shane , is now binding by a new regime thank goodness for that , hopefully he has grown as a human being , kat and roy wont e sending clarke xmas cards also that i can assure you

Posted by Meety on (December 20, 2013, 7:16 GMT)

@Lyndon McPaul - I agree 100%. What I want to know though - is where all the conspiracy theories? You know the ones regular trolls put on here about Clarke & Watto hating each other, or Clarke caused this or that to happen. Sounds of Silence is magic to my ears! @xtrafalgarx/PrasPunter - people keep saying Watto @ #6, but whilst there is some sound theory behind it (i.e allrounders get time to rest after bowling before they bat etc), the reality is - Watto has been tried down the order, & was a complete failure. All Watto's test tons & the few near misses were as either an opener or #3. Which are also his best positions for ODIs. UNTIL he goes back to Shield cricket & scores a ton from #6, IMO he will always be a useless low order batsmen.

Posted by karan.kakkar22 on (December 20, 2013, 7:11 GMT)

I think he has shown great intent to bat at the no 3 position of the test team. If u see his batting at perth u can easily sense that he has changed his batting technique a bit at the start of the innings by playing safe and positive frame of mind. Lot to see in the next 2 tests andon SA tour. May he will score a double ton or triple ton if he continues where he he left in Perth as Melbourne wicket might help him.

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (December 20, 2013, 7:02 GMT)

@hmmmm: Oh please, the guy wasn't good enough to keep a place in the side in 3 tests, and at least Hughes came back and scored 3 big hundreds. Khawaja hasn't been able to do anthing in the shield and would be lucky to be averaging 30 in FC cricket this season! Watson is an allroudner and gets wickets, and a better bat than Khawaja.

Posted by AlSmug on (December 20, 2013, 6:52 GMT)

Watson has always had the talent even early on as a qld fast medium bowler that batted a bit mind you back then he could not swing it 1 cm. He has developed into a terrific cricketer but unfortunately like so many others is not all that tight in the mind. His game has improved every time he has come back from injury working hard at his game. Those saying he doesn't wok hard and is not a team player is either Micheal Clarke when he had control of ca or a frustrated fan seeing a fella on the field that is somewhat robotic, the fact he wears a poker face and conserves his energy on the field is merely a product of Watson striving not to repeat his emotions he showed towards Gayle after he dismissed him in a test in oz were Watson wigged out a tad, congrats to watto to producing runs when it counts

Posted by AlSmug on (December 20, 2013, 6:51 GMT)

Watson has always had the talent even early on as a qld fast medium bowler that batted a bit mind you back then he could not swing it 1 cm. He has developed into a terrific cricketer but unfortunately like so many others is not all that tight in the mind. His game has improved every time he has come back from injury working hard at his game. Those saying he doesn't wok hard and is not a team player is either Micheal Clarke when he had control of ca or a frustrated fan seeing a fella on the field that is somewhat robotic, the fact he wears a poker face and conserves his energy on the field is merely a product of Watson striving not to repeat his emotions he showed towards Gayle after he dismissed him in a test in oz were Watson wigged out a tad, congrats to watto to producing runs when it counts

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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