England v Australia, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's July 17, 2013

Warne relaxed over Clarke-Watson rift


Shane Warne believes fierce arguments between Michael Clarke and Shane Watson over the latter's place in Australia's Test match batting order have been at the root of a rift that is nowhere near as dramatic as the former coach Mickey Arthur has alleged. A close friend and mentor to both Clarke and Watson, Warne paralleled his relationship with Steve Waugh, another pair who disagreed fundamentally on many cricket issues but found a way to work together.

Arthur's alleged claim in leaked legal documents that Clarke had described Watson as a "cancer" on the Australian team has heightened scrutiny of a partnership that has often been strained. But Warne told ESPNcricinfo that while the views of Clarke and Watson had often diverged, the perception of the two senior players warring with each other had been enhanced by the national team's indifferent recent results and the allrounder's shuffling around the batting order by Clarke.

"I found when I was captain of Watto in the IPL. I just backed him 100% and he'd end up being player of the tournament," Warne said. "Pup's been doing that but I think what people have missed is they've debated over where Shane Watson should bat. Watto wants to open, Michael Clarke's thinking strong middle order, so I'm sure they've had a few heated debates about where he should bat.

"How that translates into they hate each other, they don't get along, blah blah blah, it's just been blown out of proportion I believe. And I know both the guys really well and I speak to both all the time. So I think it's not a factual statement. But because of the batting situation and the way the team's going, sometimes people can read too much into that. They might have disagreements of opinions over things, but that's okay. You don't need to always agree and it doesn't equal hating each other either."

Watson's relationship with Clarke reached a low point during the tour of India earlier this year when he was suspended from the Mohali Test match by a leadership group comprised of Clarke, Arthur and the team manager Gavin Dovey. Warne said his working axis with Waugh had been similarly tested by the decision to drop him from the Test team in the West Indies early in 1999. A few months later they found themselves celebrating on the Lord's balcony, having played equally vital roles in winning the World Cup.

"Coach Geoff Marsh still wanted to go with me, so it all got a bit ugly, and that was not great to be honest, it wasn't very easy," Warne said of the selection meeting in Antigua, 14 years ago. "But we always had respect for each other. We always had different views - Steve was a very defensive, negative type of person, he was always a match saver. He wouldn't go out there and tear an attack apart, he would just slowly go about it and grind them down. I was a bit more aggressive, had a bit more flair about my game and was more of a risk-taker. Sometimes that works, and that's why we had quite a successful period as captain and vice-captain because we contrasted."

Warne suggested that kind of contrast should be regarded as a strength rather than a weakness by Clarke and Watson, and encouraged the captain's authority to be challenged respectfully by others as the best way for the team to function. The new coach Darren Lehmann appears already to have helped in this way.

"They have disagreements in the change room on certain things and batting orders and that sort of stuff," Warne said. "But that's healthy, you don't want ten robots in there just going 'yes Michael, whatever you want Michael'. You want someone to say 'I disagree with that Pup, let's declare at 320'. In the end he's accountable because the wins and losses go against his name. I think he's pretty good at collecting all the information in the dressing room and then making his own decision.

"The big question is about respect versus being liked. We all like to be liked but it's more important to have respect. If you respect each other, no matter whether you have differences of opinions or you don't quite see eye to eye. You might not go out and socialise once you walk off the ground, but on that field you'd do anything for each other, and that's what we had for a long period. The only way to get that respect is to earn it, how people conduct themselves around the group, how they put themselves out for you, are they thoughtful towards you as well. It can't be one way traffic all the time."

You can follow Warne's views this summer on the Shane Warne Cricket app.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • stuart on July 20, 2013, 12:03 GMT

    Do we think that the Indian fans rating of Watson has anything to do with the fact that he plays well in the IPL. he akways looks good and then gets out.As the old saying goes its now how it looks it how many runs you make. He can dominate in IPL but lets face it it is not really high class cricket

  • David on July 19, 2013, 0:06 GMT

    Most of what Warne says makes sense, it's good to have different views and perspectives. And he has the authority of being the best legspinner of them all. Unfortunately his bitterness over losing the captaincy to Steve Waugh and then being dropped for a Test still obviously rankles ('a defensive, negative person') and has always been apparent. Take for example his ridiculously low ranking of Waugh - someone who you'd have to consider for a place in an alltime Australian Eleven - in his list a few years ago of the best players he'd played with or against. A 'defensive, negative person' doesn't attract the sort of unprecedented (except for Bradman) respect and reverence that was shown by the Australian public towards Waugh on his retirement. Come on, Shane, you're starting to believe all the Ian Chappell hype about yourself and Steve! Be a little generous and show some flair and give up the bitterness, it's showing.

  • Chatty on July 18, 2013, 14:30 GMT

    Some good common sense from Shane Warne.

  • surey on July 18, 2013, 12:49 GMT

    Fantastic words of wisdom from the man who has seen it all. Applies not only to cricket but generally to any high-performance teams. Genius !

  • Sam on July 18, 2013, 10:12 GMT

    Well said, Shane Warne. I don't want Clarke to ruin Watson's career. Watson is a sort of player who needs to be used smartly & he can turn out to be a match winner. Lehmann seems to be the man to do it. Watson's comfortable at opening & bowl just a few overs. He's currently a batsman who can roll the arm a bit like a part-timer. He can't be used like an allrounder. If Watson is overbowled, he'll make himself injured. These are kind of things one needs to address when Watson is in the team. I think, Clarke wants an allrounder in Watson who bats in the middle order but that's not possible. Anyways, all the best Watson & Aussie team.

  • Dummy4 on July 18, 2013, 8:43 GMT

    I believe him 100%...being a cricketer everybody wants best for the team....guys may have different opinions but that dosent mean that they hate each other....Just britiah press playing a media war on the Aussies....Well leaders always INSPIRE and aggressive mind set lets you BELIEVE...!! GO AUSSIE....!! PUPS its about TIME..!! Isloo-Pakistan

  • Dummy4 on July 18, 2013, 8:32 GMT

    easy to cover and carry cracks when its a winning team Warnie - not so easy when its a losing team. Goats have to be found and looks like Cowan and Starc are today's sacrificial offerings. Who will it be if Oz go 2-0 down? Lehman ? Clarke?

  • David on July 18, 2013, 8:14 GMT

    It's pretty obvious that this issue has been vastly exaggerated, and it isn't hard to see how that happens. The headline after the Arthur legal thing broke was "Clarke calls Watson a cancer". The journalists extract the most sensational phrase - and suddenly that has become the definition of what is happening. The reality is that Clarke and Watson are on reasonable terms, as far as I can tell, and the team is in good spirits. But that is not going to make the headlines. So Watson=cancer it is.

    I don't really see the Arthur legal case affecting team unity. Arthur is now an outsider, so it is no longer an internal disruption. Because the "disruption" comes from an external source, it may actually unite the team. This is actually what governments always try to do when they look like losing support - find an external threat to divert attention from them and unify the people.

  • Dummy4 on July 18, 2013, 7:28 GMT

    Respect for Warne. Great piece of advice from Warne to Shane and Michael and very informational stuff on leadership stuff and teamwork. From Karachi - Pakistan

  • Ramakrishnan on July 18, 2013, 7:21 GMT

    Shane Warne has said it as it should be said. Have all the opinion you want to have but earn each other's respect by performance on the field and not by perorations off the field. Clarke should learn from Warne's handling of a disparate group of players and how he moulded them to a winning unit rather than following tactics of Mickey Arthur which flopped badly.