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Former captain backs 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.

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.

Rain washed out today’s first day of the third Test between the Aussies and India at Mohali. (Cricinfo)

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