Shane Watson has emphatically denied any part in calling David Warner to account for the night out in Birmingham with other Australian team-mates during the Champions Trophy that involved the punching of Joe Root and contributed to the sacking of the coach Mickey Arthur.
However Watson stated that the decision of Arthur and the captain Michael Clarke to suspend four players, including himself for failing to follow team instructions in India earlier this year, had set a “dangerous precedent”, and lauded the new coach Darren Lehmann for dissipating the tension that had built up in the team over the past six months, a period in which he admitted to “not having much fun”.
Reports emerged in the aftermath of Warner’s suspension for the Root incident that it was only dealt with formally after Watson had referred to it in conversations with Arthur about disciplinary standards and their consistent application. At the time Watson did not comment publicly on the matter, but in the first days of Lehmann’s new coaching regime he spoke frankly, rejecting all notions he had forced the disciplinary process that had Warner suspended until the first Test against England at Trent Bridge.
“Absolutely not,” Watson said when asked if he had informed Arthur of events at the Walkabout. “In the end the coaching staff and Mickey and the leadership group found out about Dave’s incident off their own bat. It had absolutely nothing to do with me in any way shape or form and I’m not sure why that was brought out in the media because it certainly wasn’t the truth.
“They obviously found out, there were some people who were in and around the incident at the time who had relayed the information, so it certainly had nothing to do with me. The precedent that was set through Mohali was quite a dangerous precedent, there’s no doubt about that. But in the end this is now a new group, a new leadership group, new team dynamics obviously with Darren coming in, so I’m not looking back any more at the things that happened in the past.
“This is a change for all of us which is a very good thing. I’m not looking back at what happened in the last few months, I’m just excited about what we’re doing now as a group and what Darren is going to bring to our team.”
Watson’s happiness about Lehmann’s arrival is only partly explained by the decision to promote him to open the batting. Arthur’s close alliance with the captain Michael Clarke had marginalised Watson somewhat, as injuries and an inconsistent job description contributed to his decline from the personal heights he reached under Ricky Ponting. He was happy to admit that the team would now play more fearlessly under Lehmann, who had already encouraged the members of the Ashes squad to express themselves with the bat.
“The way Darren operates is a more light-hearted way,” Watson said. “He played the game for the enjoyment and as a coach one of the big things he instils in the group is to make sure we are having fun. There were certainly times after Mohali that I wasn’t having that much fun, and that is something Darren has ensured, that things are little bit less tense and more about enjoying the absolute privilege of playing cricket for Australia.
“It should be the time of our life, it’s a dream come true, and that is something Darren has instilled. Darren’s perspective on the game is to go out and back your talent and not worry about failing at all, that’s going to be part of the game of cricket. Things in that regard will change because that is how Darren played. He will make sure everyone does that with bat or ball, that people aren’t worried about failing, more so about showing how good they are.” (cricinfo)