Modern-day Test great Matthew Hayden has strongly backed Shane Watson as a team man and questioned whether senior cricket officials are committed to the “fundamental Australian ways” of the game.
Watson’s career is at a crossroads after Cricket Australia’s high-performance manager, Pat Howard, suggested the vice-captain was selfish by saying he was a team player “sometimes”.
Stood down from being available for the third Test against India along with Mitchell Johnson, Usman Khawaja and James Pattinson for failing to complete a “homework” task, Watson took issue with Howard’s comments and said his teammates were the best judge.
But, with Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricket Association advising a united front in a time of crisis, there were few going into bat for the all-rounder on Wednesday.
High-profile former Test players like Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey directly declined to comment about the current situation, as did former batting coach Justin Langer, while even Watson’s more recent domestic teammates were reluctant to speak out.
Hayden, who played with Watson for Australia and Queensland from 2003 to 2008, though praised the 31-year-old.
“Shane is a team man and vice-captain of our nation,” he said in an emailed response to AAP.
“Along with his gentle disposition yet outstanding competitive streak it has enabled Shane’s immense talents with both bat and ball to rise to the top to become one of this country’s more decorated performers in all forms of the game.
“I have played with Shane since he was a boy. He has battled with injury and risen in spite of major setbacks to overcome the obstacles presented in true Aussie spirit.”
Hayden said he was immensely saddened by Michael Clarke’s team under-performing on and off the field, especially succumbing “culturally and socially” to the pressure of consecutive Test losses in India.
The former opener stressed cricket represented Australians as “roll up your sleeve, she’ll be right mate, have a go in spite of challenges, punch above our weight” people.
“And most importantly never leave your mate on the battle field,” he wrote.
“I hope every inch of Pat Howard and senior (CA) management has those core and fundamental Australian ways pumping through their veins?”
Former leg-spinner Stuart MacGill, the latest to label coach Mickey Arthur’s assignment task as “stupid”, felt cricket teams needed to embrace individuality to succeed.
“Being an individual within a cricket team doesn’t mean that you’re selfish,” he told AAP.
Australian Twenty20 captain George Bailey had no doubts Watson would be back firing on the international stage in all three forms of the game and was positive about his captaincy in last year’s one-day series in the West Indies when Clarke was injured.
“I thought he led really well,” Bailey said. “It was a really challenging tour for us but certainly his own performance was outstanding.
“The funny thing about leadership is there’s so many different ways to show it and if your leader’s being the best player on the field and preparing well and performing well it’s a great way of showing leadership.”
Another one-day teammate, West Australia’s Adam Voges, said Watson had “always been a team man when I’ve played with him”.
“He’s been nothing short of professional and very much team-orientated,” Voges said.