Pup lauds Watson's ethos

CRICKET

Michael Clarke lauded Shane Watson's team-first approach in the Perth Test and described him as an example to young players.

The triumphant captain never suggested Watson was anything but a team man.

But after the shambolic homework scandal in India in March, team performance manager Pat Howard did.

He let slip in a press conference that he believed Watson "acts in the best interests of the team - sometimes" and there was a perception the all-rounder was a selfish cricketer.

At the time, former players who had played with Watson leapt to his defence.

Before the UK Ashes in June, Watson publicly stated he and Howard had sorted out any misunderstandings.

For his captain to come out and endorse the impact his selfless attitude had on Australia's 3-0 Ashes win, was real vindication for Watson.

The 32-year-old's brutal near run-a-ball century was quickly dismissed by some as a great innings but at a time when Australia didn't really need it.

However, Ben Stokes' rearguard action for England on day five suggested it did matter.

Clarke said Watson's willingness to risk his wicket by blazing 73 runs from 40 balls in the second innings was a lesson to teammates as Australia strive for a return to No 1 in the Test rankings.

"What Watto did the other day was put the team first," Clarke said yesterday.

"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. It's good to see."

Watson scored two centuries in four Tests to suggest Australia might have found their solution at No 3.

Before Watson's century at The Oval in August, the last hundred by an Australian first drop was Shaun Marsh in Sri Lanka two years before.

"It's obviously a tough position, there's no doubt about it," said Clarke.

"Watto is hitting the ball as good as I've seen."

Clarke also paid tribute to Australia's medicos.

Team physio Alex Kountouris kept Clarke in action despite chronic back problems, doctor Peter Brukner turned injury-prone Watson into a regular contributor and Ryan Harris is preparing for his eight consecutive Test after years in the casualty ward.

"Alex and the doc, Peter, have done a fantastic job," said Clarke, who also credited Cricket Australia for putting a greater emphasis on Sheffield Shield. 

AAP

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