Baby for Watson opens return
Shane Watson could be back in India for next week's fourth Test after his wife gave birth to their first child on Thursday.
The vice-captain's controversial suspension from the third Test proved to be a blessing in disguise, allowing him to be home in time to be at his wife Lee's side in a Sydney hospital as she had a baby boy they named Will.
Watson became a father as the first day of the third Test against India was abandoned due to heavy rain soaking the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium.
He had flown out of Chandigarh, headed for Sydney, soon after it was announced on Monday that he was one of four players - the others were James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja - who were stood down for the match for a breach of team discipline.
Watson made no secret that he felt the scale of the punishment was ''very harsh'', and even suggested he would weigh up his Test future as a result. But he insisted his decision to leave the tour was primarily based on his wife's pregnancy and his desire to be at her side for the birth.
The 31-year-old had planned to skip the fourth Test, which starts in Delhi on Friday week, and miss the early stages of next month's Indian Premier League to be with his family. Had he not been stood down from the third Test he may well have missed the birth.
''Overnight, things have changed and Lee wasn't going to tell me things had changed because she knew how much it meant to me to be able to play this Test match,'' Watson said before departing India. ''[The baby] was due in a couple of weeks but it's looking like things have sped up a little bit.''
The birth of the couple's first child will open debate about whether Watson could now return to India for the final Test of the series. It was understood he was yet to make a decision on rejoining the touring party.
Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting backed Watson as a team player, and said high performance manager Pat Howard would regret comments he made about the axed Test star.
In his first comments on the Australians' crisis in India, Ponting described team management's decision as ''drastic'' but justified.
But he said Australia needed the four players back in the side as soon as possible.
''Shane worked as hard as anybody around his cricket, there's no doubt about that,'' Ponting said on Thursday, after making a Sheffield Shield hundred for Tasmania against Victoria.
''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.''
Ponting said Howard's comment was made under pressure and suggested he'd handle it differently if he had the chance again.
''I think he'd regret saying that as well but people are going to make judgments,'' Ponting said. ''Pat's known Shane for 12 months and Michael [Clarke] and Shane have known each other for the best part of 20 years.''
Australian captain Michael Clarke said on Wednesday that he would like to have his deputy back as soon as possible.
''From the conversation Watto and I have had, 100 per cent he has gone home for the birth of his first child, which is very exciting for him. I know he's really excited about that,'' Clarke said. ''Hopefully all goes to plan there, Lee has the baby in the next few days and Watto is back here playing the fourth Test as our vice-captain.''
Watson, Pattinson, Johnson and Khawaja were made unavailable for the third Test for failing to provide feedback requested by head coach Mickey Arthur after the team's innings defeat in Hyderabad that left it 2-0 down in the series.
Arthur said it was unfortunate, but necessary, that the disciplining of players had not been conducted behind closed doors.
''It has to ultimately become public when it involves so many players,'' he said. ''I don't like it being public. That's not my style but we had given the guys a year really to set culture and do what they wanted to do.''
Australia made four changes to its side for the third Test. Veteran gloveman Brad Haddin replaced the injured Matthew Wade, Nathan Lyon returned at the expense of all-rounder Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Starc and Steve Smith were also included. Clarke said he would bat at No. 3.