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Clarke bats away talk of Watson rift

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Test turmoil: how did it come to this?

Peter Hanlon and Chloe Saltau dissect the 'homework' saga that led to four Australian players being axed for the third Test against India.

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Under-fire Cricket Australia performance chief Pat Howard has offered to fly to Sydney to make peace with suspended vice-captain Shane Watson.

The relationship between the pair nosedived on Tuesday when the former Wallaby suggested the 31-year-old acted in the best interests of the Australian team "sometimes". More consternation came when he indicated there was strain between Watson and captain Michael Clarke by saying the two "have got to sort their issues out".

The captain maintained his own relationship with Watson was in good health and said he hoped Watson would rejoin the team in time for the fourth Test after the birth of his first child.

Australian captain Michael Clarke.

Australian captain Michael Clarke. Photo: Graham Tidy

"From my point of view he's vice-captain of this team and he's a big part of this team, there's no doubt about that," Clarke said. "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.

"Hopefully all goes to plan there, [wife] Lee has the baby in the next few days and Watto is back here playing the fourth Test as our vice-captain. That's the best-case scenario from my point of view and from the team's point of view. The rest is really up to Shane."

Clarke and Watson have denied they do not get on and there was a series of calls on the subject in light of Howard's statements at a news conference in Brisbane. Howard said he had spoken to Clarke and to Watson's management, and Clarke and Watson also discussed the matter as the all-rounder stepped off a plane on Tuesday night.

Pat Howard has made an offer of peace talks with Australian vice-captain Shane Watson.

Pat Howard has made an offer of peace talks with Australian vice-captain Shane Watson. Photo: Paul Jeffers

Howard on Wednesday said he was willing to travel to Sydney at a time of Watson's choosing for peace talks. That is unlikely to happen soon, however, as Watson waits the arrival of his child.

"I'd like to go down there and see him when the opportunity presents," Howard said. "But he only just got home. The offer is there and when he gets an opportunity that would be great."

The debacle has followed the standing down of Watson and three other players from availability for the third Test against India, which starts at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium on Thursday.

Watson believes the scale of the punishment dished out to the four - the others are James Pattinson, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja - by head coach Mickey Arthur, Clarke and team manager Gavin Dovey was excessive.

They were stood down for not providing requested feedback on their contribution to the series, with management making its unprecedented move due, it said, to a general slide in attitude shown by missed appointments, uniform infractions, neglect for personal ''wellness'' reports, poor skinfold test results and being late for meetings.

Howard's relationship with Watson needs mending if the vice-captain's reaction to his remarks on Tuesday are any indication. Arriving at Sydney airport after leaving the tour, and admitting he was considering his future in the wake of his axing, Watson made clear his disappointed that his commitment to the team had been questioned.

''Pat Howard doesn't particularly know me very well," Watson said. "He's obviously come from a rugby background and hasn't been in and around cricket for very long, so I think the best people to ask are the people I've played cricket with.''

Howard's comments suggesting a Watson-Clarke divide were not received well in Mohali, either. Howard said on Wednesday he also intended to travel to India in time for the fourth Test in Delhi, but said his plans were not spurred by the turbulent events of the past three days.

"We've got the state CEOs conference on but I'm looking at an opportunity to get back after that," Howard said. "There was always a goal to get back later in the tour but I had other commitments here. It is certainly not a reactionary thing to what has gone on."

Clarke said he believed any problems between Howard and Watson could be patched up. "I'm very confident that they'll be on the phone to each other regularly … Watto has been around for a long time. Pat has been around sport for a very long time. I know those two will be in communication.''

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