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Shane Watson says coach Darren Lehmann put the fun back into cricket

He was stood down for a Test match and fell out with the coach last year, but as he basks in Ashes-winning glory Shane Watson says it was all worth it.

''Personally, it makes it more sweet,'' he said. ''To know that there were times when I knew I had to stand strong with my beliefs. I certainly would never take back how I stood and voiced my opinions at certain times. It makes it all worthwhile.''

Watson was one of four players suspended for the third Test against India in Mohali last March over the ''homework'' affair, and his relationship with then Australian coach Mickey Arthur never recovered.

The all-rounder lost the vice-captaincy as a result but said on Monday he had taken a position about the way the team's culture had deteriorated and, following Australia's 5-0 Ashes triumph, was proud of it.

''I know that when there is down times if you stand strong for long enough and persevere for long enough things might turn around, and they certainly have in a way that I never expected,'' he said.

''I've always had certain beliefs and I've been very lucky enough to be around so many great teams, whether it was the Australian team or other teams that I've played in. You need to be making sure you're having a lot of fun because it's a game that if you take too seriously - and I do at times, and I've always got to turn myself around - you can really get too internal and the game gets too much for you. That's what was happening in the Australian team.


''Darren Lehmann comes in and within one day just turns that all around. It just made me know that what I was standing strong for were for the right reasons.''

Watson's outlook on the resurgent Australian team and his own future in it is a far cry from what it was the afternoon he packed his bags and left Mohali, flying home immediately after being stood down.

He was returning to Sydney for the birth of his son, Will, but said as he left he was weighing up whether he would continue playing international cricket.

That is anything but the case now. ''This is the time of my life, it really is,'' said Watson, 32. ''And I know how lucky I am to be involved in such a special environment, because it doesn't always come along. And I know everyone feels the exact same way.

''Because it's not just something you stumble across, it's something that people do put a lot of time and effort in certain ways to be able to make sure that an environment like this is created and that's the amazing skill that Darren Lehmann has brought in.''

Watson said under Lehmann's leadership - the former Test batsman was appointed when Arthur was sacked only 16 days before the Ashes in England - there had been an immediate renewal of enjoyment in the game for him and others in the Australian team.

''That had gone out the window,'' he said. ''It was more so you had to be desperate and put every other part of your life on hold to become the best player and best team in the world, instead of just getting the perfect balance. And Darren knew that from experience and that's exactly what he implemented.

''It really is an absolute pleasure to be part of playing cricket for Australia. Not just the dream of playing cricket for Australia, but now to be involved in something that is so much fun.''