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Cricket: Ponting backs Watson as team player

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting has backed Shane Watson as a team player and said the Cricket Australia official who suggested he was not would live to regret his comments.

Watson returned to Sydney late Tuesday from the tour of India after he was dropped for failing to prepare feedback on how the team could improve and deliver it to management. Three other players received the same punishment.

It prompted Cricket Australia general manager Pat Howard to say Watson needed to start toeing the team line, implying he was only "sometimes" a team player.

Ponting, who retired from international cricket in December and has been in sizzling form for his Sheffield Shield side Tasmania since, said he knew the 31-year-old well and had no doubts about his commitment.

"Shane worked as hard as anybody around his cricket, there's no doubt about that," he said Thursday after making another century 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," he added.

Ponting told Australian Associated Press he made a point of getting to know Watson, whose wife gave birth to a boy on Thursday, during his time as Australian captain.

"To tell the truth I think I understood him and his personality as well as anyone that I ever played with," he said, adding that Howard would likely handle his comments differently if he had the chance again.

"I think he'd regret saying that... but people are going to make judgements," Ponting said.

"Pat's known Shane for 12 months and (Australian captain) Michael (Clarke) and Shane have known each other for the best part of 20 years."

Shattered by being axed for one Test as punishment, Watson said earlier this week that he was reviewing his future.

Australia, who face an Ashes double header against England starting in July, trail 2-0 in the four-Test series in India.

AFP is not covering the India series after the Board of Control for Cricket in India failed to lift restrictions on picture agencies.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130314/cricket-ponting-backs-watson-team-player