Mohali: Despite a miffed Shane Watson contemplating quitting Test cricket, Australian captain Michael Clarke on Wednesday expressed hope that the vice-captain would return to India for the fourth and final Test in Delhi.
After Watson and three of his colleagues - pacemen James Pattinson and Mitchell Johnson, and batsman Usman Khawaja - were axed from the team for the third Test because of their failure to complete a task set by the coach Mickey Arthur, the allrounder returned to Sydney.
His return coincided with his wife expecting their first child. Before leaving India, Watson had said he would weigh up his options and take a call on his Test cricket future.
But Clarke and Watson spoke on the phone after the latter landed in Sydney and the skipper said it would be the best-case scenario for Australia if Watson could return in time for the final Test in Delhi, which starts on March 22.
"I think Watto has made it clear to everybody that that's something he's thinking about while he's home.
"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. 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," said Clarke.
"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. 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," he added.
The situation got more complicated on Tuesday with Cricket Australia general manager of team performance, Pat Howard, saying that Watson was a team player "sometimes" and alluded to issues between Watson and Clarke.
However, Clarke on Wednesday refused to get involved in the debate, saying he was sure Watson and Howard must be communicating with each other back home.
"I'm not going to get into that. I don't think it's fair to Watto and I don't think it's fair to Pat that I get involved in that," Clarke said.
"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. For me the focus is this team and trying to have success in these two Test matches.
"I think the most important thing is that this group looks forward. The decision has been made. The players have accepted and respect the decision that has been made, and now we're trying to do what the most important thing is and have success in this Test match.
"I think it would be very stupid of me to look backwards. I don't think right now, a day out before the Test, I can afford to do that," said the skipper on the eve of their third Test against India.
Clarke also insisted that he and Watson have sorted out their issues.
"Watto made it clear on Tuesday that me and him have known each other for such a long period of time. The players respect the position I'm in as captain and that this decision isn't personal. We made the decision irrelevant to the four players' names. It was because we thought it was best for the team that we made that decision," he said.