Star all-rounder Shane Watson is sad that Kevin Pietersen (in pic with Ashley Giles) is not playing international cricket anymore and wants someone like Australian coach Darren Lehmann to guide the maverick England batsman. (Read: Kevin Pietersen to lead Delhi Daredevils in IPL 7)
Pietersen's international career was cut short after the England and Wales Cricket Board decided to drop him from the team for the ongoing World Twenty20 Championships.
Watson said Pietersen's absence is the tournament's loss. (Read: George Bailey to captain Kings XI Punjab in IPL 2014)
"For me, it's sad that Kevin Pietersen is not playing international cricket. He has always been one of my favourite players as he could take the game away anytime. I loved watching him bat in the way he took on bowlers in all forms of the game. But things now might just change with new coach. It's a loss for the tournament that Kevin would not be there," 32-year-old Watson said in an interaction during an open media session of the Australian team here on Tuesday.
Watson feels that just like Lehmann's appointment as the chief coach helped a rudderless Aussie team get direction, it might just work for Pietersen and England if they get someone like him to guide them through this crisis.
"Hope things work out for England as Kevin is an incredible player. Certainly they will miss his cricketing abilities and they need someone to help Kevin. To guide him in the right direction just like Darren Lehmann guided this current Australian team. Lehmann pointed the ship in the right direction and everyone was on board.
"Great coaches are those who were not only great cricketers but also those who get the respect when he walks in. Someone who does things for right reasons. My experience of playing with Kevin in Hampshire is that he is a good guy," Watson said in a pragmatic tone.
Although he has moved on since the infamous 'Homework Gate' episode happened during the away series against India last year, the scars still remain as he made it clear how Mickey Arthur's removal and Lehmann's appointment changed things for the better.
"Look, since Darren Lehmann came in, he has certainly made a huge change to our group. There was a period of time (Arthur era) which certainly wasn't ideal that team environment. Darren came in and turned things around. He knew having played the game as to what kind of environment is needed to get best out of us and made those changes immediately," Watson said without referring to Arthur even once.
Watson said the current Australian team is enjoying its time both on and off the field.
"We are certainly enjoying our time on and off the field. There were certain specifics that Darren wanted us to work on. He has an amazing knowledge about the game and knows also how to help players as well. The day Darren took over the environment changed immediately. He certainly made sure we were enjoying ourselves. He knew families were integral part to us individually but also as group," he said.
Watson didn't hesitate in saying that the team had its insecurities during the earlier regime as the fear of failure had crept in.
"When everyone is worried about failing rather than concentrating on performing, it becomes different. When you have got a negative mindset, the best result (one expects) is not failing. But when you go with a mindset of just perform with freedom and back your own skills, the best result is having a great day.
"That's what exactly happened during last Ashes. Everyone had the time of their lives. We did play extremely well apart from couple of sessions. We realised that it's about playing cricket in general which is important. We should not be too worried about failing".
Watson also feels that Lehmann's introduction has taken a lot of load off Michael Clarke, who he thought was trying to be "everything and everyone". Watson said he is happy to play alongside Clarke for a common goal.
"I am not specifically talking about my relationship with Michael. My relationship with Michael has been very good. He has been excellent in how he has run the team. Darren coming in has just taken the load off Michael more than anything else. Earlier, Michael was trying to be everything and everyone and Darren has helped us out.
"In any team, there are people with whom you share a close relationship but may be you don't spend enough time with them off the field. A good team is one where you get along with everyone. Rather, you have to. Make sure you find certain things and bonds that ensure that we are moving in the same direction," he explained.
"This (rifts) has happened in Australian teams before. There were people who were not best of friends but worked for a common purpose. That's same for sporting teams as well as business teams," said Watson, who has played 52 Tests and 173 ODIs apart from 41 T20 Internationals.
He made no bones about the fact that it's a dream to be captain of Australia but praised George Bailey's leadership abilities.
"It's always a dream to captain your country and I would be lying if I said I wouldn't. But I am very comfortable where I am at the moment and the role that I have as an all-rounder in the team. George is a great guy and knows the game. He is also performing well. Specially in shorter formats of the game."
With both Aaron Finch and David Warner being explosive openers, Watson will be batting at No 3 but he has taken the team management's decision in his stride.
"I am happy to bat at any position be it at Nos 3, 4 5 or 6. In my role in T20, I have batted for Rajasthan Royals at No 4 coming in at middle period and staying towards the end. I am really happy to be a part of this Australian teams with so many match winners. I would just be happy to contribute anywhere I bat".
Asked about Australia's chances in the World T20, he said that this is an "incredible squad although we would miss Mitchell Johnson".
"This is an incredible squad. Apart from Mitch Johnson out with toe infection, this is best squad that we have put together in a T20 tournament. We have firepower in batting till No 10, couple of very good death bowlers and couple of very good new ball bowlers. We have a lot of balance in our team.
"In a knock-out tournament, you need a lot of guys who can make difference in the team and we have got those. T20 cricket is a quite a fickle game as you can have a good day as well as a bad day," he signed off.