Shane Watson has stunned Australian cricket by standing down as vice-captain of the national side across all formats.
Watson was sensationally dumped from the Test side, along with three other players, following the infamous “homework affair” while on tour in India.
The 31-year-old returned home immediately after being dropped to attend the birth of his first child, but rushed back to India and was then made captain after Michael Clarke pulled out of the fourth Test through injury.
This saga raised big question marks over Watson’s place in the leadership group, and indeed on his relationship with Clarke, and the all-rounder admitted it had played on his mind for some time.
“Making the decision to step down wasn’t easy but it’s something I’ve been thinking about since the Test series against India ended,” Watson said.
“I think it’s the right time for a change for both the team and me. I’ll be honest and admit I wrestled with the decision for some time, however once I made up my mind, I informed Cricket Australia so the selectors could consider their options for the Ashes given the squads will be announced soon.
“I want to be the best Test player I can be for Australia and think I can do that by stepping down from the vice-captaincy to focus my attention on scoring runs, taking wickets and doing whatever is necessary to help the team achieve success.
“I won’t be the vice-captain in title but I think I can still be a leader and strong contributor around the group.
“Yesterday I rang John Inverarity, Mickey Arthur and Michael Clarke to advise them of my decision and they respect that decision and agree with me that this is the best outcome for me and the team.
“I thank Cricket Australia for the leadership opportunity over the past two years and I’m really looking forward to this next phase. In my conversations with Mickey and Michael I reaffirmed my commitment to the team and support for them as we fight to win back the Ashes and get back to being ranked number one in the world,” Watson said.
Chairman of selectors John Inverarity insisted Watson will still be a key part of the side for the forseeable future.
“Shane Watson should be commended for making the tough call to step down from the vice-captaincy to focus on playing. Regardless, he will still be an important senior leader within the team,” Inverarity said.
“The National Selection Panel (NSP) will now consider and then put a vice-captaincy recommendation to the Cricket Australia Board for its approval.”
The timing of the Ashes squad announcement is yet to be confirmed.