Shane Watson says he feels personally vindicated for making a stand against the degenerative state of the Australian dressing room last year.
As Australia continued to celebrate the most emphatic 5-0 Ashes whitewash in history, Watson reflected on how coach Darren Lehmann made him enjoy cricket again.
“It’s a game that if you take too seriously – and I do at times – that you can really get too internal and the game gets too much for you,” Watson said.
“I knew that’s what was happening within the Australian team and like I say, Darren Lehmann comes in and within one day turns that all around.”
Watson said Lehmann reassured him that he was right to question the team’s culture, after the allrounder’s relationship with former coach Mickey Arthur had hit rock bottom.
In a dramatic year off the field, Watson was stood down for a Test in India for not handing in his homework and was reportedly referred to as a “cancer” by Michael Clarke in documents tabled by Arthur in court.
When he was dropped for the Mohali Test, Watson openly disagreed with the punishment and how the team was being run, and later in England it was reported that he again challenged Arthur over inconsistencies with his handling of disciplinary matters.
Watson cut a lonely figure for most of 2013, but says he’s taken immense satisfaction for standing up for what he believed in.
“Personally it makes it more sweet there’s no doubt about that,” Watson said.
“There were times I knew I had to stand strong with my beliefs for the betterment of what I thought was to get the best out of the amazing talent we had in the group.
“I would certainly never take back how I stood and voiced my opinions at certain times.
“I know when there’s down times if you stand strong enough and persevere for long enough that it might turn around – and it has in a way I never ever expected.”
Watson came through the ranks in one of the golden eras for Australian cricket, and he now believes a new legacy has been created thanks to Lehmann’s influence.
Australia struggled to overcome the retirements of greats like Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Justin Langer and Matt Hayden, and more recently Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey.
Watson says Lehmann instantly fixed the mistakes made under Arthur.
“There’s absolutely no comparison,” he said.
“This is the time of my life. I know how lucky I am to be involved in such a special environment because it doesn’t always come along.
“I’d always had certain beliefs and I’d been lucky to be around so many great teams to know most importantly that you need to be making sure you’re having a lot of fun.”
Watson said the magnitude of the turnaround was incredible.
Of the two previous 5-0 clean-sweeps in 1920-21 and 2006-07, England scored less runs, lost more wickets at a worse average this summer than ever before.