Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting has backed Shane Watson as a team player, and says high performance manager Pat Howard would regret comments he made about the axed Test player.
In his first comments on the tourists' crisis in India, Ponting has described team management's decision to stand down four players for their off-field behaviour as drastic but justified.
But he says Australia need Watson, James Pattinson, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson back in the side as soon as possible.
Watson was described by Howard as "sometimes" a team player at a media conference on Tuesday.
"Shane worked as hard as anybody around his cricket, there's no doubt about that," Ponting said at Bellerive Oval after making a Sheffield Shield hundred for Tasmania 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."
Ponting said he'd made a point of getting to know Watson personally during his time as Australian captain.
"I loved every moment that I played with Watto," he said.
"To tell the truth I think I understood him and his personality as well as anyone that I ever played with.
"I tried to get as close to him as I could. I tried to know him as well as I could both on and off the field and I actually felt by doing that I got as much out of him as I could as a player."
Ponting said Howard's comment was made under pressure and suggested he'd handle it differently if he had the chance again.
"I think he'd regret saying that as well but people are going to make judgments," Ponting said.
"I think Shane said this on the way home.
"Pat's known Shane for 12 months and Michael Clarke and Shane have known each other for the best part of 20 years."
Watson headed home to be with his pregnant wife Lee immediately after he was stood down for the third Test of a series Australia trail 2-0.
Ponting said he's been in similar situations in his own career.
"It's obviously a personal decision and he probably doesn't care how it looks," he said.
"What the girls go through when we're away is hard enough as it is but there's certain things in your personal life you don't want to miss."Ponting said he was unaware of any rift between Watson and Clarke.
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