Sacked vice-captain Shane Watson says he will contemplate quitting Test cricket after leaving India only hours after he was one of four Australian players stood down for Thursday's third Test.
Watson was made unavailable for the third leg of the series, alongside fast bowlers James Pattinson and Mitchell Johnson, and back-up batsman Usman Khawaja, for a breach of team discipline. Head coach Mickey Arthur said the quartet had failed to comply with requests to deliver a presentation, by email or in person, on what they bring to the team in the wake of last week's heavy defeat in Hyderabad.
The stunning development leaves Australia with only 13 players in contention for the match – 12 if wicketkeeper Matthew Wade does not recover from a bruised ankle.
While veteran gloveman Brad Haddin was already in the air as cover for Wade, Watson flew in the opposite direction from Chandigarh. The 31-year-old quit the tour on Monday afternoon to be with his heavily pregnant wife Lee, who was due to give birth at the end of the month. He said he was "absolutely shattered" to be stood down and would weigh up his future in Test cricket.
"Any time you're suspended for a Test match unless you do something unbelievably wrong, and obviously everyone knows what those rules are . . . I think it is very harsh," Watson said.
"At this point in time I'm at a stage where I'm sort of weighing up my future and what I want to do with my cricket in general, to be honest. I do love playing, there is no doubt about that, but at this point in time I'm going to spend the next few weeks with my family and just weigh up my options of just exactly which direction I want to go.
"I'm going to have to sit down and talk that through with my family. There are lot more important things in life – I certainly do love playing cricket and that passion is still there and I feel like I'm in the prime years of my cricket career. From that perspective I still feel like I've got a lot to give. But from a holistic perspective I've got to sit down with my family and decide which directions they are."
Watson said he had been about to tell Arthur and captain Michael Clarke on Monday that he would have to miss the fourth Test in Delhi next week to be home for the birth of his first child.
"I was about to communicate that to Mickey and the leadership group today but they obviously beat me to it by telling me I wasn't selected for this Test match," he said. "Also overnight, things have changed and Lee wasn't going to tell me things had changed because she knew how much it meant to me to be able to play this Test match.
"It was due in a couple of weeks but it's looking like things have sped up a little bit."
His departure from the tour, and the standing down of the three other players, leaves Australia in disarray two days away from a Test and with morale further shattered following an already forgettable first half of the series.
Arthur said the shock axings were a move to maintain standards in team culture. "This is a line in the sand," he said. "We pride ourselves on attitude. We have given the players a huge amount of latitude to get culture and attitude right. We believe that those behaviours are not consistent with what we want to do with this team, how we want to take this team to be the best in the world.
"I believe those four players unfortunately did not meet my requirements so those four players are not available for selection for this Test match."
Arthur said players were given five days to reply to his email request. He said Johnson and Khawaja forgot and that Watson and Pattinson had told him they planned to talk to him on Monday.
"It's extremely tough to sit here and make that decision. I wish it wasn't the vice-captain, I wish it wasn't Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson, they are leaders within the team. But this was a moment where we had to make a statement irrespective of who the players were.
"A lot of guys came to my room and did a presentation, a few guys have written fantastic emails, some guys put notes under my door, it was their preference.
"As a leadership group ... this has been the toughest decision that myself, manager Gavin Dovey and captain Michael Clarke have ever had to make."