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Shane Watson relishes No4 role
By Greg Buckle
17:29 AEST Wed Dec 12 2012

Australia's new No.4 Shane Watson has paid a heartfelt tribute to the man he's replacing and says Ricky Ponting has had a huge impact on his career.

Former Test skipper Ponting's time in the baggy green ended with his retirement in Perth earlier this month and the Tasmanian will do a lap of honour on Friday's opening day of the first Test against Sri Lanka in Hobart.

Watson will drop from No.3 to No.4 and recalled opener Phil Hughes, who has come into the side for Ponting, will bat at No.3.

NSW's Watson, who has batted at four for his former team Queensland including a double hundred in the 2006 Sheffield Shield final, feels comfortable about returning to the role of his first-class roots.

The 31-year-old is conscious of having to lift his game without Ponting. He says Ponting has been the heartbeat of the team for a long time.

"It's certainly a big time for the senior players who have to fill that void," vice-captain Watson said.

"If it wasn't for Ricky I wouldn't be in the place I am today."

Watson, who has averaged only 24.11 in nine Tests since the 2010/11 Ashes series, says the move to No.4 is designed to keep him fresh for the allrounder's role.

"Even in the last Test match (in Perth's series-decider against South Africa) Michael (skipper Michael Clarke) didn't bowl me, in one spell especially, when I could have bowled," Watson said on Wednesday.

"He was moreso just giving me a chance to be as fresh as I could going into that second innings in the batting side of things.

"It just gives me that time to physically be able to just freshen up but also mentally.

"A couple of times I was still caught up in my bowling side of things when I've gone out to bat and got out very early.

"At least it gives me that time to be able to reflect on how things have panned out with the ball and re-align to be able to make sure I get it right with the bat."

Watson has a fine record of 60 wickets at 29.20 in 36 Tests.

However the swing bowler, in his return from a calf strain, sent down only nine overs in South Africa's second innings of 569 in Perth.

Australia made 322 in their second dig including Watson's 25 as the home side lost by 309 runs.

The two-time Allan Border Medallist and former opener knows despite constantly posing a wicket-taking threat with his medium-pacers, his batting record of two hundreds from 36 matches simply isn't good enough for a player of his talent.

"I know that's more a mental side of things," Watson said.

"It has been my biggest downfall, in Test cricket especially, that once I've done all the hard work to be able to sustain my intensity at the crease to be able to get through those periods."

The 37-year-old Ponting trained at Hobart's Bellerive Oval on Wednesday with the BBL's Hobart Hurricanes, who play Melbourne Stars at the MCG on Saturday.