Hong Kong: Australian vice-captain Shane Watson broke ranks on Wednesday to speak of his bafflement over Cricket Australia`s decision to dump batting partner Simon Katich from its list of 25 contracted players.
The record-breaking Watson described the 35-year-old Katich as a "mate" and said the experienced left-hander had up to two years of international-level cricket left in him.
"I was very disappointed to be totally honest because I`ve built up a really good friendship and opening partnership with Simon over the last two years and I`ve had a lot of fun batting with him," said Watson, 30, who was in Hong Kong to promote the International Cricket Council`s five-day annual conference.
Katich, a 56-Test veteran, was told earlier this month that he had been cut from Cricket Australia`s 25-man list of contracted players for the 2011-12 season, despite being one of the country`s most consistent performers.
Katich branded the decision "absolutely ridiculous" and Watson backed him, saying: "For me, it was really disappointing because I still felt that he had another at least year or two of good cricket still in him."
"Being an opening partnership you do become a lot closer because you are taking on the best bowlers in the world together and you need a mate out there to be able to help you out," he added.
Watson`s criticism of the selectors` decision follows a similar broadside from former Test skipper Ricky Ponting, who said two weeks ago he was shocked by Cricket Australia`s snub to Katich.
Watson emerged as the key opener after the retirements of Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist, hammering back-to-back centuries against England and New Zealand to help his side win the 2009 Champions Trophy in South Africa.
The right-handed all-rounder hit a world-record 15 sixes in his unbeaten 185 off 96 balls as Australia defeated Bangladesh by nine wickets in March.
Watson was named vice-captain, with captain Michael Clarke becoming a largely unpopular choice to replace Ponting as skipper, following Australia`s World Cup exit.
The Baggy Greens, seeking a fourth successive title, were knocked out in the quarter-finals when they lost to India in Ahmedabad in March.
The disappointment followed the bitter blow of the home Ashes series loss to old rivals England.
"I think Michael`s going to do an excellent job," Watson said, backing his captain.
"He`s got a great knowledge of the game of cricket; he`s very aggressive in the way he captains and the way he sets his field."
Watson said it was not yet clear who his new opening partner would be.