Australia cricket officials stunned the cricket world on Monday afternoon with the announcement that vice-captain Shane Watson, fast-bowlers James Pattinson and Mitchell Johnson and batsman Usman Khawaja had been dropped for the Third Test for disciplinary reasons.
Watson has even left the tour and headed back to his home town Sydney to be with his wife, Lee, for the birth of their first child.
Watson declared on leaving the team in Mohali that he will "consider his future" over the coming fortnight.
Under-siege coach Mickey Arthur described as a "line in the sand" the move to dump the players because they had not produced compulsary "homework" before a team deadline.
Howard said behaviour of the players was the straw that broke the camel's back and that there had been a collection of small misdemeanours which had built up over time within the team.
"It's a high-performance culture that we're after and they've made a pretty big statement on what that minimum standard is," Howard told the media on Tuesday.
"It's tough to make these decisions, I understand that, it's tough for the players.
"But you'll be hearing from several players over the next period on how positively it's been received on the ground by several of them.
"It is a strong statement and I respect that."
Howard declared Arthur and Clarke are "unbelievably united" on the issue.
Howard denied talk that the dumped four had been treated like schoolboys.
"Effectively, you can only get your last chance so many times and a last chance was made and they said, 'here are the consequences'," Howard continued.
"The door is always open for improvement.
"If you want to be No.1 in the world, you've got to fight a lot harder than this.
"We're winning when we're expected to win, we're losing when we're expected to lose and we need higher standards."