Australian cricket in more trouble off the field than on

Date: July 18, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Just over three weeks ago Mickey Arthur sat before the media in England to speak of his sacking as Australian cricket coach.

He was his usual outwardly affable and polite self.

Whilst he admitted to being “shocked and shattered”, he spoke of his respect for the playing group.

Now, on the eve of the crucial second Ashes Test at Lord’s explosive claims have detailed some of the internal issues within the team that have blighted Australian cricket in recent times.

The claims themselves come from Arthur although the manner they have made it into the media has not.

Arthur has reportedly been offered $100,000 by Cricket Australia as a severance package.

The former coach has engaged legal counsel in a bid to have that amount greatly increased – reports vary as to just how much, ranging from a full year’s pay (he had two years remaining on his contract) to $4 million.

Some have suggested he is even seeking his old job back, a course of action that could never succeed.

Part of the documentation that has been lodged with the court has somehow become public and within which there is details of a major schism within the team and also the worrying accusation of racism towards Arthur.

The documents, obtained by Seven News, tell of two factions within the Australian team – one led by the captain Michael Clarke and the other by former vice-captain Shane Watson.

It is reported in the documents that Clarke referred to the group that was in Watson’s corner as a “cancer”.

One of the last dominoes to fall in the Arthur saga was the suspension of David Warner following an early morning physical altercation with England batsman Joe Root in a notoriously rowdy drinking establishment.

Arthur alleges in the leaked documents that it was Watson who tipped him off with respect to the Warner incident.

Watson himself has publicly denied that he had anything at all to do with alerting the team hierarchy of Warner’s indiscretion, stating last month that, “Mickey and the leadership group found out about Dave’s incident off their own bat”.

Someone is obviously telling porkies.

Watson was one of four players suspended for the third Test in India in March in what became known as ‘homework-gate’.

The vice-captain, as he was then, took the opportunity to fly back to Sydney to be with his wife for the birth of their first child.

At the time he said publicly that he was weighing up his future with respect to continuing his international career.

He subsequently decided to play on and soon after relinquished the deputy leadership position, although most felt it was a pre-emptive move on his part to escape the ignominy of being sacked form the position.

Arthur says in the documentation that CA did not support his decision to suspend the players, a decision that was made in concert with Clarke, who at the time was both captain and selector.

The newly anointed vice-captain, Brad Haddin spoke of total peace and harmony within the ranks when he faced the media in England yesterday.

Any other comment from a player within the fold would have been a bombshell as all in question at present will state that whether it is the case or not.

For the bulk of the opening Test at Trent Bridge both Clarke and Watson stood alongside each other in the slips cordon and were often shown chatting away to each other – whether it was purely cricket-related we don’t know.

Whilst the current situation has not at this stage reached the level of animosity that was levelled at Kim Hughes during his captaincy reign in the early 1980s, it has the potential to escalate if it is not satisfactorily mediated and put to bed.

From CA’s point of view there can be only one winner – Clarke.

He is the man who has been entrusted with guiding and developing this largely inexperienced international outfit.

He is also the pre-eminent batsman in the group with daylight, at this stage, second.

His captaincy on the field has been lauded by the likes of Ian Chappell and Mark Taylor.

It is up to new coach, Darren Lehmann to be the intermediary between the factions and it will be a significant challenge to him just a few weeks into the job.

He also needs to work closely with Clarke in the aim of enhancing his man management skills.

In the end, Watson has to be told to toe the line or be jettisoned from the squad.

As a player he has been an iffy commodity for quite some time.

After a first innings failure at Nottingham he made 46 in the second.

But, the fact remains that after 42 Tests and 77 innings he averages a mere 35.2 with just the two centuries, the last of which was in his 21st Test.

Whilst his bowling was steady at Trent Bridge he remains a very fragile commodity at the bowling crease.

Arthur and Clarke attempted to lay down the law in India however their methods may be questioned.

In these days of high salary professional sport team ethos and standards are not just paramount, they are mandatory.

Some of the alleged slackness that had crept into the playing group prior to the suspension of Watson and co in India included returning poor skin folds, turning up late to training and with the wrong equipment, boycotting sponsor’s functions, not adhering to medical protocols with respect to injury management and wearing inappropriate team uniform.

That is a damning list of misdemeanours for an elite international team.

Sadly, despite the heavy penalty handed out in India to four players, Warner was still at the centre of two irresponsible acts just weeks before the opening Ashes Test.

It is time for any cancerous growths to be excised from the Australian team before the tumour becomes too large.

It may be that if read the riot act, Watson still fails to conform, that he is cut adrift.

That surely will be the ultimate statement to those who remain.

Lehmann must become the key player in this process.

Australian cricket cannot afford disunity to continue.

The time to act is now as it would appear that there are members within the squad who, according to Arthur, are operating by their own agenda.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 17 July 2013