Australia must get Ric Charlesworth in wake of Arthur sacking

Date: June 25, 2013 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

Australian cricket continues to lurch from bad to worse.

The axing of national coach Mickey Arthur just a fortnight out from the first Ashes Test is the latest in a string of controversies to beset the Australian team.

After a competitive home summer where Australia pushed the world number one South Africa before conceding the three-Test series 1-nil, the Australian Test team has unravelled.

The ill-fated tour of India in March culminated in a historic 4-nil drubbing.

It was during that series that four players were ruled out of selection for the third Test as a result of failing to complete a self-evaluation that had been ordered by Arthur.

Whilst many questioned the severity of the penalties handed out, it was captain Michael Clarke who stated that the incident, which became known as ‘homework-gate’, was indeed the straw that broke the camel’s back.

He alluded to the fact that there had been an ongoing slip in standards among the playing group.

Some of the issues he raised were players turning up late to training sessions, refusing to attend sponsor functions, not adhering to the medical protocols with regard to injury management and the failure to wear the appropriate team uniform when required.

In short, a team once regarded as the benchmark of the sport worldwide, was failing to adhere to the little things that are required by a group of elite sportsmen.

It was felt that the ‘line in the sand’, as Arthur referred to the suspensions in India, would be enough to shock the players into line.

Fast-forward to June and the reality was very contrary to the ideal.

In the space of three weeks, opener David Warner twice breached Cricket Australia’s code of conduct.

A 4am Twitter rant directed at two experienced News Limited cricket journalists – Robert Craddock and Malcolm Conn – drew a $5750 fine.

Before the dust had settled on that incident, Warner found himself a further $11,500 lighter in the wallet, as well as being dealt a suspension that would be lifted on the day of the opening Test at Nottingham, following an early morning physical altercation in a dri8nking establishment with England batsman Joe Root.

All these episodes have provided rich fodder for the English tabloids, England fans and former players, in particular Ashes winning skipper Michael Vaughan.

A meek exit from the Champions Trophy tournament, in which Australia was the defending champion, was yet another cause for English celebration.

However, the decision to axe the coach nearly two years prior to the end of his contract and on the eve of the highest profile series in the sport, will be seen as the icing on the cake by England’s legion of fans.

At the time of writing, Cricket Australia had yet to speak publicly on the axing.

When they do it will make fascinating listening.

There has often been a perception that Arthur has been too close to the player group, that he was trying to be their friend, one of the boys.

There is no doubting his affable personality.

But, as a coach, you have a stand apart from your charges.

It has been rumoured that there was an initial attempted cover-up over the Warner fracas however concerns were raised by some players, notably Shane Watson – who was one of the four men banned in India – that this was a gross inconsistency and a case of double standards.

If that was indeed the case, it was a flawed philosophy on behalf of team management.

Highly respected former Australian Test batsman Darren Lehmann is heavily backed to fill the gap left by Arthur’s dismissal.

Lehmann is currently an understudy to Arthur as an assistant coach and he has been working with Australia A which concluded its tour of England last night.

He and Clarke will be charged with turning around an errant ship.

For Clarke, who is battling to prove his own fitness ahead of the Ashes opener, the weight of expectation and scrutiny on his leadership will now be far greater.

He will be the man largely responsible for setting the necessary standard on and off the field.

There are many in the game, who while supportive of his tactical nous, hold reservations over his man-management skills.

Now is not the time for a weak leader.

Whether Lehmann ends up becoming the team’s mentor full-time beyond the Ashes remains to be seen.

Cricket Australia will have ample time to sit down and take stock of where it is at and cast the net far and wide before appointing the new full-time coach.

One thing is for sure, the national team has reached a modern-day nadir.

A new broom needs to sweep through the dressing room and restore the ethos that helped Australia to dominate the world for almost two decades.

For mine, if I was in the head office of Cricket Australia in Melbourne, I would be picking up the phone and placing a call to Dr Richard Charlesworth.

If ever a man had the necessary credentials to lead Australian cricket out of its seemingly self-imposed malaise it is Charlesworth.

As a coach, he is arguably the greatest this nation has produced.

In my two decades in the sports media, Charlesworth is far and away the most impressive, intelligent and broad-thinking coach I have ever met.

During the 1990s he was at the helm of the Australian women’s hockey team when it strode the world as a nonpareil.

Under Charlesworth’s astute leadership they won consecutive Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2000 and filled the trophy cabinet with every available piece of silverware during his tenure.

After a period away from the sport, during which he had forays into the coaching structures of the AFL and New Zealand cricket, he made an extremely successful transition into the role of head coach of the Kookaburras – the men’s national hockey team.

In a short period he took them back to the number one ranking in the sport.

Charlesworth’s CV is broad and impressive.

Selected for five Olympic Games as a player and regarded as the finest of his era, he also played first-class cricket and had a stint as West Australian captain.

In addition, he qualified as a doctor of medicine and served three terms in Federal Parliament.

In short, he is a self-driven perfectionist and over achiever.

Almost all of Charlesworth’s charges during his time as a national coach have spoken glowingly of his abilities to extract the best out of them as individuals and the team as a collective.

They also underline the fact that he is imbued with one very discernible trait – discipline.

That is a trait which is seemingly absent from the current make-up of Australia’s current cricket team.

Ric Charlesworth has – if you’ll pardon the pun – the runs on the board.

He has a wealth of experience in successful team management and leadership and he has experience as a first-class cricketer.

He is a high achiever by nature, and for mine, he is the right man to lead Australia out of its current cricketing plight.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 24 June 2013