This was the quote that I heard last week from former Australian cricket star Dean Jones, following the dramatic sacking of national coach Mickey Arthur. Now readers of my blogs will be well aware that I am a sports “junkie” – I watch nearly any sport from MMA to diving but cricket does hold a special place in my heart. The Australian cricket team has been on a decline since the retirement of three legends in Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist and the incomparable Shane Keith Warne six years ago, as they have struggled to fill these massive voids. Along the way they have seen the departure of Justin Langer, Michael Hussey and most recently Ricky Ponting and the side from four years ago is now suddenly very different indeed.
The results have been poor for some time and Cricket Australia decided someone had to go.
In 2010, Cricket Australia decided to conduct a comprehensive review of its operations from top to bottom. The man chosen to conduct the review was Don Argus, a former Chairman of BHP Billiton and Brambles and a very successful CEO of the NAB. The review was far reaching and resulting in the appointment of a High Performance Manager in former Wallaby Pat Howard and a new coach in former South African coach Mickey Arthur. This all coincided with the appointment of a new captain in Michael Clarke who has been extremely successful as a batsman since inheriting the captaincy.
The appointment of Arthur was controversial to say the least. Firstly, he is not Australian and this caused a media reaction that was not positive. His mandate was to build a team capable of winning cricket matches by playing entertaining cricket and to build a culture of team and pride in representing Australia. His record with South Africa was superb and he was well respected internationally. I don’t think, however, he realised the mammoth task he had inherited with the cultural side of the role though as strong personalities and sections of the media soon went to work to cut him down.
Initially, Arthur was very successful. We won successive series. He “found and developed” future pace bowling stars in James Pattinson and Pat Cummins as well as a raft of others. He supported Michael Clarke and saw two discarded test stars in Shaun Marsh and Phil Hughes recalled and successful again. All looked rosy…. how wrong we all were.
The summer series of 2012/13 saw things go awry. We lost the test series and Arthur’s rotation policy was criticised at length by former players. He had lost his audience and the media smelled blood. His key selections started to fail and then we went to India (a difficult tour at best) and were smashed by four tests to nil. Here is where the serious trouble started.
“Homeworkgate” was the beginning of the end. Arthur decided to “draw a line in the sand” and made an example of four players for not following team policy and preparing a presentation on how they could improve their performance in the next test. These four players, including vice-captain Shane Watson and start bowler James Pattinson were stood down for one test match which was viewed with disdain. Watson left the tour in disgust (only to return as captain for the final test match) and the media went into over drive – sacked for not doing homework?
A poor one day tournament followed and off the Aussies went for the major prize – the Ashes tour. Arthur promised a competitive Australian team who would be well prepared and disciplined for what will be a massive challenge. What we got, after only one week, was two successive losses, a “Twitter tirade” from David Warner aimed at two Australian journalists followed by Warner punching an English cricketer in the Walkabout pub! I am not sure what happened to the discipline that Arthur so badly desired?
It was only a matter of time before heads rolled. Sadly, it was Arthur who was held responsible. The papers had a field day. Headlines of “A good decision for Australian cricket” and “We are now what England was, and they’re laughing” covered the back pages of the Australian. Arthur was apparently shocked and disappointed and felt that he had done what was required of him to achieve his goals. It was a swift dismissal; a shock to all. Was it fair?
You cannot dispute that Arthur seemed like a great guy. He did nothing wrong. He did not ignore team rules by not doing homework. He didn’t drink excessively and get into Twitter wars with journalists. He didn’t romance sections of the media to push his own agenda. He never went out until 2.00am after losing a game and started punching an innocent rival cricket player. However, he had to go. He was the leader.
Ultimately, Mickey Arthur was in charge of the national team. The divisive culture eroded further under Arthur and he could not control and build discipline throughout the group. Our performance was poor the signs were that he had lost his dressing shed. A poor series in England could have seen the side struggle for the next decade. They needed fresh leadership and someone who the team and the general public could believe in.
I found the comment from Dean Jones in poor taste but there is some truth to the fact that the fish rots from the top. Mickey Arthur had to be moved on, no matter how unfair it seems at the moment. I am a Darren Lehman fan (another chubby left hand batsman) but he will have his work cut out. His leadership and man management skills will be tested early as he strives to control a team of massive egos and salaries. I wish him well – go the Aussies for the Ashes.
Brad McMahon – Managing Director