HENRY: The honeymoon is over for Mickey Arthur
Mickey Arthur - new Australian cricket coach (Courtesy: Fox Sports)
A one day series in the middle of an Australian winter has revealed the true strength of Mickey Arthur’s team and challenged his coaching and selection methods.
There is no Ashes as the main course to this five match appetiser. The cynics would say that it was a revenue raising exercise, just an opportunity to sell some tickets and TV rights.
But I didn’t mind spending a few late nights watching some more cricket and the current England team are certainly worth watching for their skill and execution.
You can’t have too much cricket, and those who reckon the game is overexposed are not true fans.
England are playing with bucketloads of self-belief that used to be the domain of Australian teams. The pace of the role reversal is staggering.
Mickey Arthur has even stated his team needs “more mongrel”, aka self-confidence, often mistaken for arrogance. It means that you really do believe you can beat the opposition on any day and under any circumstances.
Well, Mickey, that is all very well, but cricket is a skill game and Australia are being outskilled in every department.
It is hard to believe this Australian team could be ranked number one in ODI cricket. They have looked decidedly second rate in this rubber.
Granted, England are in the middle of their home summer (a term as loose as Mitchell Johnson’s control, with temperatures in the mid teens and rain forecast almost every day), while Australia have not played since Test cricket in Dominica in late April.
Australian players perform better in sunshine and warmth.
The pitches have been classic County jobs: slow and seaming, thanks to the damp climate, with the finale at Old Trafford a classic northern summer’s day.
England’s batsmen and bowlers, understandably, have dealt much better with what has been served up.
On a short tour, with limited practice and scant lead up matches, the rain affected visitors have not had time to adapt. David Warner, in particular, looks totally at sea.
His footwork is non-existent.
He has turned into a pensive and hesitant player, something you would never have accused him of in the past.
Arthur called for “presence … we are being bullied”. Wow, talk about the boot being on the other foot! But surely Arthur should have dealt with this issue BEFORE the series started, not in the death throes.
What it really means is that England’s bowlers command the length they want to bowl and there has been no effort by Australia’s batsmen to take them away from that dominant zone.
Warner has been rooted to the cease; Bailey and Forrest can put away bad bowling but they can’t dominate. They too sit in their crease and wait for wayward offerings.
Even Ian Bell uses his feet to change the length against Lee and McKay.
England are proactive, Australia submissive.
Michael Clarke finds himself resurrecting innings’ rather than leading them to the 300 promised land.
Wade likes to face fast bowling. His aggressive streak is lost at number seven, which begs the question as to why Dan Christian is missing from this squad.
His all round game, ability to snare vital wickets, make an unlikely catch, or create a run out and then make 50 off 20 balls, is needed. There is no dynamism in this squad.
The Australian selectors have a love affair with George Bailey that needs a trial separation. The erstwhile Twenty20 captain is an admirable State cricketer but is not in the best 20 batsmen at Twenty20 or 50 over cricket.
Mitchell Johnson’s selection has been seriously questioned (again) at a time when the depth and breadth of seam bowling stock had been talked up as the real strength.
He hasn’t played since Wanderers in early November 2011, has no match practice apart from the over-rated Centre of Excellence nets in Brisbane.
I am a little tired of the “he’s been bowling really well in the nets” BS that comes from the coaching staff and the batsmen.
How about a reality check lads?
He may be a really nice bloke, but I would prefer a totally self-absorbed narcissist loner who could bowl a line and a length in my team. What is that saying about the finishing position of “nice guys?”
His opening overs in game three were downright embarrassing.
Johnson needs serious time in State cricket to rediscover his mojo and to think he was unavailable for game four because of “foot soreness.”
You would have thought he would be champing at the bit to get on the field and disprove his detractors. His mental ability to compete when the going gets tough must be severely questioned.
“Mongrel?” Mickey, make your players take the field with a niggle, don’t let medical staff be the faux selectors, which they have become at all levels of Australian cricket.
Show some mongrel yourself and make some tough decisions.
Mitchell Starc is the up-and-coming leftie who would have been more value in the ODI squad than playing county cricket and Doug Bollinger is much better value. He swings it at good pace and has the aforementioned “mongrel” Mickey is looking for.
Maybe the selectors should take their own advice for picking teams.
Lee and Watson are injured (and now David Hussey, too). Both have had major time out of the game in the last few years thanks to injury and the preparation of this team must be closely questioned.
Does High Performance cricket operations manager Pat Howard know what questions to ask?
The Argus report criticised the fitness and medical staff. There has been no change to accountability for that group. There is still no use of Sports Chiropractors as an integral part of treatment and maintenance.
This is culpable neglect.
Players who are not allowed use their own practitioners will be taking legal action against Cricket Australia if this continues. Then again, when contracts are handed out for hundreds of thousands of dollars that discourage the actual playing of the game and medical staff take the easy option to every niggle of taking “rest” with no appropriate treatment, how can the national coach expect his players to be tough, to show “mongrel”, to want to actually compete rather than sit on the sidelines and pick up their pay checks for attending the gym.
There is an inherent softness to this Australian team – and maybe that softness has become endemic in State cricket as well – because the system not simply allows it, but encourages weak options.
If Mickey Arthur wants a change in attitude – and I think he is totally correct with that demand – then he had better pick the players with inherent mongrel and he had better find some coaching and medical staff who understand the demands of contemporary professional sport.
He needs some “working class” players or he too will be quickly watching from the sidelines in Capetown, but without a medical hall pass.
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Geoff Lawson OAM is a former Australian cricketer and the former coach of the Pakistan cricket team. Nicknamed "Henry" after the Australian poet, Lawson was a fast bowler for New South Wales and Australia.