Australian cricket is officially a laughing stock. As if there wasn’t enough evidence of late to support that theory, yesterday came the definitive moment: four players dropped for not doing their homework.
No, that’s not a misprint, you read right. Four Australian Test cricketers were not considered for selection in the third Test against India because they failed to complete a homework assignment.
What a complete farce.
The task the players were meant to complete involved listing three points on how their individual performances and those of the team could be improved after the team suffered a heavy loss in the second Test.
Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Johnson and James Pattinson failed to do so.
The players were informed of their requirements on Tuesday night, and had until Saturday to deliver them. Every other member of the squad did so, but the four who didn’t were punished by not being considered for the next game.
You would hope after being annihilated in Hyderabad, the Australian players would be jumping out of the skin in looking for ways to improve their performance. Instead, these four players seemingly couldn’t be bothered.
Honestly, it would have taken five minutes for them to complete the task, even if they didn’t care.
Yet that’s the point, they should have cared. They should have wanted to spend a considerable amount of time really analysing how the team could get better after such an embarrassing loss.
Instead, the vice-captain showed zero leadership skills, the reserve batsman certainly didn’t exhibit a ‘leave no stone unturned’ approach to getting selected, a fast bowler who has missed significant time to injury risked missing another Test for no valid reason, and a veteran bowler failed to set a good example for the younger players in the squad.
Watson and Johnson should have known better, and did nothing for their reputations of being selfish and mentally lazy, respectively.
Khawaja should be doing everything he can to get into the Test team, while you would hope Pattinson shared Peter Siddle’s passion for the baggy green.
All should be extremely embarrassed. Not so much because they failed to do their homework, but because they gave every impression that they don’t care about the team improving.
Selfish, immature, irresponsible and lazy. Not exactly the qualities expected or needed of Australia’s Test cricketers.
Yet, by the same token, the punishment is ridiculous. A complete and utter overreaction.
I totally understand the sentiment that a line in the sand needs to be drawn occasionally, and that the players should be held accountable for their actions. Yet surely there are other ways to punish the players?
Significant fines, extra fitness sessions, public ridiculing, loss of certain privileges, detention, no playing with their toys, a Twitter ban, straight to bed with no dessert.
I’m almost certain an alternative punishment could have been utilised, one which doesn’t hurt the team’s Test chances, yet still highlights the severity of the indiscretion by the offending players.
And what would have happened if eight players had failed to do the homework? Would the side have forfeited?
Whichever way you analyse the drama, it suggests something is seriously wrong with Australian cricket.
Any scenario in which players do not fulfil their duties, show a lack of respect towards the coaches, give the impression they don’t care about the team, and are ambivalent towards the team improving, suggests all is not well within the Australian change room.
Such a notion is confirmed when team management react in such an over-the-top, heavy-handed manner; one that screams of attempting to show who the real boss is.
It’s a sorry state of affairs, and there are few winners from the whole fiasco – apart from perhaps Glenn Maxwell and Steve Smith, who may earn themselves another baggy green by sheer default.
After the heavy loss in the second Test, many people asked if Australia had hit rock bottom. I scoffed at the suggestion, believing that to be far removed from the truth.
Now I’m not so sure.