Clarke and Arthur killing Australian Test team culture

Joe Karsay Columnist

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    Michael Clarke. Australian cricket's Mr Glass may have played his last game of cricket.

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    The stoic Australian Test team culture was dealt a significant blow this week by Michael Clarke and Mickey Arthur.

    We have watched other teams such as England in the nineties and Pakistan and the Windies more recently fumble their way through captain after captain and scandal after scandal.

    We have had our losses since 2005, but we have always shown fight and we have dealt with issues behind the dressing-room door, where they belong.

    We have not made wholesale changes after losses because we know that more important than anything else is building a team who trust each other. By axing the four players, a quarter century of stability has been shattered.

    For me the problems all come back to Michael Clarke. It seems strange saying this about a man who has had the best 12 months with willow in hand since the Don laid his down.

    What is more, Clarke is an exceptional leader on the field. His placements and tactics are near perfect.

    However, the leopord’s spots rarely change and the character is struggling with the man management side of the task.

    If it was one incident you could excuse him, but Watson’s possible retirement would be the third senior player since Clarke took over to retire as collateral to the whims of his considerable ego.

    They say absolute power corrupts absolutely and while Clarke’s is not absolute, it is near enough to be dangerous.

    Ironically, his once in a generation batting form coupled with his elevation to a selector, means that the power in the playing group is concentrated too much in this relatively immature captain.

    Previously the power of the captain has been tempered by the leadership group who also play a critical role in the dressing room. But the elders, one by one, have been knocked off like a Melbourne underworld family.

    First Katich then Haddin, Ponting, Hussey and now it seems Watson too. With the exception of Ponting, Clarke’s DNA has been found on each of the corpses. Watson and Clarke seem to have been engaged in somewhat of a cold war all summer.

    Not all the blame falls onto Clarke, Watson has been openly lobbying for an opening batsman position – something never done in the public sphere previously. A show of disrespect for the incumbents and in particular the heavily criticised Cowan.

    Australian cricket teams used to sort things out behind closed doors and over a beer. Now they do it in press conferences and on Twitter.

    The Aussie Test team and its almost mythical culture of mateship has been on the slide for a while. Consider the fact that Brad Haddin had to quit a tour due to his daughter being diagnosed with cancer and that being the trigger for his permanent replacement in international cricket.

    Consider Hussey being denied the chance to play out the one day series following his retirement, despite his desire to play on and have a farewell at his home ground in Perth.

    Imagine a long-serving employee was treated like Haddin or Hussey in your work place – what would it do to morale and what does this say about the way elders are treated by this team under Clarke?

    Elders are not important just because of their experience on the field but because they imbue the new generation with the culture, thereby ensuring its survival.

    Perhaps the biggest tragedy of the current tour of India has been the treatment of Nathan Lyon and Usman Khawaja. They are the future. A number three and a finger spinner worthy of long Test careers.

    In their place are half-baked cricketers like Glenn Maxwell who can do a bit of everything but none at test standard. However, he seems to be one of Pup’s boys.

    It’s easy to kick a side when they are down but harder to come up with solutions. There is no point talking about alternatives to Clarke – there are none and his batting and strategic ability mean he is the right man for top job.

    The Argus Review was supposed to be the turning point but we find ourselves in a deeper malaise, despite the author crediting Cricket Australia with its accurate implementation.

    For me the central issue that has gone unanswered is the same one that Shane Warne identified in his manifesto, albeit rather clumsily. Clarke clearly needs a mentor in the dressing room.

    How then do we attract a strong personality with Test pedigree such as Allan Border or Steve Waugh to take on a Bobby Simpson style leadership role in the dressing room?

    Surely we have enough money in the kitty? Surely travelling with the boys for a couple of years is not an intolerable occupation for an ex-captain of this country?

    John Buchannan, Tim Nielsen, Mickey Arthur – why do we keep making the same mistake?