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?

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    The Crowd Says (129)

    • March 13th 2013 @ 6:32am
      FTR said | March 13th 2013 @ 6:32am | ! Report

      Newflash for Joe: There never was a “stoic Australian team culture”, just lots of excellent players.

      “For years there was a myth put about by Australia cricketers that the bonds that tied them together were stronger than elsewhere. Some of us knew that to be hokum: they were a great cricket team, and it was the winning that bred great team spirit, not the other way around.

      Gradually, the myth has started to unravel as the great players have drifted away. It is not so easy to be all matey when you are being given the runaround. Australia are experiencing what every other team goes through during tough times”.

      – Mike Atherton nailed it in The Times this week

      • March 13th 2013 @ 10:27am
        Disco said | March 13th 2013 @ 10:27am | ! Report

        Hear, hear!

        • March 13th 2013 @ 2:37pm
          Mike said | March 13th 2013 @ 2:37pm | ! Report

          Your claim that winning bred great team spirit, not the other way around shows that you know absolutely nothing about team spirit or in fact what sport is all about

      • March 13th 2013 @ 2:39pm
        Mike said | March 13th 2013 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

        Your claim that winning bred great team spirit, not the other way around shows that you know absolutely nothing about team spirit or in fact what sport is all about

    • Roar Guru

      March 13th 2013 @ 7:54am
      biltongbek said | March 13th 2013 @ 7:54am | ! Report

      I am not even going to pretend to know what is going on behind the scenes of Australian cricket,

      But what I can say is the pressure must be mounting, the coach, the captain and the players must certainly feel it and it seems like it is beginning to boil.

      The reality of the situation is there are but a few players who have been consistent in the squad, players like Siddle, Clarke (maybe one or two more) have been carrying the burden for a team that as a whole has been very disappointing in relation to the successes of a mere few years ago, the problem is players such as Warne, Ponting, Hayden, McGrath, Gilchrist, hell you could carry on for some time, cannot and will not be replaced in a heartbeat.

      So it is back to the grindstone, building a new team culture, building a new squad, gaining experience and all the while still trying to win.

      Now take those pressures and go deal with that in India, a country notoriously hot and humid, travelling is not the most pleasant, the grounds are foreign, new players have little to no experience in those conditions and you are losing a test series 2-0.

      Now be the captain of that team and stand on the current record that is close to or has already equalled the Don’s record for the year.

      Imagine how absolutely fedup, overwhelmed and exausted mentally the captain must be, having carried the batting line up and the burdens for so long.

      Then ask the question again.

      Is The blame, perception or whatever you want to call it, Clarke’s?

      I think some empathy and understanding is required.

      • March 13th 2013 @ 8:26am
        Red Kev said | March 13th 2013 @ 8:26am | ! Report

        Now that journos have had time to talk to their sources there are more details emerging. There is a good article by Peter Lalor in the Australian and other by Dan Brettig on cricinfo.

        • March 13th 2013 @ 10:13am
          Sanjay said | March 13th 2013 @ 10:13am | ! Report

          Yes but the problem here is they are not saying who did these things, these 4 have been made scapegoats for what the rest of the team was doing.

          • March 13th 2013 @ 10:34am
            Red Kev said | March 13th 2013 @ 10:34am | ! Report

            I agree, that is very unfortunate, especially as I imagine this is probably only the first or second infringement from Pattinson. However, I can see the rationale and even concede that in Clarke/Arthur’s position I would probably have done the same.
            The “three points review” was bollocks, the suspensions are not.
            In the long run if this gives someone like Khawaja a kick up the bum and forces him to do all the little things perfectly instead of coasting on his talent and makes him a 10-year test player instead of a 3-year never quite good enough test player then it is worth it.
            I think the environment has been created by Inverarity, Howard and Arthur and those three need to go, but that doesn’t preclude the current action being the right one.

            • March 13th 2013 @ 11:19am
              Renegade said | March 13th 2013 @ 11:19am | ! Report

              You can almost tell that this has to be Pattinson’s first infringement….just watching his press conference, you get the feeling that he cares and shows respect and pride for the baggy green.

              • March 13th 2013 @ 1:03pm
                John Edgar said | March 13th 2013 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

                Pattinson was the best player in team and was doing his job, so he may have taken this lightly. Johnson and Khawaja haven’t played yet, so “how can you improve your performance” may not have made sense to them. And someone who hasn’t played advising about how to improve the team also feels odd. Let me play first, then I will tell you about my performance. If they did late night parties or didn’t show up for practice, this would be justifiable. This is too harsh, and we wait one more game to see Khawaja who deserves his time in the limelight, he is made for test cricket but can’t get a break.

            • March 13th 2013 @ 11:25am
              Stephen said | March 13th 2013 @ 11:25am | ! Report

              You can tell this is both Khawja and Pattinson’s first infringement,both will come out stronger through this and hopefully a long 10 year test career for them both. Howard has made it clear that none of these guys will be punished beyond the 3rd test which is great to hear as we need both these guys firing int he 4th test.

              • March 13th 2013 @ 11:30am
                Renegade said | March 13th 2013 @ 11:30am | ! Report

                Agree.

              • March 13th 2013 @ 11:32am
                Red Kev said | March 13th 2013 @ 11:32am | ! Report

                I am a Khawaja fan but no way would that be his first infringement. 17 player squad and I reckon only Clarke and Siddle and Cowan have zero infringements next to their name (Bird too because he is already home, and Haddin because he’s just arrived). Pattinson I am willing to bet has at most two (including the suspension) against his name.

              • March 13th 2013 @ 1:03pm
                John Edgar said | March 13th 2013 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

                Well said Stephen

              • March 13th 2013 @ 2:40pm
                Sanjay said | March 13th 2013 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

                Stephen at this moment i would be happy for Khawaja to get 4-5 games in a row, he never gets a fair crack and that’s what his fans would like. His attitude is good, read some comments from Trevor Hohns(former selector) of Khawaja’s hard work with Lehman in Queensland, the kid has earned his callup and now deserves his chance once the 4th test comes around.

              • March 13th 2013 @ 6:11pm
                Praveen said | March 13th 2013 @ 6:11pm | ! Report

                Red kev I am sure this is first infringement, can you think of another one, I can’t

              • March 14th 2013 @ 8:51am
                Red Kev said | March 14th 2013 @ 8:51am | ! Report

                Praveen – I suggest you read the list of minor issues that Clarke and Arthur have been talking about – things like incorrect uniforms, back-chat, sleeping in and being late … those are what I am talking about. I would say of the 17 man squad (18 now Haddin has arrived) no more than 5 of them would have zero infringements against their names.

            • March 13th 2013 @ 11:26pm
              Bearfax said | March 13th 2013 @ 11:26pm | ! Report

              Red. What is this anti-Khawaja material. Are you there to see what they are doing. How do you know he is so bad. I see this over and again about Khawaja’s poor performances, attitude etc etc. Yet he has not played one test since 2011 and had very good form when he left Australia in three forms of the game. If I was Khawaja and the way he’s been treated I would be getting damned frustrated and I just might rebel. he’s obviously on the outer with the selection group. Why? Only they know because before he left Oz he was performing well and his fielding was as good as most others playing, and that’s not just me talking but expert commentators. If he plays a few tests and doesn’t show form, then maybe there’s a place for criticism. But he’s been treated poorly by the Oz selectors all summer. Give the kid a break. I suspect there’s a champion batsman there waiting for his real chance. But we’ll lose him if we keep putting him down.

        • March 14th 2013 @ 10:35am
          Handles said | March 14th 2013 @ 10:35am | ! Report

          Kev

          Do you have a link to the Brettig one? I can’t find it.

    • March 13th 2013 @ 8:08am
      eagleJack said | March 13th 2013 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      There is no place for sentimentality in professional sport. Haddin left in unfortunate circumstances due his daughter’s illness. He was replaced by the more than capable Wade who has already posted 2 centuries in 11 Tests (to Haddins 3 in 43). I fail to see how this is even an issue. Let alone saying Clarke has his DNA on his corpse.

      Too often nostalgia plays a significant part in how we view the past. The culture has always been a little toxic but we ignored it due to the fact that we had 5 or 6 of the greatest cricketers of all time assembled in the one side. Riffs between players has been a mainstay of the Australian cricket team.

      Clarke has been handed an incredibly difficult task. He is the only one who would get a look into the World XI. Absolute daylight between him and the next best. Yet even with the rabble beside him we had a chance to reclaim the no. 1 spot against South Africa.

      I think we should give Clarke a chance to put his stamp on the side. He obviously wants everyone to reach the same lofty, professional standards that he employs. We laughed when we watched Border abuse McDermott on the cricket pitch as it was a sign of what Border expected of his players. Imagine if Clarke did that?

      • March 13th 2013 @ 9:23am
        B.A Sports said | March 13th 2013 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        Yeah, I like that Border example, particularly in light of his criticism’s (and from memory McDerrmott didn’t take part in many more games on that Ashes tour). If Clarke berated any team member in full view of the public he would be crushed. Utterly crushed – and rightly so.

        • Roar Guru

          March 13th 2013 @ 1:14pm
          JGK said | March 13th 2013 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

          McDermott got a twisted bowel at the start of that series and so went home. It had nothing to do with the spat with Border and he played many more tests for Australia after that.

          Border became captain at the same time as McDermott debuted. He was also his state captain. So McDermott had played his entire senior career under Border. It was a totally different situation to Clarke’s little power plays. It was also never intended to be public but a TV crew had one of those super microphones.

    • March 13th 2013 @ 8:35am
      B.A Sports said | March 13th 2013 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      I think it is the complete opposite.

      What we have had for years in our leaders and elite players are professionals who do not leave a stone unturned in their preperation in an effort to deliver a performance to the best of their ability. The team has always had three or more players like this. Waugh, Langer, Hayden going back a few years and in more recent times Ponting, Hussey and Clarke. Now Clarke is the only one left (how Clarke is to blame for Haddin’s situation and Hussey’s age is beyond me by the way) and it is pretty hard to demand 100% from people when even the Vice Captain doesn’t seem to care that he is a member of a team that has ben completly crushed in not one but two tests.

      But if you want a bunch of blokes putting in a half-arsed effort and commitment into representing Australia, then by all means, blame Clarke for trying install some pride and dedication.

      • March 13th 2013 @ 9:53am
        jameswm said | March 13th 2013 @ 9:53am | ! Report

        Well said. Clarke is showing that only high standards will be tolerated if you want to play in the Australian test team. He’s drawing a line and saying pass this standard, or don’t play.

    • March 13th 2013 @ 9:01am
      Andrew Thompson said | March 13th 2013 @ 9:01am | ! Report

      Oh come on, you bunch of patsies. Discipline is first and foremost. You can’t have team members ignoring instructions. Get real.

      • March 13th 2013 @ 3:18pm
        nachos supreme said | March 13th 2013 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

        it’s the instruction that’s the problem in this. Talk about under 14’s style management.

      • Roar Guru

        March 13th 2013 @ 8:40pm
        Rob na Champassak said | March 13th 2013 @ 8:40pm | ! Report

        You can’t have team members ignoring instructions, but it’s fine if they don’t take wickets or score runs?

        There must have been a myriad of options open to them that didn’t involve Phil Hughes being retained at first drop.

    • March 13th 2013 @ 9:42am
      Mad Monk said | March 13th 2013 @ 9:42am | ! Report

      Had a thought this morning, when Hussey was in the team Clarke knew he had a man that set culture and set standards. When Hussey went Clarke has found a vacuum. He is now setting the standard and culture. All power to him.

      Comment left via The Roar’s iPhone app. Download it now [http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/the-roar/id327174726?mt=8].

      • Columnist

        March 13th 2013 @ 9:57am
        Brett McKay said | March 13th 2013 @ 9:57am | ! Report

        Agree Monk, and that alone makes Joe’s claims that Clarke played a part in Hussey’s premature removal fom the ODI side all the more difficult to comprehend..

        • March 13th 2013 @ 10:06am
          jameswm said | March 13th 2013 @ 10:06am | ! Report

          Not just that claim.

        • March 13th 2013 @ 10:27am
          Sanjay said | March 13th 2013 @ 10:27am | ! Report

          Yeah they(Pattinson,Khawaja,Watson and Jhonson ) have committed a mistake but it’s a very big n wrong decision by CA where the series has been lead by India 2-0 and how did CA suspend the Seamers,a world-class Allrounder and a good spinner???????? Already CA is trying to find out replacements and changes in the team to Level the series But….SUSPENSION!!!!!!!!! Mohali supports seamers n now In-form Pattinson is thrown out for not presenting a bloody Ppt
          Khawaja is waiting to play as a specialist spinner and you people are threatening them of selection!!!!!!!! o_O o_O o_O
          Please try to come out of frustation n play as your seniors did If this is going to be continued I bet CA should regret about their decisions

          • Columnist

            March 13th 2013 @ 11:13am
            Brett McKay said | March 13th 2013 @ 11:13am | ! Report

            Sanjay, they’re highly paid, well-pampered and prepared, professional sportspeople. At which point does the individual take responsibility for their own actions (or inactions, in this case)?

            Stop looking at this from a ‘poor Usman’ perspective and start seeing it as a team trying to lift the bar on expectations and performance while there is still something to play for in the series.

            • March 13th 2013 @ 11:23am
              Stephen said | March 13th 2013 @ 11:23am | ! Report

              Sanjay like you i am a huge fan of Khawaja, but for both him and Pattinson this is a lesson that they must abide by team rules. I don’t agree with this punishment but what i do know is that both Patts and Khawaja will come back strongly for the 4th test, they are 2 of our best young players. All in all this whole thing has been badly handled by Arthur and co. THe real issue here is the fighting between Clarke and Watson and these younger players have got caught in between

              • Columnist

                March 13th 2013 @ 11:58am
                Brett McKay said | March 13th 2013 @ 11:58am | ! Report

                I’m not Sanjay, but anyway Pattinson will bounce back, he’s very much a needed player. Khawaja, I wouldn’t be holding your breath over, either for the 4th Test, or for England..

            • March 13th 2013 @ 1:06pm
              John Edgar said | March 13th 2013 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

              Stephen and Sanjay i am sure Khawaja will come back strongly, he is too good not to. I will tell you 3 ways you can improve Mr.Clarke. 1)Play spin better 2)Pick better spinners, instead of bits-and-pieces allrounders! 3)Last but not least stop fiddling with the team. Not all of them may know powerpoint you know! MJ, Pattinson and Khawaja would have ensured a better fight as both are 2 of our best young players, Patts has shown what he can do but Khawaja can’t get a look in. I can’t feel sorry enough for Pattionson. The bloke did everything he could and he still ends up on the sidelines! Brett i hope you are wrong on Khawaja, he is a class act, worked hard with the bulls and deserves his time in test cricket as has been given to Hughes, Cowan and co.

              • Columnist

                March 13th 2013 @ 1:50pm
                Brett McKay said | March 13th 2013 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

                No-one doubts Khawaja’s ablity John, but even you must recognise that that’s not the reason for his continual overlooking. I can see the bats used in the 3rd Test holding their spot for any reasonable scores in Mohali now. Khawaja has provided just another reason not to be picked…

            • March 13th 2013 @ 1:09pm
              Praveen said | March 13th 2013 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

              Koala khawaja, best young batsman along with Hughes, can’t wait to see him back in action

              • March 13th 2013 @ 1:11pm
                John Edgar said | March 13th 2013 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

                I love the nickname Koala Khawaja, very catchy.

              • March 13th 2013 @ 1:20pm
                Red Kev said | March 13th 2013 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

                Do you really want to keep pushing that absurd nickname? You have seen a koala haven’t you? They are fat lazy little creatures that spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping and always smell like urine because they don’t move to relieve themselves so it dries in their fur.
                Stick with Ussie/Uzzy (as in Uzzy-Uzzy-Uzzy-Oi-Oi-Oi)

              • Columnist

                March 13th 2013 @ 1:51pm
                Brett McKay said | March 13th 2013 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

                doesn’t the ‘Koala’ nickname usually refer to protected speicies??

              • Roar Guru

                March 13th 2013 @ 8:41pm
                Rob na Champassak said | March 13th 2013 @ 8:41pm | ! Report

                Oh, the irony, Brett…

      • March 13th 2013 @ 1:15pm
        B.A Sports said | March 13th 2013 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

        Yes Mad Monk. And before Clarke had Hussey, Hussey had Ponting. And before that, they had Langer, who’s work ethic and treatment of his body was unquestionable.

        And now Clarke is left wondering who will help him lead by example? The V.C would be a good place to start, bbut he couldn’t care less about the team.

        I wonder if it is a bit like our Olympic Swim team, who think the goal is to get selected to go in the squad, and every thing else is just a party.

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