Coach Mickey Arthur insists he is the right man to lead the team forward, claiming his recent hardline approach in India will help Australia’s bid to reclaim cricket’s No.1 Test ranking within two years.
Arthur described the 4-0 series whitewash in India as the toughest tour he’s encountered in his coaching career.
But the South African had no regrets about suspending vice-captain Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, Usman Khawaja and James Pattinson for their failure to complete a simple homework assignment.
The axing of the quartet for the third Test in Mohali divided opinions, with former Test stars Allan Border and Mark Waugh slamming the move.
Arthur denied there were any worrying cultural problems in the side, but admitted standards had started to slip ever so slightly following the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey last summer.
The 44-year-old said the suspensions had an immediate effect on the whole squad, with one player even dropping 10mm off his skinfolds over the next fortnight.
“If we had our time again, we would do exactly the same thing,” Arthur said of the punishments.
“It was a line-in-the-sand moment and it’s galvanised the team.
“We could have gone and just carried on and we would have been third in the world comfortably.
“But we don’t accept that.
“We want to get ourselves to No.1 in the world and give ourselves the best possible opportunity to do that.
“We’ve put some stuff in place that we think can get that team there over the next 24 months.”
Arthur also scoffed at rumours that skipper Michael Clarke and Watson didn’t get along.
“They are different personalities, different characters, but get on really well,” Arthur said.
“Sometimes, it’s a bit of a media beat-up around Watto and Pup.
“They work very well together. I haven’t seen anything to dispel that.”
Arthur is contracted through to the end of the 2015 World Cup, and said he had the full backing of the Cricket Australia board despite the disastrous tour of India.
But his biggest test is yet to come, with back-to-back Ashes series sure to test Australia’s development under Arthur.
“I’m under no illusions. We need to deliver and we need to deliver in the next year to really have said we’ve made a proper go at this job,” Arthur said.
“It’s actually the best time to be a coach in these tough times when you’ve got a young team.
“Because if you believe in those players, you’ll see those players develop in front of you.
“That’s going to be really rewarding for us.
“We are firmly on track for the Ashes – there’s no doubt about that.
“I was always really worried about the conditions in India, especially with a group of young players.
“With the Ashes, the conditions are a lot closer to what we’re comfortable with.
“Our pace bowlers will be a real factor in England, and that’s a real strength of ours.”