Mickey Arthur’s sacking will buoy both England and Australia

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    Mickey Arthur's comin' to town. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

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    It’s a rare decision in international sport that pleases all parties, but both the Australian and the English camps have reason to be feeling pretty good at Mickey Arthur’s sacking ahead of the Ashes.

    For England, it only reinforces the idea Australia is a shivering baby antelope lost in a particularly nasty stretch of the savannah. This will be the first time in decades that England go into an Ashes series as overwhelming favourites. They’ll be lapping it up.

    Australia’s batting is untried, makeshift, or very thin. The team’s scores rest on one hobbled individual. The bowling is dangerous some days, indifferent the next. After a few beers we could be watching a West Indies side from the late 90s. Most days Davey Warner probably thinks he is.

    Ditching the coach on the eve of what is essentially a ten-Test series with a short breather in the middle could fairly reasonably be taken as an indicator of panic.

    Australia was shoved face-first in the dust in India, then turned up to the Champions Trophy with all the fire and conviction of a 15 year old meeting his girlfriend’s father.

    Seeing imminent destruction ahead, it could be the Australians are willing to try anything in their final moments of desperation, the blowfly spazzing out around the windowframe before the inevitable poison locks rigid its limbs and grips the life out of it.

    Jonathan Trott and insecticide have a lot in common.

    But from Australia’s point of view, the sacking of Arthur could quite likely be a relief, and a chance for a breath of cool, clear air before donning the overalls for the Ashes boiler room.

    At least from the outside, there has been a sense of awkwardness and dislocation around Australian cricket, especially in the last six months.

    Sometimes the best way to gauge someone’s unhappiness is to hear them tell you happy they are; Michael Clarke’s bright descriptions of the feeling in the Australian camp had an increasing brittleness.

    Things kept going wrong behind the scenes in 2013, from Mike Hussey’s mismanaged retirement, through the epic squad of sub-Shield all-rounders for India, the homework saga, and the trajectory of Shane Watson from vice-captain to suspended liability to external saboteur to captain to player to specialist batsman to potentially dropped all-rounder.

    Brad Haddin was made Test vice-captain despite not being in the XI, Clarke travelled with the Champions Trophy squad as figurehead while George Bailey was trying to captain, and the team’s performance in that tournament’s favourable conditions was more abject even than their wilted showing in the crucible of India.

    Nothing could represent these problems better than having a group of Australian players, after their first limp defeat in the ultra-compressed timetable of a tournament in which they were defending champions, decide that was the ideal juncture to hit one of the most classless drinking venues in the known world and push on to 2:30 am, in the company of the England players who had not so much wiped the floor with them but scrubbed out the bottom of the fridge.

    Warner’s swipe at Joe Root was an all-too-familiar brain fade, but rather than being the core point itself, it drew attention to where the Australians were and what they were doing at what time of the night.

    It also drew attention to the fact that Warner was one of the senior players in the Champions Trophy squad, and the Walkabout had apparently been his idea, having made himself a regular at the same squalid, fake-Aussie squathole throughout the tournament lead-up.

    Clearly, Arthur had lost control. Management’s wavering response to the Warner incident didn’t inspire confidence either. The batsman was suspended, but the fact the incident even happened was eventually slated home to the coach.

    Now, Australia get the chance to re-set mentally, and to shake off the feeling of gloom that has hung over the camp like an English allegation of summer.

    Darren Lehmann will come in with a predictably no-nonsense attitude, and while he may not be averse to a few jars, you can bet they’ll be sunk within team confines.

    Overall, Arthur’s HR persona seemed at odds with Australian sport. Lehmann’s persona could not be more familiar – a man nicknamed ‘Boof’ is very unlikely to go over anyone’s head.

    With Lehmann’s formidable record as a captain and a coach behind them, his experience supporting them, and his optimistic and friendly approach lifting their morale, expect to see Australia enter this contest with more of a spring in their step.

    Around stumps on Day 1 will be the first check of how much remains.

    Geoff Lemon
    Geoff Lemon

    Geoff Lemon is a writer, editor and broadcaster covering sport for The Roar, The Guardian and ABC, as well as writing on politics, literature and history for a range of outlets.

    He tweets from @GeoffLemonSport.

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    The Crowd Says (39)

    • June 25th 2013 @ 5:45am
      Mike D said | June 25th 2013 @ 5:45am | ! Report

      Thought you might like a bit of English perspective on all this. Firstly, we’re much more nervous than you think we are! It’s our instinct to expect the worst, and we’ve got the history to back it up.
      But there’s a strange feeling of confidence right now, and it’s not just the state of the Aussies, it’s the way that the England team go about themselves. If you want to compare the two at the moment, don’t start with players, start with coaching. With England, there’s the sense that whatever goes wrong, they’ll get past it (and things are going wrong – just dropped an opener, Bell’s out of form, prone to batting collapses, injuries to Swann and KP). It’s a very – dare I say it – Australian sort of approach. And then then you look at the Aussies, and you think, one more incident and the whole team’s going to fall apart, if it hasn’t already. It’s down to leadership. I realise you’re not brimming with world-class players at the moment, but honestly, neither are England, and they show that you can be more than the sum of your parts by focussing on team unity, determination, getting the attitude right.
      From that point of view, Lehmann’s the right man. If he can get the players to play for each other, it could be quite a good series.
      And one more thing: what with all this upheaval, it may have slipped below the radar in Oz that Pietersen returned from injury yesterday. He made 177* from 188 balls in a county game. Just thought I’d mention it!

      • Columnist

        June 25th 2013 @ 3:22pm
        Geoff Lemon said | June 25th 2013 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

        Thanks for the view from the UK, Mike. I think that same sense has been apparent to cricket watchers of other nations, too – that this England team back themselves to get past trouble, and aren’t too prone to panic. Yes, there are collapses and bad sessions, as any team has from time to time, but when they find themselves in trouble they often get out. Just look at the number of last-session escapes their tail has mustered in recent years.

        Useful comments, looking forward to your input over the Ashes.

      • June 25th 2013 @ 3:31pm
        MervUK said | June 25th 2013 @ 3:31pm | ! Report

        +1 the two Andy’s instilled a very methodical pragmatic approach into England, but also a ruthless one. If they get a sniff of the Aussies struggling, i.e. a batting collapse on day one at Trent bridge… They will step on their throats. It takes a lot of quality and determination to win a 4 test series in India from one nil down on flat pitches. The Indians are obviously no mugs

    • June 25th 2013 @ 6:04am
      buddha9 said | June 25th 2013 @ 6:04am | ! Report

      blimey Geoff this is a bit insightful for the Roar — no headlines designed exclusively to attract punters onto the web site; no nonsensical arguments to do the same

      wow I’m impressed i mean it — and yes you’re right the poms will take heart and the aussies too — mind you in the end talent and experience will tell i’m afraid but it will be a lot closer now, and not the disgraceful shambles it would have been with arthur.

      Also anyone who could describe the Walkabout as one of the most classless drinking venues in the known world gets my vote for stating whats obvious but usually unstated — anyone who’s lived in london near one of those shit-holes knows what I’m talking about.

      Geoff, keep up the good work — as for me I’m off to Taunton on Wednesday to see for myself — they say its going to be 17 degrees and sunny — gees i hope summer’s on a Saturday this year.

    • June 25th 2013 @ 6:18am
      buddha9 said | June 25th 2013 @ 6:18am | ! Report

      incidentally Geoff L you must have been writing hard because i didn’t mind your bit in the guardian either

      • Columnist

        June 25th 2013 @ 12:43pm
        Geoff Lemon said | June 25th 2013 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

        Cheers Buddha! Yes, there’s very little rest in the cricket mines, especially once the Ashes start to burst into flame. I’ll have a tour diary on The Roar for the whole series, so keep an eye out.

        Fingers crossed in solidarity as far as the summer goes.

    • June 25th 2013 @ 9:20am
      jameswm said | June 25th 2013 @ 9:20am | ! Report

      I’m expecting the honeymoon period to benefit the Aussies. And in any case I think they’ll be better under Lehman than under Arthur.

      As I said yesterday, I expect Lehman to do roughly what Cheika did with the Tahs. Work hard, focus on the basics, no BS, no DHs, no personal egos etc.

    • June 25th 2013 @ 9:44am
      Tasman said | June 25th 2013 @ 9:44am | ! Report

      As the British Press put it “Leahman has been handed the mother of all hospital passes”. Nothing else to be said really. Arthur is lucky to get out of the mess. Can’t see anything changing, the Watson-Clarke divide has made a mockery of Australian cricket.

    • June 25th 2013 @ 10:03am
      James the Elder said | June 25th 2013 @ 10:03am | ! Report

      Its early in the day for a shot of McCallan’s finest but this is intelligent writing.

      Watson is a festering boil that needs piercing. Darren is certainly the man for the job. He has been handed a gift and has the power to bludgeon this group of schoolboys into a cohesive whole. Mr Warner needs to contribute a little more than his current brash swagger and stylish spitting. Its time he was made to graduate from primary to secondary school.
      I have a very positive vibe about Leahman. He will get this rabble right or kill them off in the process. Either way we cannot lose.

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