BREAKING: Test cricketers James Pattinson, Shane Watson, Usman Khawaja, and Mitchell Johnson have been sensationally banned from the third Test against India at Mohali for breaching team protocol.
The phrase conjures images of drunken antics, but according to ABC reports the four players failed to meet a deadline “to provide feedback to coach Mickey Arthur on how the side can improve”.
Arthur said that the axing was a “line in the sand” moment, as he tries to assert control of the side after starting the tour with two heavy losses.
“The teams that are best in the world have best attitudes, have best behaviour patterns and a good, hard, ruthless culture,” said Arthur.
The decision is currently being attacked on Twitter, with notable critics including former Test batsman and domestic coach Darren Lehmann.
“Adults we are, not schoolboys! Please let’s act properly and make good decisions in India! Need these boys playing,” tweeted Lehmann.
Richie Benaud’s parody account posted “I can confirm that all 4 players banned did in fact do a presentation. ‘Change the coach’ appears to be a theme that wasn’t the right answer.”
The suspensions leave only 11 of the original squad definitely available, along with wicketkeeper Matthew Wade who is in doubt with an ankle injury, and Brad Haddin who is on his way to India as a reserve keeper.
The third Test from March 14 could feature all three squad all-rounders, with Steve Smith the only potential batting replacement, or could feature Haddin as a specialist batsman even if Wade plays. Either way, the top six will be makeshift.
Down 2-0, this latest news will make it even more difficult for the side to make a comeback.
Australia had named a 17-man squad on this tour of India, but with Jackson Bird’s injury withdrawal and now the suspensions, all of that reserve will be required.
Johnson and Khawaja had yet to play a part in the series, but Khawaja looked increasingly likely for a call-up, while Pattinson and Watson featured in both the opening games. Pattinson will be the most missed, having easily been Australia’s best and most threatening bowler this series.
Twitter comic Fake Nathan Hauritz perhaps summed up the mood best with “The important thing is that everybody is once again taking Australian cricket seriously, right?”