Live scores
Live Commentary
South Africa
| South Africa 1st Inn 8/266

Does Australian cricket need a clean out?

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

127 Have your say

    Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland has stood firm in an ongoing pay dispute with Australia's cricketers. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

    Related coverage

    “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” It may be one of William Shakespeare’s most famous lines, from Hamlet, but it also nicely sums up Michael Clarke’s team at present.

    It appears as though something is amiss with Australian cricket.

    It would be easy to single out David Warner and believe just one individual has been the cause of the recent dramas surrounding the team. However, to do so would be naïve and lazy.

    Warner, courtesy of his Twitter feud with journalists Malcolm Conn and Robert Craddock, and the recent ‘altercation’ with English batsman Joe Root, has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons of late.

    His temperament, maturity, discipline and ability to handle alcohol have all been questioned, and considering the circumstances, rightfully so. But he is something of a scapegoat.

    The truth is, something is seriously wrong with the Australian cricket team.

    There were reports that Cricket Australia intended to cover-up Warner’s altercation with Root, and only went public when Shane Watson complained of double standards in light of his punishment for not doing his homework on the ill-fated tour of India.

    Though that story was strongly refuted by captain Michael Clarke, it’s almost irrelevant in my eyes.

    If it’s true, then my reaction is two-fold. Firstly, that Watson has a fair point. Secondly, that the environment in the Australian team is so poor that a teammate is essentially whinging that someone else was a naughty boy and should be punished just like they were.

    If the story was made up, it simply highlights that someone felt it would make a believable story, which is just as damning. If such a scenario is deemed feasible, and no one would be overly surprised if these events actually occurred, it’s further evidence that something is wrong within the team.

    There have long been rumours of a split in the Australian dressing room, and while I’m sure it’s more complex than this, it’s been described in simple terms as Michael Clarke versus Shane Watson.

    Though the two individuals deny there is any bad blood between them, the fact that coach Mickey Arthur said over the weekend that “wounds between them are healing rather than deepening,” and that their relationship is “fixable“, is an admission that there is indeed tension – or has been tension – between them.

    There were also rumours of a falling out between Mike Hussey and Michael Clarke, and though it was denied by the parties involved, you can’t help but think there must be something to the story.

    Rifts, splits, homework, falling outs, Twitter outbursts, suspensions, punch-ups, poor results. All in all, it’s clear that something isn’t right. And then you read between the lines some of the quotes from the captain and coach over the last few days:

    Clarke: “The team culture is a work-in-progress.

    Arthur: “I’m not denying there is a long way to go. And we’ll continue chipping away and continue working at those standards and the culture…

    And Quade Cooper thought the Wallabies environment was toxic? Such comments are all but an admission that the Australian changeroom is not in great shape at present.

    Many pundits claim the leadership vacuum – as a result of the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey – is to blame for a decline in team culture and standards.

    While I have no doubt that such a sentiment is true, I have an issue with any attempt to absolve Michael Clarke, Mickey Arthur and the playing group of any blame.

    Firstly, the players are professionals. Do they really need strict coaching and captaincy to ensure they act professionally?

    Likewise, strong captains and coaches don’t blame the departure of senior players on a regression in team discipline. After all, it’s their job to ensure such a lapse doesn’t occur.

    To be fair to Clarke and Arthur, I’ve never heard them use that excuse, but many other individuals have, and I simply don’t think that can be the sole explanation for what’s gone wrong.

    Though it does validate the opinion that Ricky Ponting’s captaincy was excellent behind the scenes.

    When the former skipper’s on-field tactics were questioned, or when he had lack of runs, his advocates always pointed out that his leadership skills were critical to the team. Though this defence didn’t wash with a lot of people, the stories surrounding the current team lend itself to some vindication of that defence of Ponting.

    So how does the team move forward?

    Fellow Roar Expert Cam Rose has likened the Australian cricket team to the AFL’s Melbourne Football Club.

    Considering Cam, on last weeks Cheap Seats Podcast, opined that every individual involved at the Demons should be sacked – such was the ‘cancer’ prevalent throughout the organisation – it gives an indication on his feelings towards our national cricket team.

    So, is a clean out required? It does seem like a drastic measure, but then again, a wise man once told me that ‘drastic times call for drastic measures’.

    Mickey Arthur should be given until the end of the away Ashes series to prove he is the right coach for Australia. However, a poor showing in England, on the back of the disastrous Indian tour, and along with the obvious culture issues, would provide enough evidence to suggest he’s not the man for the job.

    It’s pointless to speculate on whom the coach should be if Arthur goes, because the Ashes result is still a purely hypothetical situation. Yet there would be few arguments across the land if Darren Lehmann was given the role.

    Clarke’s tactical nous and gambling instincts have been brilliant. He is an excellent on-field skipper. However, there is more than enough evidence to suggest that his changerooms politics – another crucial part of captaining – need work.

    How do you improve such skills? Easy. Bring someone into the team set-up who was very proficient at it, so Clarke can learn from him. Someone who is respected by all the players. Someone who can also add value with their brilliant technical batting advice.

    Australia’s batting coach – and changeroom leader – should be Ricky Ponting.

    The Clarke versus Watson feud has to be officially investigated. If there is even a hint that their relationship is affecting the wider team, then one of them has to go. End of story.

    What complicates the matter is that there isn’t one Australian cricket team; there are three. Watson is arguably Australia’s best player in two of them, while Clarke is unquestionably the best in the other.

    Perhaps it’s as simple as not letting them play in the same team. Clarke is so valuable to the Test side, and One Day cricket is so meaningless these days, that perhaps Australia’s best batsman should focus solely on Tests, leaving Watson to play limited overs cricket.

    Darren Lehmann as coach. Ricky Ponting as batting coach. Michael Clarke only plays Tests, as captain. Shane Watson only plays One Dayers and Twenty 20s, with George Bailey captaining both of those teams.

    It’s not that radical. It’s not that much of a ‘clean out’. But I do believe that it’s the right set-up for Australian cricket.

    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

    This video is trending right now! Submit your videos for the chance to win a share of $10,000!

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (127)

    • June 17th 2013 @ 7:52am
      Todd said | June 17th 2013 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      Its all the IPL’s fault. Every player is a rock star these days with an ego to match. National cricket teams are held to ransom by certain players antics who play the ‘if you dont like it, I’ll just collect a fat pay cheque for 6 weeks work in India and turn my back on you’.
      This inevitably creates destabilisation and an envious culture. And its not just consigned to Australia. Think Gayle, Bravo, Pieterson, half of the Pakistan and Indian teams, etc

      • June 17th 2013 @ 8:06am
        Disco said | June 17th 2013 @ 8:06am | ! Report

        Don’t forget the Big Ba$h.

        • June 17th 2013 @ 8:42am
          JAJI said | June 17th 2013 @ 8:42am | ! Report

          So why do we not see this behaviour with the Socceroos? They have been playing in the glamour leagues in Europe for decades on bigger money and with bigger popularity globally?

          • June 17th 2013 @ 9:08am
            Christo the Daddyo said | June 17th 2013 @ 9:08am | ! Report

            Exactly. Blaming competitions for human failings is just lazy.

          • June 17th 2013 @ 9:14am
            Matt F said | June 17th 2013 @ 9:14am | ! Report

            Because the IPL isn’t the real reason at all. There have always been some players, in every sport, who act like complete and utter tools. The IPL is just a convenient soundbite that people throw out there because they don’t like T20 cricket. Some people would probably blame the IPL for killing Bambi’s mother if they could

            • Columnist

              June 17th 2013 @ 9:20am
              Cameron Rose said | June 17th 2013 @ 9:20am | ! Report

              You’re both right Christo and Matt F, but the proliferation of T20 leagues simply up the level of meaninglessness. These players can play for half a dozen teams, so owe no allegiance to anyone but themselves, thus entrenching selfish attitudes of a generation more inclined to it anyway.

              Anyone who has watched or does watch the IPL, BBL etc is to blame for the current state of cricket.

              • Columnist

                June 17th 2013 @ 9:30am
                Ryan O'Connell said | June 17th 2013 @ 9:30am | ! Report

                I certainly think T20 plays a role in the state of modern cricket, but I’d be hesitant to say it is the sole reason for all of cricket’s issues.

              • June 17th 2013 @ 9:46am
                Matt F said | June 17th 2013 @ 9:46am | ! Report

                Is there any actual evidence to this claim? Sure Warner and Watson are probably selfish (I say probably simply because I don’t actually know them personally so am only going off how the media presents them) and, sure, they play a lot of T20 cricket, but I don’t see the connection. Mike Hussey has played a lot of T20 cricket, including BBL and IPL yet I don’t think anybody would call him selfish.

                I’m not sure why people who watch the BBL are to blame. At least they’re supporting domestic cricket. The people who claim to love first-class cricket but don’t bother to attend any Shield, or Ryobi Cup (or equivalent domestic leagues in each country) matches are probably more to blame, if of course there is anyone to blame at all. Keep in mind that T20 cricket as only invented because nobody was going to county cricket.

              • June 17th 2013 @ 11:05am
                Don Corleone said | June 17th 2013 @ 11:05am | ! Report

                Damn that insidious Big Bash League, Watson and Warner morally corroded after playing only a single game each.

                Matt F “I’m not sure why people who watch the BBL are to blame. At least they’re supporting domestic cricket. The people who claim to love first-class cricket but don’t bother to attend any Shield, or Ryobi Cup (or equivalent domestic leagues in each country) matches are probably more to blame”

                A perfect example of the hypocrisy of the self-styled cricket ‘purist’.

          • June 17th 2013 @ 4:44pm
            Nick said | June 17th 2013 @ 4:44pm | ! Report

            Because international competition is such a small part of the schedule in Soccer/Football. So international and club timetables generally don’t clash. Also, the FIFA world cup carries comparatively more prestige and comparitively, test matches are so frequent now, they’ve lost the status they used to have

    • Columnist

      June 17th 2013 @ 8:16am
      Cameron Rose said | June 17th 2013 @ 8:16am | ! Report

      Strong stuff here Ryan, and I agree with you 100%. I’ve actually written a piece for tomorrow and my opening line is exactly the one you alluded to here – Cricket Australia is the Melbourne Football Club of world cricket.

      For all of Michael Clarke’s exploits on the field, this cultural decline has happened on his watch as captain, and perhaps it’s now time for us to start throwing some pointed questions his way.

      It can’t just be as simple as Hussey and Ponting retire so the team rips apart at the seams. There must have been an undercurrent of tension, disharmony and feuding for quite some time around the Australian set-up, and no-one at Cricket Australia is blameless.

      • Columnist

        June 17th 2013 @ 9:31am
        Ryan O'Connell said | June 17th 2013 @ 9:31am | ! Report

        Apologies for stealing your thunder, Cam!

      • June 17th 2013 @ 11:13am
        Nick Inatey said | June 17th 2013 @ 11:13am | ! Report

        I think Michael Clarke might be a better captain if he was relieved of his selecting duties. Having your teammate/captain playing a very central role in determining your career surely needs to quite a bit of tension amongst the group.

        Furthermore, with the current dynamic, it probably leads to this idea of needing to be in the same bed as the captain. The whole “he won’t drop me if he is my mate” or “he won’t pick me unless I’m his mate” ideas are probably circulating. I’m not saying that Clarke bases his decisions on cronyism, but in any environment, there is a natural inclination to support people you are closer with than those you are not, which inevitably leads to tension within a group.

        With Clarke as just a player again, albeit still captain, he can be in the same boat of people who live and die by the sword of the selector, instead of wielding it.

        • Columnist

          June 17th 2013 @ 1:27pm
          Ryan O'Connell said | June 17th 2013 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

          It’s fair point, and one I’ve made before too.

          “Coaches coach, players play, selectors select.”

    • June 17th 2013 @ 8:27am
      Red Kev said | June 17th 2013 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      I agree … mostly.
      Lehmann and Ponting is a lot of gravitas brought into the set up, certainly much more than Uncle Arthur (who always looks like a naughty boy caught with his pants down) can bring, and I think it would work well.
      The one change I would recommend is that I would have Watson as captain of the ODI and T20 sides not George Bailey. He’s a guy who would make a decent addition to the test side and I would want the captain to be focussed on just the short form.
      The other thing I would say is bring Craig McDermott back, even if it is just for the tests or just the domestic season, pay whatever it takes to get him involved again. Again he brings that aura of respect with him, having been there and done it, and done it well.

      You left out the firing of the entire NSP though. And kudos on referencing Quade Cooper in a cricket article.

      • Columnist

        June 17th 2013 @ 9:33am
        Ryan O'Connell said | June 17th 2013 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        I considered making Watson captain of both the limited overs teams, but I felt if the ‘Clarke vs Watson’ rift is actually real, the worst thing you could do is split the captaincy between them. It would further highlight the gulf between them, and players may feel compelled to pick sides, or even teams.

        In an ideal world, we should have one captain across all three sides, but that’s very difficult, as said play needs to carry his form across three formats.

        • June 17th 2013 @ 10:02am
          Red Kev said | June 17th 2013 @ 10:02am | ! Report

          Embrace the split! The sooner we send this trumped up coloured clothing 50 and 20 over shambles to bed the better (I like my test cricket)

          • Columnist

            June 17th 2013 @ 10:57am
            Ryan O'Connell said | June 17th 2013 @ 10:57am | ! Report

            If Australia never won another game in coloured clothing – ever – but were the number 1 Test team in the world, I’d sleep pretty well at night!

          • June 18th 2013 @ 10:13am
            Deets said | June 18th 2013 @ 10:13am | ! Report

            That’s ridiculous. Have a split captaincy if you like, but I’ve never heard an Aussie complaining that we should get rid of a format of the game just because you guys suck at it. The old Aussie teams were champions in ODI cricket too. They won 4 world cups for Pete’s sake. Successful teams win everything and don’t complain.

          • June 18th 2013 @ 7:20pm
            Chris B said | June 18th 2013 @ 7:20pm | ! Report

            Yes, all well and good but it doesn’t pay for itself, does it? And that’s crickets conundrum, it’s “real” form is economically unsustainable, and outside tests involving 2-3 countries, no one much watches it. Plus it’s domestic form is watched by less people than a Julia Gillard speech.
            Unfortunately I’ve not heard a sensible, rational solution to this from a purist (I’m one, and I can think if an answer that doesn’t involve a shorter form)

    • June 17th 2013 @ 8:43am
      sledgeross said | June 17th 2013 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      I wouldnt even worry about batting and bowling coaches. Im starting to lean towards Ian Chappells thoughts that if you are good enough to be playing Test cricket, you shouldnt need too much coaching.
      Maybe bring in AB or Tugga as team manager! Or give Bobby Simpson a call!

      • June 17th 2013 @ 11:12am
        Ryan O'Connell said | June 17th 2013 @ 11:12am | ! Report

        The issue is that some of these guys aren’t good enough to be playing Test cricket!

        • June 17th 2013 @ 3:51pm
          Bearfax said | June 17th 2013 @ 3:51pm | ! Report

          Ryan. I think I disagree with you on this issue.

          I think the players we’ve got are talented and could be top test class players. Its how they are being brought through the system that I believe is the problem.

          Hughes, Khawaja, Smith, Warner, Doolan, Maddison, Burns, Silk, Cosgrove. They are all talented batsmen but they need good coaching and I dont think they are getting that from CA. Individual coaches such as Lehmann are doing their part. But I think the present admin in Oz and the coach are just not doing enough to develop these guys, to work on their flaws effectively.

          There should be a well credentialled retired batsman or batsmen taking these guys to the Academy and working on their skills FULL TIME. Take them overseas to India, England, West Indies, South Africa etc as training sides to get used to conditions and bowling styles world wide. Have their training assisted by some of the best bowlers we have and vice versa.

          Skill is only a small part of the journey. Its experience and good tutoring these guys need to become world class. The rest of the world has caught up with us and is passing us.

          • Columnist

            June 17th 2013 @ 5:03pm
            Ryan O'Connell said | June 17th 2013 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

            The tongue was a little in the cheek when I wrote it Bearfax. There is certainly enough talent around in Australian cricket, but something is wrong with the system, along with the end-product: the Test team.

            • June 17th 2013 @ 5:22pm
              Bearfax said | June 17th 2013 @ 5:22pm | ! Report

              Guess I should read your items a little more regularly to get a sense of when your tongue and most other things are en route to one or other flank. Maybe you should preface your comments with ‘irony coming up’ and ‘tongue in cheek comment on the approach’. Then again now realising that you enjoy a little humour perhaps you should have a preface ‘My serious side is about to express itself’. The written word often doesnt carry the intonation necessary for expressing an intended position does it. Then again I can be very thick at times.

              • Columnist

                June 17th 2013 @ 5:25pm
                Ryan O'Connell said | June 17th 2013 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

                No, not thick at all, mate. And I wasn’t trying to be too humorous actually, it was more the point that on current form, a lot of these Australian’s are not Test standard.

    • Roar Guru

      June 17th 2013 @ 9:01am
      Tim Holt said | June 17th 2013 @ 9:01am | ! Report

      It makes me laugh how ‘Commentators’ are suddenly jumping on this now when it has been an issue that has stood out like dogs balls going back to the 2010 Ashes. Highlighted by an impassioned outburst by Mark Waugh in regards to it with Gladstone Small as his unknowing victim.

      The only thing that has changed are the names Hilditch/Nielsen replaced by Inverarity/Uncle Arthurs with James sutherland underlining the bury the heads in sand approach to everything over Warner……In regards to words, but no real action following another action that could have only one punishment- sacking and sent home from the Ashes.

      They should all be cleaned out yesterday, and replaced by these men

      Head of Selectors – Mark Taylor

      Selectors- Tom Moody, Mark Waugh, Alan Border

      Coach- Tom Moody

      Batting Coach- Mike Hussey

      Bowling Coach- Criag McDermiott ( get him back at WHATEVER cost

      Spin Coach- Ideally Warney, but if not show some balls and approach Anil Kumble as a advisor. A bowler not only great as a bowler, but so adept in the mindset behind the Art of Spin that our spinners so lack

      • Columnist

        June 17th 2013 @ 9:37am
        Ryan O'Connell said | June 17th 2013 @ 9:37am | ! Report

        Just jumped on it? I’ve been writing about it for two years!

        • Roar Guru

          June 17th 2013 @ 5:12pm
          Tim Holt said | June 17th 2013 @ 5:12pm | ! Report

          I cannot say I have seen any thing outside of denial over everything to do with the Aussie Cricket Team Ryan ( outside of M Waugh )….Since the issues became very apparent in the 2010 Ashes- then were cast in stone with the inexplicable axing of Katich…

          As for your take on it, i have only been active on the Roar recently ( 2 months ) so have not seen many of your opinion, but I will look further into your very accurate thoughts on the joke that everything is

          • June 17th 2013 @ 10:42pm
            Nudge said | June 17th 2013 @ 10:42pm | ! Report

            Inexplicable axing of katich tim. If they had not got rid of him at that time we would be not only replacing 2 champions in 6 months but also another quality player in katich. Selectors can’t win

            • Roar Guru

              June 18th 2013 @ 7:46am
              Tim Holt said | June 18th 2013 @ 7:46am | ! Report

              True Nudge, but to disgard him when they did was just insanity for he was one of the few that was Test class

              • Roar Guru

                June 18th 2013 @ 8:11am
                JGK said | June 18th 2013 @ 8:11am | ! Report

                In fact, Katich was so good that he even made my All Time K team 🙂

      • June 17th 2013 @ 6:07pm
        matthew_gently said | June 17th 2013 @ 6:07pm | ! Report

        Thanks for the link. I wasn’t aware of that rant. Classic stuff! Sums up exactly how I felt during that Ashes series.

        • Roar Guru

          June 17th 2013 @ 6:23pm
          JGK said | June 17th 2013 @ 6:23pm | ! Report

          I remember it well if for nothing more than the reference to AB and the crap that he wouldn’t have tolerated.

          • Roar Guru

            June 17th 2013 @ 7:10pm
            Tim Holt said | June 17th 2013 @ 7:10pm | ! Report

            Mark Waugh is one of the few who tells it how it is without fear, and has done so since signs of real fracture and unrest appear in the Aussie set up in 2010. Not after the horse has well and truly bolted in 2013

    • June 17th 2013 @ 9:02am
      jamesb said | June 17th 2013 @ 9:02am | ! Report

      The Australian cricket team is like South Sydney ten, twelve years ago………..Shambolic!

      I think many of our recent retired players need to be connected to Australian cricket again. Past players like the Waugh brothers, Tubby, Gilly, Hadyen etc.

      When those legends came through the ranks, they were mentored by the likes of Rod Marsh, the Chappell brothers, Thompson, Lilliee etc.

      But in the short term, I like to see Lehmann as coach. Tim Coyle is another who could be considered. He has done well with Tasmanian cricket.

      • June 17th 2013 @ 11:03am
        Nick Inatey said | June 17th 2013 @ 11:03am | ! Report

        Lehmann has a bit of a short fuse when it comes to coaching. A tad too outspoken to be the coach of the national team. He hasn’t exactly earnt much respect with his chucking accusations.

        • Columnist

          June 17th 2013 @ 1:29pm
          Ryan O'Connell said | June 17th 2013 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

          He doesn’t really have a short fuse. Dave Warner has a short fuse! Lehmann just speaks his mind. And I think hardly anyone has lost respect for him over the chucking accusations. If anything, his efforts with Queensland have earned him the utmost respect far and wide.

    , , , , ,