Stephen Brenkley: Australia's Ashes meltdown runs deeper than ineffectual Mickey Arthur

 

It is difficult to understand what Australia are up to. This is largely because they do not have a clue either. In a sensational act of desperation, barely a fortnight before the start of the Ashes series, they have sacked their coach, Mickey Arthur and deprived their captain, Michael Clarke, of his selection duties.

The fullness of time might come to judge these as brave decisions designed and taken for the good of a team which is going places. But from where anyone not directly involved was sitting it looked like the only place Australia are going imminently is down the pan.

Arthur's departure and the stripping of Clarke's duties merely confirmed a divided dressing room where a culture of mutual mistrust and a mood of toxic spite prevail. It makes the England dressing room with Kevin Pietersen's presence look like a haven of sweetness, light and goodwill to all men.

If Cricket Australia determined that something was wrong, which would have taken the vision of a man with 20:20 sight confronted with a mountain falling on top of him, they might have fired Clarke as well. It is an open secret that Clarke, earnest, driven, selfish, rubs some of his team up the wrong way, not least the affable all-rounder Shane Watson. One disaster is following another.

But for the Cricket Australia board that must have seemed a step too far. Clarke is their best batsman by a mile and, in tactical terms at least, a captain of shrewd judgement. Yet that does not make him a leader of men.

The appointment of Darren Lehmann as Arthur's replacement was universally welcomed. For some while it has been clear that he has a certain something as a coach. He was also a magnificent player, who was unfortunate to play only 27 Test matches and was one of the few universally admired and respected at the same time. Everyone likes Boof.

But Boof too comes with baggage. He was arraigned for racially abusing a Sri Lankan, whom he called "a black c***" during a one-day international early in 2003.

That all this should be happening now is unfathomable. Australia have already conducted a performance review into how their game operates. A panel under the respected businessman Don Argus was set up after the cataclysmic defeat to England in the 2010-11 Ashes.

The Argus Report was broadly along the lines of the Schofield Report which England instigated after their cataclysmic defeat to Australia in the 2006-07 Ashes. Before there is too much gloating about the present Aussie crisis, it should be remembered that that took time to work its magic.

The timing of Arthur's departure, as James Sutherland, the chief executive of Cricket Australia, said in a hastily convened press conference yesterday, was hardly ideal. But in saying that discipline, consistency of behaviour and accountability for performance were all key ingredients that needed to improve and that the head coach was ultimately responsible for that, he drew attention to what precisely his own responsibilities might be.

In essence, the improvements supposed to have been instituted after the Argus Report have not worked. Actually, of course, it all comes down to results and Australia's have been increasingly wretched.

Had they managed to dismiss South Africa in the second Test in Adelaide last winter, as they looked like doing at 45 for 4, all might have been well. But the unsung Faf du Plessis defied for them nearly eight hours, South Africa hung on for a draw, won the deciding Test in Perth and things were never the same for Arthur – or Clarke.

On the tour of India that followed strange things happened. Australia's players were out of their depth on turning pitches, lost 4-0 and dropped four players in a comical spat over form filling which amounted to failure to do homework. One of those was Watson, the vice-captain.

 



Arthur never really recovered from that. It was increasingly obvious on this tour, and from a distance too, that the Australian dressing room is unsettled.

The incident in which David Warner hit Joe Root in a bar two weeks ago was indicative of something badly awry. The captain, incidentally, was nowhere his team at the time and did not think of rushing back to it for days. He was being treated for a bad back but that did not prevent him making public appearances at events nothing to do with his team.

In the good old days when they were winning everything in sight they were never all friends together. It is difficult to imagine, for instance, Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist issuing reciprocal invitations for Sunday tea. But they put up with each other to the extent that they formed a deadly alliance as spin bowler and wicketkeeper in 70 Test matches together.

Warne seems about to be welcomed back into the dressing room soon. Lehmann, who played with him, said: "We would love him in the room. The past legends is what we are about. Having guys involved in our current structure and having some sort of input. You don't have a guy take 700 Test wickets and not use him if he is around the place."

It is the past legends, Lehmann probably knows, that are at the root of the present difficulties. The culture may indeed be pitiful at present but the real problem is that now they lose when they used to win.

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit