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.

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game