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
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
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

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little