The news that Cricket Australia have decided to terminate coach Mickey Arthur’s contract has stunned many close to the game. It may also prove to be a grave mistake by Cricket Australia.
The word is that chief executive James Sutherland was understandably not happy with David Warner’s conduct but is also understood to be angry at the handling of the bar-room incident by team management an incident where Warner punched England’s Joe Root.
The truth is ever since Arthur made the bold move of standing down four players, including then vice-captain Shane Watson, during the Test tour of India in March for failing to complete performance feedback on time, his tenure was always going to go one of two ways. He would be supported by the powers that be, or he would be shown the door.
Maybe he was the architect of his own demise by recalling some of those players following their suspensions, but Mickey Arthur is a professional and he would no doubt have welcomed them back into the fold feeling they now knew what was expected of them, and that it was clear he was the boss.
Sadly in many high profile sports these days the players do not have the same maturity in such situations.
If Cricket Australia were unhappy with the team management’s handling of the Warner incident what was stopping them stepping in and meting out disciplinary action of their own?
Instead James Sutherland has backed his ‘commodities,’ the players ahead of his coaching staff, which is an incredibly dangerous path to tread. Ask anyone close to the game and they will tell you there are problems at the top. Many ego-related, money-related and expectation-related.
Despite what many will have you believe Cricket is the true national sport in Australia. Sadly some of those honoured with representing Australia have forgotten the traditions, expectations in behaviour, and conduct required when donning the baggy green cap. Arthur with Captain Michael Clarke were working hard on those very issues with a very divisive group. They needed the support from the top. It now appears that it was not there.
One of the key aspects to MIckey Arthur’s success as a coach has always been the relationship he has had with his captains, and it appeared that both he and Clarke were reading from the same page. That trust and bond has been destroyed in one fell swoop.
With the Australian team about to meet up for the first time as a squad in Taunton in England to prepare for their first pre-Ashes tour match, against Somerset beginning on Wednesday it will be in an interesting get-together.
Darren Lehmann who has proved himself an astute coach in his time guiding the Queensland Bulls to the Sheffield Shield and one-day titles as well as the Brisbane Heat to the Big Bash League title, is tipped to take over. He will no doubt relish the challenge.
However Lehmann will be no push over, and expect a few possible thunderstorms before the sun comes out and the Australian team can take to the field as one cohesive unit to try and beat England and win the Ashes back. James Sutherland will no doubt be hoping this all happens behind closed doors, or he may just find the pressure mounting on him in his role.