Australia coach Mickey Arthur yesterday said a team culture including unacceptable “back-chat” and “attitude” forced him to controversially axe four players for the next Test in India.
The move to suspend vice-captain Shane Watson, James Pattinson, Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Johnson has polarised opinion in Australia, with commentators calling it one of the most sensational decisions in decades.
Arthur said it was the culmination of “lots of small minor indiscretions that have built up to now” and would be looked back on in years to come as a “defining moment” for Australian cricket.
“When we sat down as a leadership group and made these tough decisions, I knew it would polarise public opinion, but internally I certainly know we’ve made the absolute right decision,” he said on Cricket Australia’s website.
“This is a line in the sand moment — a point we’ll look back on in a couple of years’ time when we’re back to number one in the world and say was a defining moment.”
Trailing 0-2 in the Indian Test series, all the players had been told to prepare feedback on how they could improve and were given five days to deliver it, but the four failed to meet the deadline and paid a heavy price.
In justifying the shock axings, skipper Michael Clarke on Tuesday said the players had shown a lack of respect for Arthur, with a general slide in attitudes on the Indian tour.
With the retirements of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, Australia took a relatively young and inexperienced team to India. Arthur said management had provided “lots of latitude and flexibility”.
But with Australia due to play two Ashes series against arch-rival England this year, starting in July, Arthur said the attitude issues had to be nipped in the bud.
“Being late for a meeting, high skinfolds (body fat), wearing the wrong attire, back-chat or giving attitude are just some examples of these behavioural issues that have been addressed discreetly but continue to happen,” he said.
Demanding that all players raise their game, he added: “We want to be the Spanish football team, Manchester United or McLaren of world cricket. The absolute pinnacle where high standards are not expected, they are second nature. Australian cricket fans deserve nothing less.”
Psychologist flies in to help Aussies
Cricket Australia (CA) has sent sports psychologist Michael Lloyd to help the struggling team in India, at a time when the visitors has suspended four players ahead of the third Test. A CA official said Lloyd’s visit was pre-planned.